Engineering sustainability into the next century and beyond

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On February 23, 2021

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For the past 150 years, Missouri S&T (AKA Missouri School of Mines and Metallurgy and the University of Missouri-Rolla) has produced world-changing engineers. At the intersection of S&T’s 150th anniversary and National Engineers Week, we’re looking ahead at how engineering can lead the way for the next 150 years.

Leaders in the College of Engineering and Computing shared their thoughts about the most important focus for their disciplines, and a trend quickly emerged – sustainability. From carbon capture and advanced materials to water and soil use, engineering can play a big role in careful stewardship of resources, both now and in the future, as outlined by the heads of some of S&T’s engineering departments.

Dr. Kwame Awuah-Offei, mining and explosives engineering – The need for mined materials is going to grow for two reasons: increasing urbanization in the developing world and transition to green energy. If we don’t find ways to increase our production in a sustainable way, the environmental and societal impacts of mining will be a significant drawback to our quest to develop and use green energy to combat climate change.

Dr. David Bayless, mechanical and aerospace engineering – Looking to the next 150 years, I think artificial intelligence will have the greatest impact, and the way we enable machine learning and its integration into our world will be as important as the technological advancements themselves. We could wind up in a world where we have even more free time to pursue our interests (education, art, research) or we could wind up fostering more inequality where those who have resources and ability to use and control AI integration will have more economic and political power than those who do not.

Dr. David Borrok, geosciences and geological and petroleum engineering – Over the next 150 years, geological engineering is poised to leverage ongoing improvements in unmanned aerial surveying, satellite-based data and advanced computing to gather and apply high-resolution data about the Earth’s surface and subsurface at all scales to solve problems related to water and soil sustainability, predict and mitigate natural hazards, and provide clean and renewable energy sources.

Meanwhile, petroleum companies are evolving to take a broader view of energy. Although we will still need substantial amounts of oil and gas for the foreseeable future, these companies are developing new technologies in areas such as geothermal energy and CO2 sequestration. You can expect petroleum engineers to be leaders in building a sustainable energy portfolio.

Dr. Joel Burken, civil, architectural and environmental engineering – Civil engineers will revolutionize our infrastructure from the molecular properties of building materials to integrating infrastructure systems on a grand scale and will improve our urban centers into more efficient, healthy, livable mega cities.

Architectural engineers will integrate new technologies into smart cities to allow sustainable buildings of the future to incorporate energy generation and storage and to be more connected to the people living in those spaces. 

Environmental engineers will take on chemical and biological threats that cause loss of life and address social barriers to implement lifesaving technical solutions to protect global public health through clean water, sanitation and clean air.

Dr. Gregory Hilmas, materials science and engineering – I see big changes in biomaterials that will live inside the human body to provide biosensing and biofeedback with respect to the health of the body. I think they will be able to cure certain conditions by responding to issues in the human body and then adapting and resolving those issues.

Dr. Suzanna Long, engineering management and systems engineering — Engineering managers and systems engineers consider complexity and rapid change as part of engineering design. In the years to come, EMSE graduates will design mechanisms to address challenges with our critical infrastructure. Examples include real-time databases and data mining tools to connect organ donors to recipients, locations for charging infrastructure to support wide-scale electric vehicle adoption, transportation design for safe, secure transport of energy materials, and more.

Dr. Hu Yang, chemical and biochemical engineering – Chemical and biochemical engineering can contribute a lot to make the world better. If I had to pick a single innovation, I would say carbon capture and storage technology to prevent global warming.

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One thought on “Engineering sustainability into the next century and beyond”

  • milton J murry says:

    Train students in use of I Codes ICEE for residential. Also BEopt software, Equest and Energy Plus commercial software. Do Case studies of buildings on campus. CFOT certification and other quick certification classes. MJM 1964 and 1980