The wonder of science.
16 February 2014
26 January 2014
I think some of us are quite confused on how to differentiate whether what we are doing is really an 'engineering' stuff or much more inclined towards the 'pure science' matters; especially when carrying out projects such as in the FYP, MSc or even PhD. We might be having the 'chemical engineering degree' but somehow what we're doing is truly a 'chemistry' projects. We might be carrying out experiments that we thought is very 'engineering' but in the end it turned out to be a pure 'physics'!
When this kind of enigma suddenly fall upon us, the big question to ask is: what is the difference between engineering processes and scientific process? And while engineering dudes would refuse to tolerate switching their role from 'engineering' into 'pure chemistry', how can you return to the engineering field once you feel what you're doing is actually just a typical scientific research?
That is answered by this comparison stated in the report by the Engineering Council Working Group entitled 'THE UNIVERSE OF ENGINEERING: THE UK PERSPECTIVE', published in June 2000 that emphasized on 9 major difference between the key processes of the two fields.
8 December 2013
2 December 2013
30 November 2013
"Do you ever feel like a plastic bag
Drifting through the wind, wanting to start again?"
Remember that lyrics in Firework by Katy Perry? Now, plastic bags can definitely have a chance to start again - not through a typical recycle process, but through an upcycle instead. Much valuable upcycle, as the research done at the University of Adelaide has proven the high possibility of non-biodegradable plastic bags that we churned out daily into the garbage bin could be synthesized into carbon nanotubes membranes. No longer that we wanna rely on using natural gas as the precursor material in producing CNT, now plastic bags itself could be re-purposed into a new usage due to the similarity of carbon network that made up their main exoskeleton.
CNTs membranes are an excellent platform for such applications as water desalination and purification, gas and pervaporation separations, nanofiltration of biological mixtures, transdermal drug delivery, ultra-sensitive sensing and energy storage [Altalhi et al, 2013]. Back there in the Middle East, membrane filtration is highly utilized for treating seawater into domestic use water by removing high salt content in the former (which is also called reverse osmosis). Not only that, the use of membrane in purification of gas is also abundant through the different selectivity and/or pores characteristic that will filter out the sizes hence producing lean gas output.
CNT is a go-to technology nowadays as the structure of the sorbing component resembles a 'tube' that will increase the surface area ratio with a given mass. The height of the tubes as well as its diameter could be tailor-made to suit various application. That is why CNT is preferably called the 'designer adsorbent' when it comes to adsorption process, since we can alter its dimensions accordingly by changing the synthesis process parameters.
With this new technology done at University of Adelaide, a noble direction in finding a usage of discarded plastic bags is an excellent mean of waste-to-wealth ethos. Somehow it abide the balance in the sustainability triangle for not only saving the environment - especially in term of polluting the surrounding community with smell and possible health hazard, and taking up land space; but it could provide a new job opportunity for the surrounding community too should a new plant to be constructed, as well as provide income flow.
My only problem with this new upcycle method of plastic bag-to-CNT is one: how can we make it even more greener? Coz looking at the temperature alone for the synthesis, 850 - 900oC is very high; hence related to the higher consumption of energy (thermal energy). Perhaps in the near future, improvements could be made into modifying the process parameters that would bring it down to STP (1 atm, 25oC). A definite challenge, yes.
Also, it will be interesting to see the possible cost of synthesis since being an engineer we always looking into dollar and cents after all. How would this synthesis stand side by side in term of saving the environment effort vs. cost of production of CNT via plastic bags vs. total energy usage vs. carbon footprint? If one does not agree to each other, how can we further optimize; so that in the end the vying public, the stakeholders, the chemists, the environmentalists, the chemical engineers would resoundingly agree on one thing : YES, THIS IS A GOOD TECHNOLOGY.
That, we'll see what the future of this technology will hold. In the mean time, this method is a new niche area to be explored.
[Source: TCE, November 2013]
(picture used without permission from the journal. original copy of the journal : CLICK)