To engineer sustainable solutions for water – value it differently

Brett Cherry, Newcastle University

Engineering sustainable solutions to the world’s water problems is not a pipe dream, people have been doing it for centuries. Water is the essential ingredient to life. But how water is valued globally is in need of a complete overhaul if we’re going to get serious about addressing global challenges that threaten our own species as well as others.

Fortunately, there are many innovative and common technical and social solutions to water resource problems that affect all countries, but especially low to middle-income ones.

Here are some key examples:

Engineering is necessary to delivering all these as well as similar solutions, but applying them has much to do with context and meaningful interactions with all stakeholders involved. Continue reading

Global Challenges Summit 2019 highlights role of North East

Elle Young, MA student in International Development & Education, Newcastle University

Newcastle University hosted the fourth annual Global Challenges Summit in Newcastle. The Global Challenges Academy at Newcastle University works in close partnership with Northumbria and Durham Universities, in supporting the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to seek peace and prosperity for all people and the planet by 2030.

Fostering research and international partnerships to realise the SDGs, are the core values of the Global Challenges Academy, which encourages challenge-based and regional focused research networks to find evidence-based solutions for the world’s most pressing development challenges. The integrated ‘web’ of challenges that impact society and environment, inevitably require global partnerships to achieve these goals together.

The Summit aimed to explore the collaboration opportunities that are involved with international development and global challenges research within the North East and beyond, whilst reinforcing the overarching theme of ‘innovation and creativity for international development’. Continue reading

Biodiversity collapse: the wild relatives of livestock and crops are disappearing

Philip McGowan, Newcastle University; Friederike Bolam, Newcastle University, and Louise Mair, Newcastle University

“Transformative change” is needed to prevent over a million species going extinct, according to a new report on the world’s biodiversity. Based on information gathered over three years from land, freshwater and marine ecosystems, and drawing heavily from the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, the report from the Intergovernmental Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services warns that Earth’s life-support systems may collapse if humanity doesn’t change the way it values and uses nature.

But what does this mean for everyday life? “Biodiversity” – which describes the variety and abundance of species living on Earth – is a term which doesn’t travel far outside debate between scientists and policymakers. The consequences of the biodiversity crisis can seem abstract and difficult for many people to understand, particularly the implications for their own lives. Continue reading

How to start interacting with the SDGs

The UN Sustainable Development Goals provide numerous opportunities for science and engineering to make a wider impact globally upon society and the environment. Aligning them with publicly funded research is imperative to their success. Times Higher Education just released their Impact ranking for the SDGs. I am pleased to say that Newcastle University was ranked 23rd in the world for this ranking.

If you’re an academic researcher, and new to the SDGs, one of the things you should know about them is that they are interconnected – each goal relates to, influences and affects the other goals.

There will always be specific goals that an individual or organisation may focus on but this doesn’t mean the others aren’t relevant to your work; indeed the framework is broad enough to enable achieving targets for different goals together. For example, while you thought you were working on clean water and sanitation, you may not have realised that you’re also helping to achieve gender equality.

If you do research or other relevant work to goal 3 – Good Health and Well-Being, likely it will have implications for other goals such as goal 1 – No Poverty and goal 2 – Zero Hunger.

Continue reading

G-STIC 2018 – The future is our responsibility

The G-STIC Conference in Brussels.

Ismuruthy Pushparajah

On the invitation from the UN Major Group for Children and Youth (UN MGCY) and with the support from the Newcastle University London Student Services, I was able to attend the Global Science, Technology & Innovation Conference 2018 (G-STIC) in November 2018 in Brussels. The main aim of the conference is to facilitate research, innovation and implementation of the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). These goals were adopted in 2016 with the purpose to combat poverty, promote sustainable development and protect the earth from the harmful effects of climate change. The conference addressed various topics related to the UN Sustainable Development Goals, which include agroecology for sustainable food systems, economy, education, energy positive communities, geospatial data, health and wastewater as a resource.

Initial impressions and climate change

The conference was attended by various stakeholders, including scientists, innovators, technology providers and policy makers, with the aim to discuss the most effective implementation of the UN SDGs. This great opportunity, in addition to being a valuable learning experience, was the perfect complement to my academic goals. Travelling with my peer student, Vishnuja Shantharupan, made the experience even richer as we could further discuss topics of common interest. One particular presentation that piqued our interest was called “Project Drawdown”. This plan proposed to reverse global warming and focused on our lack of implementation and speed changes, despite being the victims. Continue reading

How we can turn plastic waste into green energy

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Shutterstock.

Anh Phan, Newcastle University

In the adventure classic Back to the Future, Emmett “Doc” Brown uses energy generated from rubbish to power his DeLorean time machine. But while a time machine may still be some way off, the prospect of using rubbish for fuel isn’t too far from reality. Plastics, in particular, contain mainly carbon and hydrogen, with similar energy content to conventional fuels such as diesel.

Plastics are among the most valuable waste materials – although with the way people discard them, you probably wouldn’t know it. It’s possible to convert all plastics directly into useful forms of energy and chemicals for industry, using a process called “cold plasma pyrolysis”.

Pyrolysis is a method of heating, which decomposes organic materials at temperatures between 400℃ and 650℃, in an environment with limited oxygen. Pyrolysis is normally used to generate energy in the form of heat, electricity or fuels, but it could be even more beneficial if cold plasma was incorporated into the process, to help recover other chemicals and materials. Continue reading