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Thursday, February 21, 2008

14 Engineering challenges for the 21st century

U.S. National Academy of Science (NAE) has announced 14 important engineering challenges awaiting solutions in 21st century. Engineers and scientists will try their best to identify solutions for these.

* Make solar energy affordable
* Provide energy from fusion
* Develop carbon sequestration methods
* Manage the nitrogen cycle
* Provide access to clean water
* Restore and improve urban infrastructure
* Advance health informatics
* Engineer better medicines
* Reverse-engineer the brain
* Prevent nuclear terror
* Secure cyberspace
* Enhance virtual reality
* Advance personalized learning
* Engineer the tools for scientific discovery

These challenges are to help human to have an improved standard of living, with four important themes in mind. The themes are: sustainability, health, reducing vulnerability and joy of living.

NAE is offering the public an opportunity to vote on which one they think is most important. Vote here for one of the challenges above that you think is most important.

Actually, recently I have just had discussion with a colleague and an ex-school mate regarding Solar Energy.

My colleague is in doubt of why solar energy system is not promoted enough to the consumers? Consumer would be happy to accept the solar energy concepts. My answer is that the solar panel and its system are costly. Its cost is hard to compete with existing AC supply from the electricity service provider, which will have lower setup cost.

Later after few days, my ex-school mate discussed with me the maximum power consumption of a typical house. He was trying to calculate the cost of a solar energy system if it were to be setup into a fully solar-powered house (without any AC electricity supply from service provider). The worked out cost was around US$10,000 to setup. We even went further to thinking about the maintenance cost. That will add to the periodical costs of the solar energy system.

So, as a conclusion, solar energy system is still costly compared to other energy resources.

Engineers…!!! It’s time to work harder to get this light-to-electricity conversion system to be affordable for consumers. This will in return help reduce environmental pollution as there’s very minimal byproducts from this system.

So, that goes my recent discussion item with my friends. And I’m happy enough to see the list of engineering challenges includes solar energy concerns as well. That shows it’s being emphasized.

Don’t get me wrong. Up to this point, I’m not saying that solar energy is the most important development in the list. I would rather say all these 14 items should be equally important. I believe the vote is to help identify the most demanding item from consumers and every party. So, it’s to be focused first. Anyway, all these items should be distributed equally to the related parties to develop. The list includes computing, environmental, security, energy, health, pharmaceutical, etc. The list is wide.

Anyway, I, as an electronics engineer, would like to give supports to all engineers and scientists around the world pursuing plans to achieve the goals to help improve the world.


1 comment:

3POINT8 said...

This is interesting!
I'm gonna slowly read all of em