A quick note on the sustainability of electric vehicles
“How effective are electric vehicles at promoting sustainability?”
Electric vehicles are often touted as one of the drivers of the frontier of sustainability. However, one should keep in mind that electric vehicles draw their power from the grid, and if the grid is not powered by sustainable sources then electric vehicles will not be sustainable either. So one when we continue the battle against greenhouse gases in transportation, we must keep in mind that we must not limit our efforts to only one field.
Pumped hydrogen storage
“How can we use a gravitational potential to store energy?”
If you have ever taken an introductory physics class, then you know that anything with a mass at some distance from the Earth has an energy potential associated with it given by the equation P.E = mgh, with m being the mass g being gravity and h being the height. So logically speaking, if we were to vastly increase the mass then we would also vastly increase the potential energy. So if we have a large enough mass, we can store enough energy for an electric grid!
This is the exact idea behind a technology known as pumped hydrogen storage. Pumped hydrogen storage takes two water reservoirs at a height gradient, and discharges energy to the grid by moving the water through a turbine and stores more energy by using a grid powered pump increase the level of water on the top layer
Low-cost air pollution sensors
“How can we produce low-cost air pollution sensors?”
Air pollution sensors are absolutely necessary for policy making. But for many developing countries, such technology is often too expensive. So how can we make the costs less prohibitive? Well, let’s use our engineering mindset to figure this out. We know that the main cost of monitoring air pollution comes from deploying sensors. But humans all over the world are already carrying advanced sensors with them, smartphones! A team at the University of California San Diego have developed a series of sensors that can communicate with a user’s smartphone using an app called CitiSense to perform real-time pollution monitoring. The goal of this project is to eventually to create a system in which entire communities can use to gather pollution data
Air pollution sensors
“How can we monitor air pollution?”
With the advent of industrialization, air pollution has become a significant issue in many parts of the world, inducing grievous health issues and productivity impairments. As such, governments and independent organizations are taking action to reduce this nefarious trend. However, before we can take steps to eliminate pollution, we must first know how much needs to be eliminated. To do this, engineers have developed air pollution sensors which can analyze the atmosphere for certain elements (ozone, particulate matter, carbon monoxide, sulfur dioxide, and nitrous oxide) for human analysis
How to make faucets more sustainable
“How can we make our faucets more sustainable?”
I want you to think about something. What exactly do you use to clean yourself after you have used the restroom? Well, if you live in a developed country, then you probably immediately think of faucets. Quite simply, without faucets, we would be unable to function in our daily lives! However, as engineers, we must always think more critically not just about the outputs of a system but the inputs as well. Specifically, faucets use water for their operation. And since water is an increasingly finite resource (especially in dry areas such as California), how can we modify these mechanisms to be more sustainable? Well, believe it or not, there is a very simple solution for this, having the faucets use less pressure! When less pressure is used, a smaller volume of water will be transported, thereby using less water!
“How do meat thermometers work?”
Meat thermometers are used every day to measure the temperature of meats. However, how exactly do they work? Well, let’s use our engineering mindset to find out. If we were to deconstruct one of these machines, then we would find out that inside the thermometer are two strips of metal with different heat coefficients. Upon the application of heat, both of these will expand at different rates, inducing twisting and therefore changing the dial at a constant rate!
How cement is made
“How is cement made?”
Cement is one of the most versatile materials on the planet. However, how exactly is it made? Well, let’s use our engineering mindset to find out. First, we must gather up its primal ingredients: limestone, clay, and others. Then, we must crush these rocks. Then we must combine this crushed material with other ingredients such as iron ore and feed it into a cement kiln. The kiln will then heat all of these ingredients, burning away some, and producing a red-hot compound known as clinker. This clinker must then be ejected into a cooling plant, and be mixed with gypsum and limestone to eventually form the cement that we know and love.