Integration of Sustainable Development in Mechanical Engineering

11th June, 2021

Integration of Sustainable Development in Mechanical Engineering

Mechanics is a substantial sphere of engineering. With the extreme rise of technology and increased use of machines to perform every single task at hand, its significance has increased drastically over the years. However, with the increased strain on our resources to support these advancements, their exploitation has become increasingly common.

Hence, it has become extremely necessary, now more than ever, to conserve our environment and popularize the concept of sustainable development by integrating it into our day-to-day lives.

Sustainability and Sustainable Development

Sustainability aids in the improvement of the quality of our lives by conservation of natural resources as well as protection of our ecosystem for the sake of our future generations.

sustainability sustainable development
Sustainability and sustainable development Image: Google
  • Sustainable Development is a concept that intends to combine two existing but different concepts: the concept of economic development and the concept of sustainability.
  • It provides us with a way to meet human development goals without jeopardizing the future.

Sustainability in a Corporation

It is very important for the corporate world to associate sustainability with its holistic approach. This implies that everything, from manufacturing to logistics to customer service, should be taken into account.

This is obviously beneficial for the company but more importantly, it also maximizes the benefits from an environmental focus in the long term.

  • Firstly, sustainability is imperative to remain relevant whether it is an individual or corporation. If a corporation fails to remain relevant, it will fail to keep up with the respective industry, hence facing natural extinction.
  • Secondly, sustainability is necessary for survival. Management of resources in a proper manner is required in order to have a sustainable model.
  • Thirdly, sustainability is necessary to remain competitive in the respective industry.

Hence, a balance has to be found by remaining relevant to both, the industry that the corporation is participating in as well as the target audience for which the goods and services are being produced. Relevance stems from necessity, which depends entirely on what society desires.

Consequently, if a company does not have any strategies to advance its policies keeping in mind a net-zero economy, it must be focused on urgently. From a business perspective, the transition to a net-zero economy has passed an inflexion point.

Role of Engineers

Engineers are involved in the innovation and production of goods and therefore play a vital role in ensuring sustainable development.

Proper planning and innovation must be prioritized, else future generations face severe consequences.

  • Engineering is an academic discipline that requires the cultivation of analytical proficiency and problem-solving skills in its students.
  • This skill set can be crucial if well utilized in governmental planning to create a sustainable economy and environment

Therefore, it is imperative that engineers continue learning the fundamental principles of their subject and embrace the skill set that comes with it.

They can then cooperate with industrialists, governments, and economists to create a global impact, whereby everyone will work towards a common goal – sustainability and sustainable development. As a Mechanical engineer will have a wide responsibility for sustainable development.

There are so many Mechanical Engineer Jobs opportunities across the world for sustainable development as well as to move our nation forward.

Engineering has encouraged great industrial innovation and advancement of the quality of life that we humans live. This has birthed a new and important group of problems with regards to the environment which range from exposure to air pollution, toxic exposure to water, food, soil, depletion of non-renewable resources (solid minerals, petroleum, wood), destruction of ecosystems, and global climate brunt.

Human effects on the climate incorporate the air contamination in urban communities, the poisons including dangerous synthetic concoctions like nitrogen oxides, sulfur oxides, unstable natural mixes and particulates which cause corrosive acid rain and photochemical exhausts, and the chlorofluorocarbons that debase the ozone layer.

sustainability sustainable development roles engineer
Sustainability sustainable development roles engineer

Sulfate pressurized canned products lessen the immediate irradiance and reflectance (albedo) of the Earth’s surface. In the late 20th century, the reduction was estimated to have been around 4%.

In order to actually achieved sustainability development goals, mechanical engineers need to develop mechanical systems that will help in harvesting all these natural resources without having environmental pollution on the communities.

Remarkable discoveries in this area

A lot of phenomenal technologies have been introduced lately.

Cement battery that could power the world

Renewable energy has been a very common area where the most amount of attention is given when it comes to talking about sustainable development.

While that is important and is rapidly rising throughout the world, energy storage is a concept that is constantly lagging behind. This has left a gap in the feasibility of a carbon-neutral future with eco-friendly fuels.

In a recent study by the journal Buildings, researchers in Sweden claim that they have found a way for buildings to be their own battery storage facilities. They suggested that this can be done by the materials used to make them, such as concrete and cement. They are made from powdered and sedimentary compounds and vary in conductivity based on what’s mixed in.

battery energy storage system
Battery energy storage system Image: Google

Batteries like these that are large-scale energy are a way to store renewable energy during peak production times. The peak production time period for solar cells is the sunniest part of the day. For wind turbines, it is the windiest day. The next step is to feed it back into the grid during peak usage times. 

Elon Musk, a popular entrepreneur and business mandate has been building grid-scale battery facilities in Australia. Some of the other projects led by him around the world include compressed air, the human body, and other groups studying concrete.

It is important to note that “energy per unit volume” for concrete is not very substantial.

Yet, because we use so a huge amount of cement in almost every single construction site, the small energy amount quickly adds up to be considered significant enough. To provide a rough estimation or comparison, lithium-ion batteries (small, but very powerful) have an energy density of about 250 to 350-watt hours per liter (Wh/L).  

Carbon Capture and Storage

There’s a huge amount of carbon dioxide gas in the air and it is a major cause of concern. It leads to depletion of the ozone layer, global warming due to increased greenhouse effect, acid rains, etc.

The premise of the concept of Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) is to capture and sequester it. The carbon is transported by a pipeline followed by it being stored in rock formations located far below ground.

According to the CCS Association, these capture technologies allow the separation of carbon dioxide from gases produced in electricity generation and industrial processes by the following three methods:

  • pre-combustion capture
  • post-combustion capture
  • oxyfuel com­bustion

In 2017, Switzerland came up with the first carbon dioxide capture plant in the world. Furthermore, in countries like the US and Canada, startups have been developed with carbon capture plants of their own.

It is estimated that the technology could help reverse what is one of the most distressing and dangerous threats to our environment right now. It is one of the emerging classes of technologies and is going to play a significant part in the overall health of our environment and development in the coming years.

Nuclear Fusion

Our sun is powered by the process of fusion of hydrogen nuclei, forming helium. For several decades, a lot of scientists have been working on duplicating and harnessing the same process to create sustainable terrestrial power.

This accomplishment is extremely compelling from an ecological point of view because of the fact that it represents a zero-carbon emissions form of energy.

sustainability sustainable development nuclear fusion
Sustainability & sustainable development nuclear fusion Image: ScienceAlert

Unlike the process of nuclear fission, the process that sustains already existing nuclear power plants, fusion does not result in the production of long-lived radioactive nuclear by-products that practically qualify as mere waste outputs.

The major problem, however, is heat. To generate the net positive energy required to get two particles to fuse together, the reaction needs to be carried out at a temperature as high as millions of degrees celsius, and that means whatever type of vessel is being utilized to carry out the process of fusion will, no doubt, melt.

A feasible solution or suggestion might be to suspend the reaction in a floating plasma. This will lead to the extreme heat not touching the chamber. A lot of researchers believe that high-powered magnets have the ability to enable carrying out this process.

The typical timeline estimated for fusion-based power production is about 30 years. However, a team at MIT that is working with a new, better class of magnets strongly believes that it might be possible to get fusion power into the grid in just 15 years. This would be a massive blessing in the battle to slow the destruction of ecosystems.

WVP cycle

Over the years, water has been utilized for a variety of purposes. One of these is an anti-knock agent or as an “additive” component to improve the combustion efficiency of fuels which helps us to boost the engine.

Today, added water also has the ability to serve both environmental and energy savings goals. In the late twentieth century, a thermodynamic cycle called the “water vapor pump cycle” (WVP-cycle) was invented. With the help of this cycle, the heat emitted from the condensation of fuel gases can be retrieved and collected.

This concept was then applied towards various kinds of heat plants and systems and fuels like the natural gases were used in them. At the same time, other kinds of “humid combustion” were also developed, most notedly with gas.

Air-Ink

Every single year, an estimated amount of 4 to 5 million people die just because of exposure to extreme air pollution. An embarrassing number of India’s well developed metropolitan cities have made the list of the most polluted cities in the world.

A relevant solution to this is Air ink, a technology that can turn air pollution and toxins of the atmosphere into something remarkable and useful, like ink. The reality is that most of the black ink that we use conventionally is traditionally produced by the burning of fossil fuels to produce carbon black in factories.

how air pollution turned into ink
How air pollution turned into ink Image: Google

However, an important fact to consider is that this is completely unnecessary. This is because millions of liters of fossil fuel are already being burnt out there by our cars, engines, exhausts, and other heavy machinery in already existing factories or industries.

Air ink is produced by a process that occurs through the collection of carbon soot from a car’s exhaust followed by processing it into high-quality black ink. This was developed by Anirudh Sharma, the founder of Graviky labs.

The name of a popular machine that carries that is Kaalink. It is a cylindrical device that is retrofitted into a diesel generators’ exhaust system or exhaust pipe to collect the polluting emissions.

It is estimated that this machine has the ability to collect up to 93% of the total toxic exhaust, which is then processed properly in order to remove the heavy metals and carcinogens that might be present in it. The final end product from this device is a carbon-based pigment that has already been purified.

Ocean Clean-up Machine

Every year, millions of tonnes of plastic end up in the ocean, which is an integral part of our ecosystem. Ocean Clean-up aims to rid the oceans of plastic waste. They develop advanced technologies and machinery.

ocean clean up machine
Ocean clean up machine Image: Google

The basic idea is to have a giant floating pipe to capture plastic. This system consists of a U-shaped barrier combined with a net-like skirt. The net-like skirt hangs below the surface of the water and moves with the current. This is followed by it collecting faster-moving plastics as they float by. However, fish and other animals will not be harmed because they will be able to swim beneath it. Then, the plastic is all gathered in the center. Finally, it is removed by a boat.

Conclusion

All of the above-mentioned technologies are just the tip of the iceberg. More of these innovations must be made by engineers to build a better tomorrow.

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