Drinking water tops poll of best ‘inventions’

Feb. 5, 2014
Drinking water and sanitation have been voted as the most important chemically engineered inventions and solutions of the modern era, according to a new poll published by the Institution of Chemical Engineers (IChemE)...

Drinking water and sanitation have been voted as two of the most important chemically engineered inventions and solutions of the modern era, according to a new poll published by the Institution of Chemical Engineers (IChemE).

From a shortlist of over 40 inventions, chemical engineers have voted for their most important chemically engineered solutions over the past century, with drinking water, petrol and antibiotics topping the poll.

The ten inventions, considered to have made the biggest impact on society, were:

1. Drinking or potable water
2. Petrol or gasoline (and other fuels including diesel)
3. Antibiotics
4. Electricity generation (from fossil fuels)
5. Vaccines
6. Plastics
7. Fertilizer
8. Sanitation
9. Electricity generation (from non-fossil fuels)
10. Dosed medications (such as tablets, pills and capsules).

Some notable inventions which didn’t make the top ten included biofuels (11), contraceptives (12), batteries (13), the catalytic converter (14), adhesives (28), pneumatic tyres (39) and photographic film (41).

David Brown, IChemE’s chief executive, said: “The facilities and plants built to deliver products like petrol and clean water are equally impressive. It is easy to forget how complex they are. Here too, chemical engineers make a major contribution to the design and operation of industrial facilities, and their safe management.”

Brown added: “As the global population grows to an estimated nine billion by 2050, issues like energy generation, the management of health, water supply and food production will become more challenging. They are issues that chemical engineers are already looking at to find the next generation of sustainable solutions.”

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