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Climate Change Action Possible Through Chemicals


Chemical engineering can help the fight against climate change.Climate change and the chemical industry don’t seem to go hand in hand.

However, developments in and knowledge from the industry play a critical role in creating solutions in fighting the issues at hand. Climate change action is possible through chemical research and development.

One key alternative energy supply is solar power. Solar panels would obviously be most beneficial in high-sunlight areas, like deserts. By not being close to the majority of the population, this energy would need to be transported. Energy would also have to be able to be stored so that it could be accessed when the sun isn’t shining, like during the nighttime. The subsequent need would be twofold: to store, and to transport, energy to consumers.

The energy generated would be easier to transport in the form of a high energy content chemical, like hydrogen or ammonia. The handling, processing and transporting of these materials are routine in the chemical industry. The industry expertise would be able to assist in such a project like this.

Ammonia is also a component of fertilizer, which plays a key role in producing enough food to feed the growing population. Producing enough fertilizer through chemical engineering consumes a lot of energy, but if facilities were able to be closer to renewable energy sources and agricultural sites, the close proximity would help reduce the carbon footprint.

One popular method in taking climate change action is changing your mode of transport, like turning to electric cars. The electric vehicle industry also relies on the chemical industry. New technologies that combine lithium with other compounds will carve a path for the next iteration of the electric vehicle. Most automobiles with fuel cells rely on costly platinum, but chemical research can help provide more alternatives.

Modern LED lightbulbs sound like a good option for consumers, as using them consumes about one-tenth of the electricity used by traditional bulbs. However, these LED bulbs use a chemical called gallium nitride. Gallium is rarely found and is difficult to recycle. However, in the future, chemical research could optimize the technology and reduce the need for gallium.

Even the process of chemical production can contribute to fighting climate change. Production usually occurs in several stages; running more energy-intensive steps when there’s more electricity available (e.g. solar panels drawing from sunlight) would help. The partially processed chemicals could be stored for when processing them will not put as much strain on the power grid, allowing for less power consumption overall.

There is still work to be done to achieve any of the above to move towards climate change action. Every day, chemical research may advance, but the damage being done the planet via climate change is as well. We all must work together in order to find numerous ways that we can save the planet.

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