"Appropriate" Engineering for development, including in the areas of Food, Energy and Water
Meeting the challenges of Sustainable Development as presented in the UN's 'Sustainable Development Goals' requires the design of solutions that the very people who will be benefiting from them are able to fully own and implement for themselves. This requires careful listening and adapting of our whole approach to Research and Design to best taylor it to their needs.
Together with partners from Kenyan Institutions SERC, KEWI, KEFRI and KALRO, we applied this approach in a recently completed project on "Enhanced Food Security and Afforestation through Novel Approaches to Irrigations". The project ran from March 2018 to february 2019. It was funded through the British Council's Newton Utafiti scheme. The achievements were many, and of particular interest to the communities that live in Arid and Semi Arid Land (ASAL) areas.
In particular we demonstrated the proof of concept for a "Made-in-Kenya" solar thermal desalinator; showed that water could be desalinated in the field to grow dual-purpose sorghum for people and cattle, obviating the risks to human and livestock health and preserving the soil at the same time; and that a similar technique could help with establishing tree saplings of slow growing species, in particular native Acacia species and also species of commercial interest (Mango and Guava).
For more detail, please visit www.susdev.eng.ed.ac.uk
Sustainable fuels on a significant scale through storage of renewable energies
Our research is focusing on the practicalities of utilising variable renewable energies such as wind, wave or tidal, for the synthesis of fuels and chemicals (e.g. alcohol fuels, petrol or hydrogen).
This approach has the potential of solving two severe problems that the world is now facing regarding its economic development:
- De-carbonising of the supply chain for transport fuels, a particularly difficult topic given the apparent lack of alternatives to fossil fuels.
- Large scale development of renewable energy beyond that permitted by the limitations of power transmission and distribution infrastructures, by developing wind, marine and solar products other than power - namely, fuels and chemicals.
The first point regarding the current lack of sizeable alternatives to fossil fuels is illustrated by the current high price of food staples, partly encouraged by the increased production of biofuels. However, alternatives can and must be developed, utilising sustainable sources of carbon (the chemical backbone of liquid fuels) such as CO2 and Municipal Solid Waste (MSW), and chemically combining this carbon with hydrogen derived from renewable energies such as wind, marine or solar. Both sources of carbon have availability that is much greater than could be hoped for from energy crops. An interesting figure: The energy content of the Municipal Solid Waste generated each year in the UK represents a third of the UK's energy consumption in petrol and diesel.
Regarding the second point:
- Transmission and bringing to market of renewable energies from remote areas. Given the significance of the remote renewable resource in the UK and other regions of the world (e.g. North America, China, etc), this type of technology could greatly contribute to the proper development of wind, marine and solar energy on a scale of significance for the meeting of energy needs. In the UK, most of the wave, wind and tidal power resource is located North and West of Scotland.
- Another particularly useful application is for grids with a very high penetration of wind power, where production in 'excess' of demand is frequent (e.g., in Western Denmark).
For more info: Please visit my personal webpage.