17 Replies Latest reply on Jan 11, 2012 4:24 PM by Paul Comet

    Would You Explore Engineering for Change?

    Robert Rich

      Recently, the American Chemical Society was approached for potential partnership by Engineering for Change (E4C), a an online collaborative community created by the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) and the IEEE.  E4C was founded in the spirit of  engineers and scientists harnessing a common passion for designing and applying creative technical solutions to a broad range of significant humanitarian challenges. If you are interested in applying your chemistry to international development; including the global challenges of water, energy, health, structures, agriculture, sanitation, and information systems; you're encouraged to check out the site and let us know what you think.

       

      The Sustainability Stakeholders Steering Group would be interested in your thoughts about:

      1. How should ACS and its members interact with this community and others like it?
      2. Might you be inclined to join the site, contributing to the Solutions Library and Bulletin Board?
      3. What possible connections do you see between E4C and your ACS Local Section, Technical Division, or other Society group?

       

      Thank you in advance for visiting http://www.engineeringforchange.org and commenting below.

        • Re: Would You Explore Engineering for Change?
          Paul Comet

          My view is that ACS should interact as much as possible with this community in the rebuilding of the "world of tomorow". This will be a warmer world as we now  have "messed up our planets air conditioning system". The chemist will be an essential guide in helping the engineer to provide clean air,energy,water, more crops, better pharmaceuticals & most important - ways of reversing climate change. This will also require massive changes in engineering & agricultural practice, partly by helping the third world develop simple technologies that will enrich & provide employment for the disenfrachised. In any dialogue more than one point of view should be heard. The chemist will provide a unique perspective to the engineering profession. I have already joined  E4C. Results gained from tackling climate change by this alliance, would be conveyed to each local chapter(& vice versa). Each local chapter could interact with its constituent municipality & industries in advising which changes could give the municipality & industry greater  economic autonomy & cut costs, perhaps by staunching the fllood of waste, wasted dollars & peoplle as well as reducing emissions. Essentially the alliance could provide the rudiments of an information "superorganism".

          • Re: Would You Explore Engineering for Change?
            Paul Comet

            A couple of further ideas: 1) There are other ways of sequestering intermittent energy than H2, metals & photosynthate. 2) If waste is used as a primary resource, the philosophic "value" system would change, & with it the pattern of supply & demand. The structure of capitalism (or communism) would not change, however "thinking" would change.

            • Re: Would You Explore Engineering for Change?
              Paul Comet

              Le Corbusier (I believe) stated that "a house is a machine for living in". Maybe a better idea would be that "city & state could form a self sustaining machine (or organism) for working in" .This technology need not be high tech. (WW2) & should be appropiate for the third, second & first worlds (or moon etc.). Solving "sustainability" should solve the warming & resource depletion problems, (if widely adopted on a municipal basis). Essentially each individual could have the right to minimal food, water, fuel & shelter by virtue of the wastes they produce.

              • Re: Would You Explore Engineering for Change?
                Paul Comet

                The "Element Controller" (C,N,P & H2O etc) would report to the mayor of each municipality & maybe should be appointed on qualifications & experience, rather than be elected. Running each town as if it was a lunar base would solve many of the worlds problems.

                • Re: Would You Explore Engineering for Change?
                  Paul Comet

                  As the world apparently hurtles back in time to 1931, some of the old WW2 German technology would appear to be now of value. Apparently the Gestapo used to swagger around Prague, on their mission of extermination, using limousines (Mercedes - Benz?) with a small gasifier attached like a trolley ("which stunk like anything"). Presumably the gasifier used high sulfur coal.http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gasification. Similar technology using biochar briquettes, could be easily implemented now. Similarly, as the  streetlights go out over the bankrupt municipalities of the "rust belt" it would appear to be now timely & cheap to install local gasifiers  attached to a gas  turbine, that uses carefully sorted (free!) yard waste, paper & wood from demolition debris to generate electricity. Gaseous pollutants exiting the turbine would have to removed by "gas polishing" (lime?). The heat generated during "anaerobic combustion" (600C) could be used for steam cogeneration. I do not think this technology is is very complex & "it all has been done before". All the patents expired some 50 years ago, so anybody should be able to do this. Meanwhile, during the 1920s, Paris was using sewer gas to to illuninate its gaslamps. All of this old tech. is now ripe for reevaluation & improvement in efficiency as the carbon involved is neutral & cheap, though lacking the energy density of fossil fuels. A comment made by Allen Doyle on the other thread "All of us understand that the sun and energy inputs reverse entropy" is pertinent here as it implies that any community can, on a local basis, become self sufficient in energy, even when money is unavailable. If some kind of "New Deal" becomes inevitable as the economic "sky" continues to darken, then the development of a "wartime" economy,(without the war),that makes each municipality "self sufficient" in energy,food (unused & waste land surrounding major cities could be used for agriculture) & water, may prove to be useful, in avoiding the rise of (anticipated) political extremism; the consequence of widespread unemployment & consequent despair. http://finance.yahoo.com/news/eyes-german-renewable-energy-efforts-085324699.htm l

                   

                  Message was edited by: Paul Comet

                   

                  Message was edited by: Paul Comet

                    • Re: Would You Explore Engineering for Change?
                      Radoslav Bozov

                      E4G ultimate energy goal would be developing sustainable machines that process matter capable of storing energy within bio-methane. As we enter the era of biology and learn more about fundamental laws of molecular and quantum physics of small molecule synthesis, mechanical engineers coupled with bio engineers meet within green chemistry scope of delivering products via sustainable and ergonomic manner. Biology is on a road to solve food problem, and biology is on a road to solve energy problems. For such process to happen, unity of engineers with diverse space/energy spectra would make what anyone thought was impossible - develop self sustainable communities. Unemployment can be solved only and only If general population occupies its forces towards the development of a technology that is not sold to them, but rather it is created by a community of proper knowldge about green chemistry. All parameters are within the community of biologically sustainable forms and interactions among different carbon states. Dispair emrges as a function of pseaudo reality conception of what life is itself.

                        • Re: Would You Explore Engineering for Change?
                          Paul Comet

                          Radoslav - we have to be careful here. We do not want a system whereby the welfare & wealth of our nation is decided by a few bureaucrats

                           

                          Despair can be seen on the many faces of the recently homeless people now living under the bridges in Houston, & its not just caused by their lack of a "positive attitude"!

                          25 years ago Gorbachev, referring to the planned economy of the Soviet system stated "It just doesn't work!" (it collapsed shortly afterwards) & everybody, except the former officials of the communist party, lost their shirts as their currency collapsed. Unfortunately the "linear" economic system of the West (dig stuff out of ground in West-> manufacture goods  in unregulated countries in East not paying a minimum wage [which then seize all the money]-> pollute air & water during manufacturing -> throw obsolete, broken or unwanted items back into another hole in ground in West (causing further pollution) isn't working particularly well either! The "sustainability" question gives us an opportunity to rethink where we are all going. Nevertheless the only truly cyclical systems I know are all ancient & "absolute" monarchies. Ancient Egypt was viable for thousands of years, due to the annual inundation of the Nile. Ancient China another, European Middle Ages a third. Perhaps, instead of building pyramids so that one man could "ascend to the stars" (& the unemployed had something to do during the annual inundation), or cathedrals being used as a "radiotransmitter" for talking to God, the "grain ration or tithe" derived by fair taxation, could be used to build a machine whereby we all get a shot at the stars. Alternatively, the investment of many individuals could also be used to provide necessary resources for such a project. The effort expended on the "pyramid" (as the ultimate example of a giant public works project), could, instead of being an essentially useless "large pile of bricks", become a sustainability device that might benefit us all.
                          Returning to the symbiotic protist idea, the aesthetics of such a device could be very pleasing. The utterly functional morphologies of Forams, Radiolaria, Diatoms, are beautiful.
                          Unfortunately politics, philosophy & economics have to be addressed if we are to solve this chemistry & engineering problem.

                            • Re: Would You Explore Engineering for Change?
                              Radoslav Bozov

                              "Radoslav - we have to be careful here. We do not want a system whereby the welfare & wealth of our nation is decided by a few bureaucrats" Totally agree Paul, however, it is easier to manage few bureaucrats than that of managing few thousands of them. You see, it is like electrons uncertainty. The only way to beat it by entangling states by compressibility matter principle in order to gain control in expanded space/energy. 

                                • Re: Would You Explore Engineering for Change?
                                  Paul Comet

                                  Just considering politics for a moment, (I favor the present system - however elections might be organized without outside financial support, merely by access to the media or, in other words, strict ethical separation of powers, between commercial entities & public appointments, similar to the separation of church & state - or as between the nucleus and the other organelles of a cell), I note that there is increasing interest in "Life Cycle analysis" as a medium for determining CO2 emissions. While useful for determining energy expenditure, LCA does not distinguish the type of carbon (neutral, positive or negative). This essentially invalidates it as a measure of emissions. Emissions of neutral carbon (from the present C cycle) should not be counted. However a PET coke bottle, made from cornstover or sewage derived syngas (C neutral) is carbon negative. PET bottles made from petroleum are carbon neutral, however the emissions associated with  bottle manufacture are very positive indeed!  Any national recycling strategy should take the difference between carbon sources into account. By considering the age of emissions (d14C), a national carbon (GHG) survey (municipality by municipality), CO2 & CH4 emission sources & sinks could be mapped by age. This might involve municipal "ground truthing", as well as satellite data. The result might be the cartographic equivalent of the Norman Domesday Book) - Hey it might even help in avoiding "doomsday'.(2012 is just round the corner!).

                                  Related municipal surveys for nitrogen & phosphorus emissions probably already exist, however I suspect quantifying the movement & processing of animal & human manure, as well as inventories of  fertilizer purchases may be more difficult to assemble geographically - anybody have any ideas? Does this already exist?

                                    • Re: Would You Explore Engineering for Change?
                                      Paul Comet

                                      If the analogy of a "superorganism" as a mode of analysing existing political, economic & philosophical relationships has any validity, the question "what is the circulatory fluid of this beast?" arises. My answer is "money". (M 0,1,2 etc.) I am not an economist so my thoughts here have to be taken with "several mountains of salt".

                                      Money creation seems to be closely related to debt creation http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Money_creation. If the debt represents unwise loans ("liar loans") or the printing of large sums of money to pay down government debt, then the system can become unstable. I would like to quote from "Aftershock" by the economists Wiedemer, Wiedemer & Spitzer (2011) published by Wiley books. Ch.9."The fundamental failure of economics goes beyond simply not seeing the crisis in front of us before it happened, or not warning of it,or not telling us how to prevent it. The failure is a fundamental lack of understanding how the economy works . Economists don't really know why an economy grows ----- Hence they can't tell you why it has stopped growing". (The authors go on to comparing economics to geology before the advent of plate tectonics - ie no unifying theory, just a lot of  interesting minutae.)

                                      Again other ACS members are needed to comment here!

                                       

                                      On a lunar base human waste will be consideraby more valuable than gold! Could waste be of similar value on earth?

                                       

                                      Instead of money representing a "negative", would it be wiser for currency to be printed representing a "positive" such as joules of energy or a basket of commodities? In any organism, the sap, blood, ichor etc consists of materials such as energy containing materials & nutrients (bound energy & commodities). Obviously such views would only be implemented in the face of some kind of  economic "trainwreck"!

                                        • Re: Would You Explore Engineering for Change?
                                          Paul Comet

                                          fossilfuel joule$(petrodollars) =  soluble sugars, carbohydrates etc. from life forms= alternate energy joule$

                                          Is this equation stoichiometric?

                                            • Re: Would You Explore Engineering for Change?
                                              Paul Comet

                                              Thus the solution to climate change & economic woes would appear to lie in the the most utterly dull & prosaic subject of municipal planning.  In particular the waste water works, the municipal dump & related issues, become the tools by which we can regulate emissions & unemployment. Even the local graveyard could be used as the basis for ecological restoration (everybody gets a tree of their choice on their plot). I would not mind my N&P being reincarnated as an apple! Those squeamish over "Soylent Green" could opt a non - food producing tree.

                                              Thinking of the community as a cell within a "superorganism" allows one to distinguish between the inside & outside of each cell (town) & regulate the flow of "nutrients" to create growth or homeostasis as desired.

                                              All of this is obvious but it will not be easy to implement practically.

                                • Re: Would You Explore Engineering for Change?
                                  Paul Comet

                                  Another, more positive perspective,might be provided by the protists themselves - they are marvellous nannofactories for all kinds of interesting natural products; their extraordinary & complex life cycles are fascinating & their morphologies are often intricate & beautiful. Or savage & dangerous (think trypanosmes,dinoflagellates or Pfisteria). They have all solved the problem of "sustainability" far more efficiently than any stupendous example of Roman or Egyptian engineering (inspiring though those ancient roads, aqueducts & temples are). Perhaps the new paradigm of"Sustainability" could also inspire a "golden age" of Chemistry & Engineering".

                                  I'm Done.

                                  Happy New Year to Everyone!