Centenary blog: Spotlight on sustainability and environment
1st February 2022
Every month throughout our centenary year, we will be asking an IChemE member to write a blog about each of the centenary themes. The themes have been selected to highlight and celebrate the enormous contribution that chemical engineering has made to society over the last century.
IChemE member Dr Nikolay Cherkasov, who was part of the editorial panel looking at sustainability and environment, picks out his choices of elements to celebrate, communicate and inspire.
Name: Dr Nikolay Cherkasov
Job title and organisation: Managing Director, Stoli Chem
IChemE role: Member of the Sustainability & Environment editorial panel for the centenary, treasurer of both the Midlands Members Group and Catalysis Special Interest Group.
Bio: Nikolay contributes to sustainability by delivering continuous flow reactors that enable precision manufacturing of fine chemicals and pharmaceuticals. He has published 50+ research papers in the area of catalysis, process development & automation, and process intensification.
Concern for the environment and the sustainable consumption of the earth’s resources presents chemical engineers with a complex challenge, though one which we are ideally positioned to solve. Through working with my fellow members to develop the sustainability and environment theme, we have covered topics from engineering sustainable nutrition to climate change.
I have been asked to select three elements from within the theme to celebrate, communicate and inspire – here are my highlights.
- Chemical engineering has an outstanding track record for solving major environmental problems. The solutions range from contributing to feeding the world’s population (through the development of the Haber-Bosch process for producing synthetic fertilisers), to delivering sustainable energy for power and transport, and safe drinking water to minimise disease.
- Sustainability requires the most efficient use of resources. Chemical engineers are responsible for transferring laboratory-based ideas to production scale, developing optimum processes and technologies to achieve efficient production.
- Food, water and energy are a key part in any discussion on a sustainable future; they must be viewed as a whole system. Chemical engineering’s use of systems thinking and lifecycle analysis has been vital in addressing challenges.
- The most imperative current challenge to achieve sustainability is the creation of a circular economy – recycling and re-using resources efficiently and economically rather than extracting new ones.
- A circular economy requires effective labour productivity in addition to resource productivity.
- Innovation will be key to reaching a circular economy and a key component of this is competition.
- Chemical engineers across all industry sectors are ideally placed to contribute to sustainability.
- The engineers of today are responsible for finding solutions for the problems of tomorrow.
- Renewable resources and materials are an opportunity for delivering ground-breaking solutions and innovation.
I encourage you to visit the sustainability and environment section of the ChemEng Evolution website to find out more.
The sustainability and environment panel discussion entitled ‘Consumption - driving and defining issues of the future’ was held on 16 February 2022. Watch the recording here. For more information on IChemE's centenary, visit www.chemengevolution.org or follow #ChemEngEvolution on social media.