Developing sustainable technologies is a massive agenda. Such innovation is needed to address the big challenges of the 21st century: energy demand, resource allocation, water and pollution. By reducing energy and resources consumption, this will help everyone to protect the environment and to re-use/recycle resources.
Today, 80% of energy usage comes from fossil fuels: petroleum, coal and natural gas. While fossil fuels are still being created by underground heat and pressure, they are being consumed more rapidly than they are being generated. Although there is no consensus for how long these natural resources will last, there is complete agreement that to avoid their complete depletion renewable resources should be used.
Biomass, hydro, wind, solar, geothermal, marine and hydrogen will unquestionably play an important role in the future. Biomass/waste, being a readily available renewable energy source that reduces sulfur dioxide and carbon dioxide emissions, is an extremely attractive option as a fuel for power generation and as a raw material to be converted into transportation fuel.
For the past 10 years Teesside University has focused on the production of synthetic fuels via thermocatalytic routes, mainly biomass and waste-to-fuel routes. One of the main thermocatalytic routes is pyrolysis, a potential value-added technology for the treatment of biomass/organic waste, with the possibility of producing gases with appreciable fuel value, useful liquid oils and agriculturally applicable biochar.
As chemical engineers, the development of catalysts with high activity and selectivity for sustainable catalytic processes was, and still is, a first priority for our research. As such, we’ve prepared a number of newly-developed technically advanced catalysts which support our over-arching objective of helping to protect the environment and re-using/recycling resources.
Arguably our main research success to date has been in the conversion of biogas (consisting of about 60% methane and 40% carbon dioxide) as produced by anaerobic digestion of municipal wastewater sludge, into syngas (mixture of carbon monoxide and hydrogen). Using nickel-based catalysts in a conversion process known as dry reforming of methane, this proven application converts two major greenhouse gases, methane and carbon dioxide, into synthetic fuel, making it very important from an environmental and economic point of view.
Syngas is already a synthetic fuel as it can be used into a gas engine to produce steam and electricity. However, to comply with the engine’s specifications, syngas has to be cleaned. This was the task of our EU-funded Pyrochar project, which was dedicated to the design and development of a process to convert sewage sludge into useful biochar and synthetic gas. A different class of nickel-based catalysts were developed and scaled-up, from mg to kg, for this application. The catalysts were used in the pilot plant unit built by the Pyrochar project consortium and proved to have better performance than existing commercial catalysts used as a benchmark. A related area of our work is the conversion of syngas into long-chain hydrocarbons, substitutes for diesel fuels, through the Fischer-Tropsch catalytic process.
We are also currently investigating the conversion of carbon dioxide into valuable chemicals by polymerisation. The utilisation of carbon dioxide by chemical conversion is a valuable idea which is envisaged to provide answers to two other burning questions of the 21st century, namely around global warming and fossil fuel depletion. Chemical conversion of carbon dioxide into other useful chemicals not only provides a tangible solution to curb the ever increasing amount of greenhouse gases in the earth’s atmosphere, it also serves carbon dioxide as a cheap, abundant and natural feed stock.
We are always exploring new opportunities and have found a way to eliminate Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) to improve the quality of indoor air, by developing catalysts able to work at room temperature, a promising alternative to minimise energy consumption in catalytic reactions. And, although it is early days, we are currently looking into the conversion of waste oil into biodiesel.
Our ultimate goal is “zero waste, zero emissions” and we are confident that we are not far away from achieving that. Improved catalysts and processes for the cost effective conversion of a wide range of feed-stocks: including biomass, sludge from the wastewater treatment plants, waste plastics, and waste oil; to a tailored range of gas and liquid fuels and chemicals, through mainly synthesis gas (syngas) chemistry have been designed, developed and, most importantly, proven by myself and colleagues.
It’s a long journey, but the fact is that the world is running out of oil and gas and urgently needs to find alternative fuel supplies, so we all have a responsibility to provide some solutions.
Maria Olea is a Professor in Chemical Engineering and Catalysis at Teesside University.
Extra-Mile Water Conservation Efforts Amidst Shortage
While some states are literally flooding due to heavy rains and run-off, others are struggling to get the moisture they need. States like Arizona and California have faced water emergencies for the last few years; water conserving efforts from citizens help keep them out of trouble.
If your area is experiencing a water shortage, there are a few things you can do to go the extra mile.
Repair and Maintain Appliances
Leaks around the house – think showerheads, toilets, dishwashers, and more – lead to wasted water. Beyond that, the constant flow of water will cause water damage to your floors and walls. Have repairs done as soon as you spot any problems.
Sometimes, a leak won’t be evident until it gets bad. For that reason, make appointments to have your appliances inspected and maintained at least once per year. This will extend the life of each machine as well as nip water loss in the bud.
When your appliances are beyond repair, look into Energy Star rated replacements. They’re designed to use the least amount of water and energy possible, without compromising on effectiveness.
Only Run Dishwasher and Washer When Full
It might be easier to do a load of laundry a day rather than doing it once per week, but you’ll waste a lot more water this way. Save up your piles of clothes until you have enough to fully load the washing machine. You could also invest in a washing machine that senses the volume of water needed according to the volume of clothes.
The same thing goes with the dishwasher. Don’t push start until you’ve filled it to capacity. If you have to wash dishes, don’t run the water while you’re washing. Fill the sink or a small bowl a quarter of the way full and use this to wash your dishes.
Recycle Water in Your Yard
Growing a garden in your backyard is a great way to cut down on energy and water waste from food growers and manufacturers, but it will require a lot more water on your part. Gardens must be watered, and this often leads to waste.
You can reduce this waste by participating in water recycling. Using things like a rain barrel, pebble filtering system, and other tools, you can save thousands of gallons a year and still keep your landscaping and garden beautiful and healthy.
Landscape with Drought-Resistant Plants
Recycling water in your yard is a great way to reduce your usage, but you can do even more by reducing the amount of water required to keep your yard looking great. The best drought-resistant plants are those that are native to the area. In California, for example, succulents grow very well, and varieties of cactus do well in states like Arizona or Texas.
Install Water-Saving Features
The average American household uses between 80 and 100 gallons of water every single day. You obviously can’t cut out things like showering or using the toilet, but you can install a few water-saving tools to make your water use more efficient.
There are low-flow showerheads, toilets, and faucet aerators. You could also use automatic shut-off nozzles, shower timers, and grey water diverters. Any of these water saving devices can easily cut your water usage in half.
Research Laws and Ordinances for Your City
Dry states like California, Arizona, New Mexico, and Nevada must create certain laws to keep the water from running out. These laws are put into practice for the benefit of everyone, but they only work if you abide by the laws.
If you live in a state where drought is common, research your state and city’s laws. They might designate one day per week that you’re allowed to water your lawn or how full you can fill a pool. Many people are not well versed in the laws set by their states, and it would mean a lot to your community if you did your part.
Cyprus is the Forerunner for Ecotourism
When I was looking for a second citizenship, I happened to see One Visa’s offer on Cyprus Citizenship by investment program. I had heard about Cyprus being a beautiful country, but I did not know much else, so I decided to start my own research about this gem of a place.
After I did some research, I discovered that Cyprus is a popular destination for tourists. Unfortunately, heavy tourism and the associated development affected villages here and there, with some communities being slowly abandoned. To avoid this from happening any further, Cyprus went into ecotourism, and today, it is the forerunner in this arena. Let’s look in further detail at ecotourism in Cyprus here.
How was it started?
It all started in 2006 with the launch of the “Cyprus Sustainable Tourism Initiative.” This program has the sole scope of promoting ecotourism developments in the tourism industry. It concentrates on those areas which require conservation and environmental safety. At the same time, it helps develop social, as well as economic statuses in the rural parts of Cyprus. Through this program, the government was able to acknowledge that ecotourism will play an essential role in the future of Cyprus, with the concept gaining momentum among tourists from all over the globe.
How to go about it?
So, now you are interested in going for an ecotourism vacation in Cyprus. How will you go about it? I would immediately say that everyone should visit the quaint Cypriot villages spread throughout the island. These communities have a smaller population, and not many tourists visit. They make for a great relaxing spot. Enjoy seeing the bustle of village life go by where simple pleasures abound. Most hamlets are linked by specific minibus tours which ferry tourists to these havens. These trips will have a regular schedule, aimed at promoting ecotourism further. Such tours will be regulated to ensure that while the villages can benefit and develop, they do not get overpopulated or overcrowded with tourists. Therefore, you can be sure to enjoy the beautiful sceneries that nature has to offer here.
If you are wondering if there are any activities to do here, my answer would be: “Yes, plenty.” You can go for some guided walks across various regions here. Here you will be able to explore the diversified natural beauty and wildlife of the area. Several agritourism activities and services are planned to open shortly. Once launched, you will be able to engage in picking olives, milking goats, and several other such events here.
What can be learned?
Although we are aware that natural resources need to be preserved, we do not always remember it in real life. When we go on tours such as these, we can realize the significance of protecting nature. Also, when more and more people visit these places, the concept of ecotourism will become popular among more people. Awareness about ecotourism is set to grow and spread throughout the world. Subsequently, sustainable tourism will gain popularity around the globe with Cyprus being the forerunner for ecotourism .