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E&T Innovation Awards: Choose your young pioneer

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The Young Pioneers category at the E&T Innovation Awards aims to recognise rising engineering talent.

There is much talk of the skills shortage and the pipeline that is failing to rejuvenate the ageing stock of engineers. Nevertheless, there are clearly some brilliant young minds that are already making their mark in the engineering profession. The Young Pioneers category at the E&T Innovation Awards recognises such rising talent.

A panel of expert judges has whittled the entrants down to just three finalists. The winner will be announced along with the rest of the E&T Innovation Awards at the gala presentation night taking place in London on 10 November 2022. More details about the event and how to be part of it are available online.

The E&T Innovation Awards attract hundreds of entries: inspiring solutions to some of the world’s greatest challenges including sustainability, mobility, communication, health and energy. Each category has its own panel of expert judges who have been busy over the summer narrowing down the entries to a shortlist of finalists, who will be announced in next month’s issue.

However, the winner of the Young Pioneer category is down to you. The judges have picked three outstanding finalists – three very different projects – and it is up to you to decide the winner. Using the information provided, select your favourite and vote online.

Voting is now open and will close during the Awards ceremony itself on 10 November.

Harshil Sumaria: Unlocking the power of truly open data

Harshil Sumaria began life at UK Power Networks as a summer intern, but in just two years he’s risen to playing a pivotal role developing one of the world’s leading smart grid systems, working as a power systems and data analytics engineer.

He developed UK Power Networks’ DSO (distribution system operator) Dashboard beta, which opened unprecedented access to operational network data.

The dashboard goes beyond the Energy Data Taskforce recommendations to facilitate open innovation and collaboration on sustainability. This is now used by customers every day and has led to the launch of the Open Data Portal, building a truly open data culture across UKPN teams and more widely.

Sumaria explained: “After identifying a data source from power meters connected to our grid supply points, I manually used maps and technical drawings of our network, comprised of over 170,000 generators, to cleanse the data and develop computationally efficient databases to store this large scale of data, whilst being easily scalable to even larger volumes of data. With the data ready, I developed the dashboard at home using the open-source visualisation platform Grafana. I then worked closely with our IT infrastructure team to install the dashboard in the cloud and publish it.”

The novelty in this project comes from the fact that this had not been done before in the UK, and allows stakeholders to make decisions using the same data that UKPN uses. This is important on the journey to net zero to encourage closer collaboration with stakeholders and the rapid connection of low-carbon technologies to the electricity network.

The judges said: “This entry uses simple dashboards to unlock valuable insights which would support the UK power industry’s ambition to attain net zero. We like how the applicant has applied his current job role to help address a long-standing challenge in the industry.”

Rayna Borah: Breathing Cart, a vegetable cart for Indian street vendors

This Cart increases the shelf life and freshness of the produce by insulation and damp compartments.

Hydroponics will allow consumers to buy fresh growing plants, which they can continue to grow in their own homes. The hydroponic cups will be biodegradable using recycled paper and sawdust. The cups sit on a sheet of foam which lines the bottom of the compartment and is soaked in water with added nutrients.

Damp and moisture compartment: Some vegetables require moisture to stay fresh and most vendors typically have to regularly sprinkle the surface with water. However, this compartment will have an ultrasonic mist humidifier made of plastic bottles, which can be made for just $10 and can run for over 10 hours daily.

Dry and dark compartment: This is a low-cost transparent grid container with double insulating panes. It reduces heat transfer while giving full visibility to buyers.

There’s also a seat on the side of the cart with holes for airflow and comfort, as well as a water container with filter.

Most of the estimated 10 million vegetable street vendors in India sell their produce in open places; unhygienic and unsanitised areas where the vegetables can get contaminated and result in health issues. In most instances vendors don’t have a place to sit, except on the ground, and they are unable to sell their produce profitably. The Cart boosts profitability, creates job opportunities and enhances the vendor’s hygiene and lifestyle.

The judges said: “We liked this entry because it applies hydroponics (growing plants without soil) to address a significant challenge faced by farmers and food vendors (in this case, in India). The concept has the potential to significantly improve the preservation of farm produce.”

Raffaele Nacchiero: Recycling lithium-ion batteries through agri-food waste

This innovative tech process allows recycling of spent lithium-ion batteries using agri-food waste (orange peel and citric acid). Based on technology validated with the support of partners such as the University of Foggia, a start-up company AraBat was formed.

The technology is disruptive because it would allow companies and individuals to feed their used lithium batteries into a sustainable and circular system that processes them in order to recover critical raw materials, which can then re-enter the market at advantageous prices.

Unlike typical hydrometallurgical processes commonly used today, which use strong inorganic acids, AraBat has developed a new green leaching process. This uses a sustainable leaching mix and efficient performance thanks to the synergy of the reducing sugars of the orange peel and the citric acid. Through this treatment and other innovative mechanical solutions, it is possible to recover metal components of the lithium batteries (lithium carbonate, nickel hydroxide, manganese hydroxide, copper and aluminium) without using high temperatures or dangerous reagents, while reducing CO2 emissions.

The technology has numerous benefits. Its recycling process based on a circular urban mining solution turns out to be cheaper and more sustainable than processes commonly used today, allowing battery companies to solve the problem of disposing of their products responsibly. The recovered secondary materials are raw materials essential for numerous production sectors and could allow an internal and local supply of precious metals.

Also adoption of AraBat’s process would lead to the reuse of large quantities of agri-food by-products and waste, contributing to a complete and total circular revolution.

The judges said: “We were unanimously impressed with this entry. It presents an innovative approach to recycling lithium-ion batteries – a challenge that will become increasingly important with the energy transition. We liked the presentation of the concept and the thought that has gone into its development.”

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