Looking to the future, as the world population continues to grow and our needs expand there are several areas for skilled engineers to focus on in order to build upon and further improve quality of life globally.
Here are a just a few of the engineering challenges for the 21st Century;
Making Solar Energy More Economically Viable
We may have the technology to harness energy from the sun and convert it into useable energy but taking this technology forward and making it an economically viable solution to our growing energy needs is yet to be achieved.
Solar power offers us a green, sustainable alternative source of energy but despite the fact that our fossil fuels continue to deplete, only 1% of the energy we consume is currently being generated by solar power.
In order to make solar energy more accessible, we must first find more cost effective materials to use in the fabrication of the solar equipment, without compromising efficiency.
Restoring A Balance To The Nitrogen Cycle
The engineers of the future must find ways to restore balance to the nitrogen circle in order to combat issues including global warming, acid rain and smog. Activities including the excessive use of chemical fertilisers in agriculture and large scale industrial combustion have lead to a situation where nitrogen, is being removed from the air at double the rate it should be.
This balance must now be restored somehow in order to reduce the detrimental impact the imbalance is having on the whole environment.
Increasing Security In Cyberspace
The technological advancements that gave us a completely new set of complex communication and electronic computing systems have given rise to completely new issues and challenges.
With these new systems so deeply embedded in our daily lives, an attack on them can have serious consequences, not just for individuals in terms of their personal privacy (i.e. identity theft), but also more broadly in terms of severe disruption to how entire countries are run and even threats to national security.
Develop & Improve Medicines
Great medical advances were made in the 20th Century with the introduction of antibiotics, surgical techniques and complex MRI and CAT scans to name just three.
Now in the 21st Century, new medicines are required to deal not only with killer viruses, but the deadly strains of bacteria that continually evolve and develop a strong resistance to our current antibiotics, rendering them ineffective
Sophisticated solutions must be found to deal with these complex and challenging issues along with many others.
Find A Viable Solution To The Water Challenge
Huge achievements have been made over the years making water more sanitary and improving the way it is distributed. But despite this, 1 in 6 people on the planet do not have access to clean drinking water, a problem that can lead to significant health problems and ultimately death.
Globally we have plenty of water, the problem is that whilst some areas have too much, others have severe shortages and suffer droughts meaning there is not enough water for drinking, sanitation, industry or agriculture.
This is a crucial crisis to overcome and although exploration of the desalination of sea water has so far proved to be too costly to make it a viable answer for many parts of the world. Plus, this is only effective long term for coastal countries.
Replacing And Improving Our Infrastructure
The aging infrastructure that has supported us for years has been pushed to its limits by not just its age, but our ever growing numbers and the impact of various natural disasters.
Redesigning and modernising the current systems in place and turning to more sustainable, environmentally friendly solutions is going to be a mammoth task indeed.
Making The World A Better Place
The challenges listed above represent just a handful of the issues that will be tackled and no doubt overcome in the future by some of the ingenious individuals and companies working in all areas of the engineering sector. Huge goals, for a better and more sustainable future.