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Celebrating sustainability research for World Engineering Day

UNSW 3 mins read

On this year’s World Engineering Day, we celebrate engineers at UNSW whose research is helping create a more sustainable world.


Engineers have helped solve some of the world’s most wicked problems.


Now more than ever, countries and organisations are concerned about their human impact on the natural world. Investments in sustainable technologies, infrastructure, and practices not only mitigate environmental risks but also drive innovation, create jobs, and protect communities.


World Engineering Day is an annual celebration of engineering and the contribution of the world’s engineers for a better, sustainable world.


First announced by UNESCO in 2019, World Engineering Day is celebrated worldwide on 4 March every year since. The day is seen as an opportunity to engage with government and industry to address the need for engineering capacity and develop strategic frameworks and best practice to implement engineering solutions.


World Engineering Day also closely aligns with the United Nations 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) which is an urgent call for action by all countries for ‘peace and prosperity for people and the planet’.


Here are some of the many highlights of how UNSW engineers are striving to achieve the SDGs through innovative research.


SDG #2: Future of food: what's on the menu in 2050


In 2050, the global population is expected to grow to 10 billion – that’s a staggering two billion extra mouths to feed.


Professor Johannes le Coutre, a food and health expert from UNSW Sydney’s School of Chemical Engineering, says the most pressing challenge will be how to sustainably ramp up calorie production by 70 per cent without overwhelming the planet.


From insects to cultured meats, he says we’re going to need to change what we eat and how we grow it over the next two decades so we can diversify our sources of protein.


SDG #3: Chef's kiss: brain-friendly cake shines light on cognitive decline


It’s a no-brainer that food is very important for a person’s brain health.


But when it comes to improving cognitive decline, it seems you can have your cake and eat it too.


UNSW’s food and health expert, Professor Johannes le Coutre, and Director of UNSW’s Ageing Futures Institute and Senior Principal Research Scientist at NeuRA, Professor Kaarin Anstey, have helped develop a very special brain-friendly cake.


In collaboration with community care provider, Meals on Wheels NSW, the cake uses ingredients that have shown to be beneficial to the brain while highlighting the widespread issue of cognitive decline among senior Australians.


SDG #7: Green policies will maximise photovoltaic potential and minimise future energy costs


A UNSW study shows the levels of atmospheric aerosols and greenhouse gas emissions will have a significant impact in the future on both the production of photovoltaic energy and associated costs.


The researchers say the results aim to contribute to the analysis of future energy storage requirements, help optimise the location of future solar plants, as well as promote the adoption of policies to accelerate the ongoing energy transition and mitigate the climate change impacts.


SDG #11: Fire-retardant paint to first protect homes from extreme fire conditions


Professor Guan Yeoh and his team have developed a fire-retardant paint which was the first to pass a stringent Bushfire Attack Level (BAL) 40 standard which assesses the bushfire resistance of buildings and construction materials.


In partnership with Flame Security International, the team spent nearly five years perfecting the formula to ensure the paint can be commercially viable without compromising on the fire-retardant properties.


SDG #12: Repair, reuse and recycle: dealing with solar panels at the end of their useful life


With solar power becoming one of the country’s leading renewable energy sources, the photovoltaics research community is trying to lengthen the life of the modules by making them more resilient to the environment, particularly moisture and oxygen.


However, 90 per cent of these systems are expected to end up in landfill once they need to be replaced - despite up to 95 per cent of the materials can be recycled.


Two UNSW solar experts says we need bespoke technology designed to recycle important elements inside solar panels to reduce waste.


Contact details:


Cecilia Duong

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