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Making a World of Difference: Engineering Ideas into Reality (2014)

Chapter:2014 A Healthier, Cleaner, More Connected World

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Suggested Citation:"2014 A Healthier, Cleaner, More Connected World." National Academy of Engineering. 2014. Making a World of Difference: Engineering Ideas into Reality. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/18966.
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Suggested Citation:"2014 A Healthier, Cleaner, More Connected World." National Academy of Engineering. 2014. Making a World of Difference: Engineering Ideas into Reality. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/18966.
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Suggested Citation:"2014 A Healthier, Cleaner, More Connected World." National Academy of Engineering. 2014. Making a World of Difference: Engineering Ideas into Reality. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/18966.
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Suggested Citation:"2014 A Healthier, Cleaner, More Connected World." National Academy of Engineering. 2014. Making a World of Difference: Engineering Ideas into Reality. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/18966.
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Suggested Citation:"2014 A Healthier, Cleaner, More Connected World." National Academy of Engineering. 2014. Making a World of Difference: Engineering Ideas into Reality. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/18966.
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Suggested Citation:"2014 A Healthier, Cleaner, More Connected World." National Academy of Engineering. 2014. Making a World of Difference: Engineering Ideas into Reality. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/18966.
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Suggested Citation:"2014 A Healthier, Cleaner, More Connected World." National Academy of Engineering. 2014. Making a World of Difference: Engineering Ideas into Reality. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/18966.
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Suggested Citation:"2014 A Healthier, Cleaner, More Connected World." National Academy of Engineering. 2014. Making a World of Difference: Engineering Ideas into Reality. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/18966.
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Suggested Citation:"2014 A Healthier, Cleaner, More Connected World." National Academy of Engineering. 2014. Making a World of Difference: Engineering Ideas into Reality. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/18966.
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Suggested Citation:"2014 A Healthier, Cleaner, More Connected World." National Academy of Engineering. 2014. Making a World of Difference: Engineering Ideas into Reality. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/18966.
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Suggested Citation:"2014 A Healthier, Cleaner, More Connected World." National Academy of Engineering. 2014. Making a World of Difference: Engineering Ideas into Reality. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/18966.
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Suggested Citation:"2014 A Healthier, Cleaner, More Connected World." National Academy of Engineering. 2014. Making a World of Difference: Engineering Ideas into Reality. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/18966.
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Suggested Citation:"2014 A Healthier, Cleaner, More Connected World." National Academy of Engineering. 2014. Making a World of Difference: Engineering Ideas into Reality. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/18966.
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Suggested Citation:"2014 A Healthier, Cleaner, More Connected World." National Academy of Engineering. 2014. Making a World of Difference: Engineering Ideas into Reality. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/18966.
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Suggested Citation:"2014 A Healthier, Cleaner, More Connected World." National Academy of Engineering. 2014. Making a World of Difference: Engineering Ideas into Reality. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/18966.
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2014 A Healthier, Cleaner, More Connected World Surrounded by the fruits of innovation, we easily forget that much of what we now take for granted in 2014 was almost unimaginable 25 years ago. Back in the 1980s, pagers, e-mail, and floppy disks were cutting-edge technologies. Today we have smartphones, flash drives, and “the cloud.” Back then the idea for the World Wide Web was just beginning to germinate in the mind of Tim Berners-Lee. Today roughly 40 percent of the world’s population uses it, each of us for our own purposes. We go to the Web to learn and to share, to buy and sell, to meet new people and locate old friends, to check the weather, pay bills, and renew the car registration. And the more we use it, the more it evolves to meet our needs. Technological advances made over just a few decades are boosting economies, feeding the hungry, and healing the sick. Iowa farmers achieve record yields with gene-spliced crops and other agricultural technologies. New vaccines hold out the promise for tackling scourges like malaria and some cancers, while doctors save lives by replacing diseased heart valves—in some cases without open-heart surgery. And who would have thought that in 2014 simple robots would vacuum our houses, highly complex ones would assist surgeons in performing lifesaving surgery, and cars would automatically slam on the brakes when a child darts out in front of them? All these advances have come through engineering carried out in companies, universities, and national laboratories. Those efforts have created new materials like nanotubes and high-strength alloys, manufacturing technologies like 3-D printing, software and algorithms for harnessing the power of supercomputers and mining vast stores of data, and countless other innovations. Yet these examples barely scratch the surface of the remarkable changes wrought over the last quarter century. Our lives, our workplaces, our societies have been transformed by an extraordinary flowering of engineering innovations. Life offers more possibilities, more richness, than ever before. Wind turbines offer a clean, renewable source of energy. Engineering Ideas into Reality 29

Introduced in 1971, the Intel 4004 mi- croprocessor (left) contained 2,300 transistors. The ex- ponential increase in transistor counts (see chart opposite page) on tinier and tinier chips has led to such modern devices as digital cameras that can capture a breaking wave in mid-air. Tiny Powerhouses, Global Reach B y the early 1980s, the semiconductor revolution was well under way. In 1982, engi- It’s hard to overstate the importance of neers were packing 134,000 transistors on a single microprocessor chip, making the myriad essential engineering advances like this personal computer possible. In 1985, that number jumped to 275,000. But the chip one in semiconductor manufacturing. The designers began to run into a physical limit on the number of transistors on a chip. innovations kept Moore’s Law—the idea that the As the transistors got smaller and smaller, the width of each individual component in a chip number of transistors on a chip doubles every design began to approach the wavelength of the visible light being used to transfer the design two years—from hitting a wall. Now, commer- onto a silicon crystal wafer in a process called photolithography. As a result, the features—the cially available microprocessors contain more transistors and connecting wires—weren’t printed precisely enough to operate reliably. The than 7 billion transistors, packing more than features would get fuzzy, instead of being sharply delineated, allowing short circuits and 8.75 million on every square millimeter. Each causing the chips to fail. individual feature is only 22 billionths of a meter wide—4,000 of them side by side span the The solution, IBM electrical engineer Kanti phy. Jain had to develop the complex optics to width of a human hair. The consequences have Jain realized, was a lithography tool that used evenly illuminate the silicon wafer with the laser been profound. shorter wavelength deep ultraviolet light and to engineer a wafer coating of photosensi- Without the vast increase in transistors on instead of visible light. Jain and his team tapped tive material, or photoresist, that responded to a chip and the resulting huge leap in comput- into a device invented by Russian engineers ultraviolet light. In 1982 he succeeded—and ing power—combined with the complex in 1970s—the excimer laser, which creates within a decade, the big semiconductor software needed to unlock that power and the ultraviolet light with electrical stimulation and manufacturing equipment companies offered falling costs that have made products acces- high pressure on gas combinations such as commercial ultraviolet lithography tools, or sible—we’d have no super-realistic video games krypton and fluorine. But the prevailing wisdom steppers, capable of executing chip designs or our now-essential smartphones. Supercom- held that lasers would never work for lithogra- at the high resolution necessary. puters wouldn’t be modeling weather patterns 30 Making a World of Difference

Microprocessor transistor counts from 1971-2011 and moore’s Law and dangerous storms days in advance, accurately predicting blizzards in Colorado and floods in Bangladesh—and saving countless lives. Companies wouldn’t be doing most of 16-Core SPARC T3 Six-Core Core i7 the design work for fuel-efficient airplanes 2,600,000,000 Six-Core Xeon 7400 10-Core Xeon Westmere-EX through simulations alone. Dual-Core Itanium 2 8-Core POWER7 Quad-Core z196 1,000,000,000 AMD K10 Quad-Core Itanium Tukwila Now, thanks to sophisticated silicon chips, POWER6 8-Core Xeon Nehaltem-EX Itanium 2 with 9MB cache Six-Core Opteron 2400 autonomous submersibles can chart ocean AMD K10 Core i7 (Quad) Graph shows transistor count doubling every two years. Core 2 Duo currents to monitor the health of the oceans Itanium 2 Cell and answer questions about climate change. 100,000,000 AMD K8 Flying drones track orangutans in Indonesia Transistor Count Barton Pentium 4 Atom and ivory poachers in Africa. AMD K7 AMDK6-III Computers on the electrical grid balance AMD K6 10,000,000 Pentium III supply and demand, ensuring that the lights Pentium II stay on in our homes and factories keep AMD K5 Pentium humming. Meanwhile “smart” meters enable the solar panels springing up on hundreds of 1,000,000 80486 thousands of roofs to feed clean power back into the grid. 80386 Or consider another science and engineer- 80286 100,000 ing breakthrough. Physicists had known since 68000 80186 1856 that the resistance to electrical current 8086 8088 flowing through many metals changes slightly 8085 in a magnetic field, a phenomenon called 10,000 6800 6809 magnetoresistance. In 1988, French physicist 8080 Z80 8008 MOS 6502 Albert Fert thought he could amplify the effect 2,300 4004 RCA 1802 by designing materials made up of very thin 1971 1980 1990 2000 2011 layers of metals. He tried sandwiching chro- mium with iron—and achieved a magnetoresis- tance 10 times that of standard metals. About Date of Introduction the same time, German physicist Peter Grünberg independently managed a similar feat. Engineering Ideas into Reality 31

Computer disk drives already depended on magnetoresistance to read data stored magnetically on spinning discs. But Fert’s and Grünberg’s “giant” magnetoresistance promised dramatic gains in storage density—if a series of complex engineering and materials science problems could be solved. They could. By 1994, IBM engineers had produced prototype hard disks that stored 17 times more information per square inch than previous devices. Fert and Grünberg shared the 2007 Nobel Prize in physics. By then, their discoveries and year—even faster than Moore’s Law. Now, rooms and stadiums to myriad handheld With computer chip “brains” subsequent advances had enabled the capacity what once seemed like science fiction is part of devices and heads-up displays. Glass fibers an autonomous of data storage devices to double every daily life: Movies on demand. Entire libraries of now carry terabytes of information around the underwater vehicle books or music in the palm of your hand. Maps world in flashes of light. GPS guides airplanes, can record the effect of ocean and photographs of virtually every street in the farm tractors, ships at sea, and ordinary currents on fish United States—and many countries around travelers in their cars or through their cell larvae in the world—accessible at a keystroke. With big data phones. Software and algorithms make sense waters off Belize (above left). centers and complex software, companies now of huge databases and connect people through Equipped with GPS manage and control vast supply and distribu- social media. Cellular phone networks offer technology, drivers tion chains, track customers’ purchases and instant connections, even from distant moun- can find their way in unfamiliar cities preferences, and offer unprecedented levels taintops. And lithium-ion batteries provide (above). of personalized services. hours of energy to run our cell phones, laptops, Yet smaller transistors and tablets, cameras, cordless power tools, and expanding data storage are just a many other compact, lightweight mobile Peter Grünberg (left) and Albert tiny fraction of the engineering devices. The creators of fiber optics, lithium-ion Fert independently wizardry that has transformed batteries, GPS, cell phone networks, charge- developed “giant” our lives. Light-emitting coupled devices (the sensors in digital cam- magnetoresistance. diodes and liquid crystal eras), and liquid crystal displays—innovations displays have made that are now integral to life in the 21st cen- flat-panel video screens tury—have all been recognized by the nation’s ubiquitous, from living top engineering award, the National Academy 32

of Engineering’s Charles Stark Draper Prize for become as important for economic growth and democracy across North Africa and the Engineering. and commerce as railroads and highways once Middle East, and helped raise expectations for Together, these advances have created a were, as cities like Chattanooga, Tennessee, the success of political uprising.” connected world rich in information that is attract new companies with broadband Of course, this connectivity isn’t necessar- expanding at a breathtaking clip. In 2014, we networks. People living in Beijing, Berlin, and ily all sunshine and roses. For instance, many use smartphones to book flights, pay bills, hold Boston can work together almost as if they would say that the Arab Spring has failed to meetings, and settle arguments at the dinner were in the same room. deliver on its initial promise of spreading table. In Nigeria, farmers who never heard a Meanwhile, social media are creating freedom and democracy. The new world also phone ring as children now use cell phones to communities and connecting friends, while comes with thorny new problems. Operating line up customers and get vouchers for seed also becoming a potent political tool. In the around the clock, global engineering enter- and fertilizer. Governments connect directly week before Egyptian president Hosni prises, including manufacturers of everything with citizens, giving the public access to Mubarak resigned in 2011, for instance, the from clothing, cell phones, and computers to valuable data on contracts and spending, and number of tweets about political change in appliances, automobiles, and aircraft, can taking action on complaints. With a computer Egypt climbed to 230,000 a day. Protest and assemble talent globally—and also outsource IT and an Internet connection, a soldier fighting political videos went viral, with millions of tasks and other jobs from high-wage countries a distant war can sing his three-year-old views. In the Arab Spring, concluded a like the United States to lower-wage develop- daughter to sleep as she watches on the home University of Washington study, “social media ing countries. computer screen. High-speed connections have carried a cascade of messages about freedom By breaking through the security walls of company databases, thieves have been able to steal credit card information and other valuable data. Terrorists, like every other kind of organization, have become adept at using the Internet to communicate and plan. Many people are overwhelmed by the flood of seemingly urgent e-mails and by information in Whether chatting general. Meanwhile, fierce debates are raging with a family about governments spying on the communica- member on the tions of their own citizens, about companies other side of the world or holding collecting vast amounts of information on business meetings people’s online habits and behavior, even with far-flung about whether to use cameras to monitor colleagues, people communicate via traffic and fine drivers remotely for running computers wherever red lights or speeding. they can connect to The good news, though, is that many of the Internet. these problems will likely be solved by more innovation. Where necessary, government policy and regulation can address many issues as well, in a feedback loop that relies on continued engineering creativity.  Engineering Ideas into Reality 33

Bald eagles came back from the brink of extinction thanks to the elimination of chemicals like DDT from the environment. A Cleaner World A whole generation in the United States has grown up without memories improvements—spurred by governmental Below left: Mark Musculus and of rivers catching on fire, smoke darkening Pittsburgh, smog hanging policy and public demand—required new colleagues at over Los Angeles, or of acid rain rendering one-quarter of the lakes in technologies created through engineering Sandia National the Adirondacks too acidic for fish to live. They don’t remember that on innovation. Laboratories use cold winter mornings across much of America, the air was heavy with the stomach- Researchers at Sandia National Laborato- optical diagnostic churning odor of unburned hydrocarbons as people cranked their car engines. ries and other labs, for example, worked with techniques to identify pollutants in auto and truck companies to create ways to motor vehicle fuel. Although we still face daunting environmental burn motor vehicle fuel more cleanly and challenges—oil and chemical spills, nutrient efficiently. That step forward has been espe- pollution in rivers and lakes, ocean acidification, cially important for diesel engines, whose habitat loss, and species extinction—consider exhaust is harder to clean with catalytic how much progress has been made. On sunny converters than that of gasoline engines. Add days, cities now sparkle under blue skies most in a host of other innovations from the auto of the time. For the most part, rivers and lakes industry, such as variable valve timing, direct are clean enough for swimming. The ozone hole ignition, and up to a hundred microcomputers is closing, and the burden of lead in our bodies in a single car, and today we have vehicles that is dropping. Eagles and many other species are more than 95 percent cleaner than those have rebounded from the chemicals that almost in the 1960s. The plumes of black smoke once caused their extinction. Americans even use billowing from trucks plying the nation’s less energy per person—about 10 percent highways have mostly vanished. Cars and SUVs less—than they did in 2007. Many of these are much safer and more powerful than in 34 Making a World of Difference

decades past, and packed with features like storm-water runoff that contaminates rivers parking lots and pavements, nutrient runoff has Two all-electric power windows; antilock brakes; air bags; and a and streams. Many energy-saving technologies, triggered blooms of toxic algae and created Tesla Model S vehicles drove number of safety, comfort, and handling control including coated glass windows that conserve vast “dead zones” that kill marine life over from Los Angeles and convenience features. Yet average fuel interior heat in cold weather and deflect thousands of square miles in the Gulf of to New York City economy has climbed to 24.8 miles per gallon in exterior heat in warm weather, were engi- Mexico. in the middle of winter. During 2013 for cars and light trucks, up from 20.8 mpg neered at the Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory in Keeping the air and water clean, protect- one overnight leg in 2008 and far above the 1975 level of 12.9 California under the direction of Arthur ing people from chemicals and toxins, and the team endured mpg. Many models achieve more than 40 mpg. Rosenfeld, a particle physicist by training who reducing greenhouse gas emissions are more than 12 inches of snow, The result? Look at Los Angeles as just one went on to become a member of the California never-ending struggles. Engineers aren’t the icy roads, and example, where the number Energy Commission. The only troops in these continuing battles. But the high winds. The of health advisories from efforts of the commission, solutions they create have been—and will only breakdown unhealthy ozone-laden air Moreover, the which included pioneering continue to be—the essential part of any occurred with one of the gasoline- dropped from 144 in 1988 to pace of innovation efficiency regulations, have victories that we achieve.  powered support 0 in 2012. helped reduce the amount vehicles. in automobiles Moreover, the pace of of energy used per person innovation in automobiles and and other in California to a level about other vehicles continues to vehicles continues 40 percent below the accelerate. Buyers can now to accelerate. nationwide average. choose from more than two Similar progress has dozen hybrid models, the been made on many other most efficient of which are rated at 50 mpg fronts. Refrigerators, TVs, and computers are combined city and highway driving running on far more energy-efficient than they were a gasoline. Consumers can also select from more quarter century ago because of engineering than a dozen all-electric models, with compa- advances and new efficiency standards. nies and states racing to build charging stations Tollbooths are being replaced by automated on major highway routes so that owners won’t toll collection systems that speed travel as well suffer from “range anxiety”—the fear of running as reduce pollution. out of juice. On January 30, 2014, two electric Companies have harnessed a technology cars headed out across the entire United States called cavity ring-down spectroscopy to from Los Angeles to New York City, enduring engineer mobile methane detectors that can blizzards, freezing temperatures, a blinding spot leaks of natural gas, which consists sandstorm, and driving rain. They made the primarily of methane, a greenhouse gas. journey in about 76 hours—including about 15 Farmers use yield sensors, autopilot- hours of charging time. guided tractors, variable computer-controlled Energy efficiency has been and remains sprayers, and other recent advances to apply the low-hanging fruit for reducing reliance on just the needed amount of fertilizer and water fossil fuels, and engineers have done much in to each small patch of their field. The technol- recent decades to conserve fuel and reduce ogy saves money and water, boosts yields, and pollution by designing energy-efficient reduces the nutrient runoff that flows into buildings. “Green” roofs both help reduce the rivers and lakes, another environmental urban heat-island effect and cut pollution from concern. Along with polluted runoff from Engineering Ideas into Reality 35

Automotive Engineers. In 2002, Prius sales topped teries by an outside power source. They also have HYBRIDS 100,000 worldwide. The first plug-in hybrid, the larger battery packs than regular hybrids, making Chevrolet Volt, and first all-electric vehicle, the Nis- it possible to drive using only electric power. san Leaf, arrived in December 2010. In 2012, with gasoline prices averaging $3.60 Hybrids come in two main types. In a “series” per gallon (and pushing $4 in some places), Ameri- An Idea Whose Time hybrid (like the Lohner-Porsche) there is only one cans bought more than 50,000 plug-in electric Arrived at Last path to power the wheels—namely, an electric mo- vehicles. In the first half of 2013, as battery costs Strictly speaking, hybrids—vehicles that can use tor that gets its electricity from either high-capacity were dropping—and with so many more hybrids and more than one form of energy—aren’t new. Most batteries or an onboard generator typically fueled all-electric cars to choose from—Americans bought long-haul railroad locomotives are hybrids, with a by gasoline. The generator only runs when the bat- double the number of plug-in electric vehicles they diesel generator that provides power to massive teries are low on power. The gas engine/generator purchased in the same period in 2012. electric motors. And the first hybrid automobile recharges the batteries, which are also recharged Ferdinand Porsche would no doubt be pleased actually dates back to 1900, when Ferdinand through regenerative braking—capturing energy to see his idea finally catching on.  Porsche, working for carriage builder Jacob Lohner normally lost during braking and using the electric & Co. in Vienna, Austria, used two gasoline genera- motor as a generator to store it in the battery. tors to drive electric motors built into the vehicle’s A “parallel” hybrid has two complete power wheel hubs (above). Despite constant refinements trains—usually a gas-fueled internal combustion to the design, very few Lohner-Porsche hybrids engine and a battery-powered electric motor—that were made or sold. The idea was simply too far can work individually or together to turn the wheels ahead of its time. and move the car. A parallel hybrid switches be- Now fast-forward 100 years to August 2000, tween the systems to get the greatest efficiency. As when the 2001 Toyota Prius hybrid began arriving with a series hybrid, the battery is charged by the in dealer showrooms in the United States. With EPA gas engine/generator and by regenerative braking, mileage ratings of 52 mpg, the Prius was named Plug-in hybrids, which may be either serial or Best Engineered Car of 2001 by the Society of parallel, have the added ability to charge their bat- 36 Making a World of Difference

An Unexpected Change in the Energy Landscape: The Shale Gas Boom I n the 1970s, some warned that the world was on an unsustainable path and that before too Inside Story of the New Billionaire Wildcatters. long we’d run out of oil and food. Lights would dim, factories would slow, people would He wasn’t. With his watery fracturing fluid, his starve, civilization would crumble. The oil crisis of the mid-1970s, with long lines of cars wells kept producing and producing and waiting for gasoline, seemed to be a harbinger of that grim future. But advances in hybrid producing. crops have sustained food supplies and, for the United States at least, new supplies of oil and Steinsberger’s innovation was a key piece gas appeared seemingly out of nowhere due to engineering innovation. of the puzzle of how to tap into the nation’s huge deposits of shale gas and oil, but it built As shown in the In 1997, Mitchell Energy was in trouble. Produc- itself dates back to the 1940s, it wasn’t working on numerous other engineering advances. The schematic at tion from the company’s gas wells in Texas was in the shale formations, where production at most important was figuring out how to drill far right above, horizontal drilling falling. Reserves were declining. So founder most wells that used the technique quickly deep and then turn the bit sideways to drill provides greater George Mitchell took a gamble. Bucking the petered out. horizontally for up to several miles. That access to natural conventional wisdom—and the advice of top The job of successfully extracting gas from approach is crucial for shale hydrocarbons, gas trapped deep in a shale executives in his own company—Mitchell shale fell to Mitchell engineer Nicholas Steins- which lie in “thin” horizontal formations and, formation. First, decided to step up drilling in the Barnett Shale. berger. He experimented with different liquids without horizontal drilling, would not be a vertical well Geologists had long known that shale and gels, with little success. Then a contractor economical to produce. is drilled to the desired depth. formations deep underground contain large accidently pumped down fluid that was more An important prior development came Then the drill bit amounts of gas and oil. But freeing the gas watery than usual—and more gas than from engineers and scientists at national labs is turned to bore trapped in the rock is difficult. Pumping down expected came up. Could mostly water be the (Sandia and others), who developed technolo- a well horizontally through the thick, viscous liquid under high pressure can answer? Steinsberger decided to find out. gies in partnership with the Gas Research reservoir. fracture the rock (a process called hydraulic “Most everyone thought Steinsberger was Institute (now the Gas Technology Institute) to fracturing, commonly known as “fracking”) and out of his mind,” wrote Gregory Zuckerman in peer deep underground. Using microseismic liberate the fuel. Although hydraulic fracturing his 2013 book, The Frackers: The Outrageous tools and sensors, the engineers were able to Engineering Ideas into Reality 37

Lower 48 States Shale Plays Thus, some see the natural gas boom gas as a cleaner “bridge” to a future with more renewable energy because it produces half the carbon dioxide that burning coal does to generate the same amount of electricity. “see” the shale deposits and watch how those cheaper, cleaner gas, deposits change with extraction. They could reducing pollution then guide drills directly into underground gas and greenhouse gas pockets or concentrations of oil. The new emissions. U.S. coal technologies dramatically reduced the number use has dropped 18 of “dry” holes. percent since 2007. Once successfully demonstrated by Meanwhile green- Mitchell Energy, the combination of under- house gas emissions in the United States have possible to recycle the fracturing water, and Shale gas is found ground vision tools, horizontal drilling, and fallen by about 10 percent since 2005—in part efforts are under way to eliminate the use of in shale “plays”— shale formations hydraulic fracturing touched off a drilling boom because of the substitution of natural gas for water all together. Keeping in mind that since containing in gas and oil shale formations in other regions coal, but also because of the Great Recession, the late 1940s about a million wells have been significant of the country, such as the North Dakota’s the growth of renewables, and improved drilled with a total length of 150,000 miles, the accumulations of natural gas. As of Bakken Shale and the Marcellus Shale under efficiency. problems are relatively few and appear 2009, 87 percent West Virginia, Ohio, and Pennsylvania. The Although an energy boon, the rapid manageable with innovation and regulation. of the natural result has been a flood of domestic natural growth of hydraulic fracturing has generated Another concern is what the boom in gas consumed in the United States shale gas and shale oil that turned the United controversies about its safety and environmen- natural gas may mean for the climate. Long was produced States into the world’s largest producer of tal and health effects. Drilling for shale gas has term, according to the 2014 National Climate domestically. petroleum and gas products in 2014—an sometimes been associated with triggering Assessment, if carbon dioxide keeps accumulat- astonishing development. With gas supplies small earthquakes as well as with contaminated ing in the atmosphere at the current rate, the abundant and prices low, companies like Dow drinking water, polluted streams, and illness. world could warm by as much as a dangerous Chemical have invested billions of dollars in The thousands of gallons of water needed in 10 degrees Fahrenheit by the end of the new chemical-manufacturing facilities in the each well to break open the shale has led to century. With moderation of the accumulation United States, creating jobs and boosting the concerns about streams and wells going dry— rate by significant emission reductions globally, economy. Utilities are switching from coal to though engineering improvements make it the assessment estimates, the increase could be 38 Making a World of Difference

Renewable Energy E ven as engineers work to find ways to deal with carbon in the oil, gas, and coal industries, engineering innovations are boosting alternative energy sources. A good example is wind-power technology. Using taller, stronger towers; huge carbon fiber blades more than 250 feet long; better aerodynam- ics; and improved software and controllers, engineers at companies like Vestas, Siemens, General Electric, and Gamesa have created electric generators powered by wind that are more powerful, more efficient, and more cost-competitive than those in as little as 3 degrees Fahrenheit. Thus, some see use just a few years ago. In 2012, the United States added more new electric power the natural gas boom as a cleaner “bridge” to a generation capacity from wind than from any other source, even though the price of future with more renewable energy because it natural gas was low. (Of course, turbines produce on average less power than their rated produces half the carbon dioxide that burning capacity because the wind doesn’t always blow.) Now, in 2014, countries and companies coal does to generate the same amount of can envision a major additional expansion of wind power, as engineers figure out how to electricity. Others worry that, without sufficient safely erect giant wind turbines in coastal waters to tap into powerful offshore breezes, and control of the extraction process, natural gas how to solve the challenges of storing and distributing the energy so that electrical power leaking from wells and pipelines could put more will be available when wind speeds drop. greenhouse gases into the atmosphere than burning coal. As a practical matter, however, The progress in solar energy has been equally dramatic. In 2014 a solar panel costs one-tenth even in the most optimistic scenario, renewable of the price in 1990—and one-hundredth of the price in 1977—due to a whole series of resources will not meet America’s energy needs improvements. Engineers have created more efficient processes for making the polycrystalline for 30 to 50 years. For that reason, many silicon thin films and other materials used for solar photovoltaic panels. They’ve improved the experts argue that the switch from coal to efficiency of solar cells so the cells capture more of the sun’s energy as electricity, and they’ve natural gas is a welcome development. increased the usable yield from the lithographic tools that make the cells. They have also The good news from the standpoint of the environment is that some of the technology At the Reese Technology Center needed to curb greenhouse gas emissions from in Lubbock, Texas, the use of fossil fuels already exists. Power the DOE/Sandia plant industry engineers have developed and Scaled Wind Farm Technology successfully demonstrated processes using (SWiFT) facility’s chemicals like amines or chilled ammonia that advanced testing capture the carbon dioxide from smokestacks. and monitoring will help researchers What to do with all that captured carbon evaluate how remains a challenge. Scientists and engineers larger wind farms are investigating a number of ideas. One key is can become more productive. to pump the carbon deep underground to sequester it from the atmosphere. Another possibility is to use carbon in products like concrete by combining exhaust carbon dioxide, water, and calcium. 

As the cost of solar panels has come down, residential installation has risen. In 2013 in the U.S. solar power was second only to natural gas in new electricity generation. figured out how to install panels more cheaply. strides in energy efficiency, especially in build- The result has been a rapid acceleration in ings. In fact, U.S. consumption of both electricity adoption of solar energy. In 2013, solar out- and gasoline has declined since 2007, in part paced wind in new electricity generation because of the recession but also because of capacity in the United States, coming second improved efficiency. behind natural gas. The state of California alone The key point: the world now has the added more rooftop solar systems in 2013 than technological capability to rely on more diverse over the previous 30 years, bringing the state’s sources of energy. In some regions, such as total solar capacity to 4,000 megawatts—as Hawaii, where electricity is costly, renewable much as two or three big nuclear plants. Of power already has become economically and course, in 2014 solar and wind are still small operationally competitive. In others, as Califor- New York City’s contributors to the nation’s electricity supply, at nia’s experience demonstrates, policy decisions iconic Empire about 7 percent of overall generating capacity and incentives can tip the balance toward State Building has undergone an (bringing the total of power from renewable cleaner, more sustainable sources, while also energy-efficiency sources, with hydro, to about 15.5 percent of stimulating further technological innovations. upgrade that saved all national electric power requirements). Looking back to the dark days of past $2.4 million in its first year. The The alternatives to fossil fuels also go energy crises, who would have predicted then upgrade included beyond renewable energy. For example, that in 2014 oil and gas would be plentiful in the refurbishing all although cheap natural gas has killed plans for United States? That massive wind farms would 6,514 windows, new building some new nuclear power plants and accelerated sprout up everywhere from the Texas plains to management the retirement of existing ones, two new nuclear the seas off the coast of Sweden? And that in systems controls, units are under construction in Georgia and new 2013 Denmark would produce one-third of its a Web-based tenant energy technologies for smaller, modular nuclear plants electricity from wind alone—with a goal of 50 management are being considered. Meanwhile, despite percent by 2020? True, we still worry about a system, and daunting economic challenges, technical sustainable future as the consequences of our elevators that can send excess progress has been made in unlocking the warming planet become clearer. But the energy back to the energy stored in plant cellulose, and one factory technological advancements of the last quarter building’s grid. in Mississippi makes biofuels from feedstock like century allow us to be hopeful, if still cautious, yellow pine. Perhaps most encouraging and about our options.  promising, the world continues to make huge 40

Humans now live longer A Healthier World Z and healthier lives than apping the heart with little pulses of electricity from implantable at any other time in pacemakers has prevented millions of deaths, boosted lifespans, history. Average life and improved quality of life since the late 1950s. And by 2008, the devices had shrunk to less than two inches across. expectancy for a child born this year in the But that wasn’t small enough, thought Was it even possible? The engineers were engineers at medical device maker Medtronic. forced to rethink the whole approach, design- United States has They set out to build a pacemaker one-tenth ing all the electronics—even the battery—as climbed to 79 years, up that size—a device so small it could be one unit instead of as an assembly of individual from 75 years in 1990 implanted inside the heart by threading it up components, as in previous devices. They also through a blood vessel. That would eliminate needed to slash the power consumption and 70 years in 1964. the need to make an incision in the chest to dramatically so that a tiny battery could last insert the electrical leads for the traditional for 7 to 10 years. They succeeded. In late 2013, pacemaker, which sits in a pocket under the the world’s smallest pacemaker was implanted skin. Moreover, by fitting inside the heart, the in its first human patient. It is now undergoing new miniature device, known as Micra, would clinical trials to verify safety and effectiveness. eliminate the most problematic part of the The tiny leadless pacemaker is just one of system—the electrical wire from the device to the countless medical advances created by heart itself. engineers over the last quarter century. Doctors In the course of the last half century, biomedical engineers have reduced the size of pacemakers from external boxes about the size of a car battery to implantable devices barely larger than a 9-volt battery (left). A proposed new model—as tiny as a vitamin capsule (above)— could be threaded into the heart through a blood vessel. Engineering Ideas into Reality 41

in 1964. Even greater gains have been made all over the world. Just one technology—vaccination—has eradicated smallpox, virtually eliminated polio, and dramatically reduced measles, mumps, and diphtheria. Child mortality rates continue to drop. Forging a healthier world is not just a matter of preventive technology like vaccines, however. Great improvements have come from changes in social attitudes and habits as well. For example, decreases in smoking brought tobacco-related deaths in the United States down by about 35 percent between 1987 and 2002. Higher seat belt use and crackdowns on After a few can now replace faulty heart valves with a to the point where they can be controlled drunk driving, in addition to numerous safety sessions of training catheter threaded through an artery instead by electrical impulses from the brain. improvements in vehicle design, have cut traffic with a Modular Prosthetic Limb of open-heart surgery. They can prop open In June 2014, researchers at Boston deaths to just over 10 per 100,000 Americans, (MPL) developed narrowed arteries with stents that dissolve, if University and Harvard University reported down from 16 in 1995 and 23 in 1950. at Johns Hopkins desired, after doing their job. Improvements in successful results, with an artificial pancreas, Some of the current trends are going in Applied Physics Lab, Tech Sgt. DNA sequencing have helped researchers spot which uses sensors, a smartphone, and an the wrong direction. Today, according to Joe Delaurier genes linked to Alzheimer’s disease and other insulin-delivery system to precisely control United Nations estimates, people with prevent- could control the scourges. The resulting explosion of genetic the blood sugar levels in a small sample of able waterborne diseases occupy half of the MPL via signals generated by knowledge, in turn, has led to targeted cancer people with type 1 diabetes. And neurologi- hospital beds worldwide. In the United States, muscles beneath drugs with fewer side effects and to new ideas cal diseases like Parkinson’s and epilepsy the increasing incidence of obesity and of the skin of his for treating other diseases. are being treated with electrical stimulation diseases triggered or exacerbated by lifestyle, residual limb. Meanwhile, breakthroughs abound in other of the brain. such as diabetes, is threatening to roll back arenas. The first vaccine that prevents cancer Humans now live longer and healthier gains in lifespans. (a vaccine against human papillomavirus, lives than at any other time in history. Medical technologies and procedures which causes cervical cancer) was introduced Average life expectancy for a child born this also can raise the cost of health care without in 2006. Prosthetic limbs have enabled year in the United States has climbed to 79 actually improving medical outcomes. And amputees to run and dance—and advanced years, up from 75 years in 1990 and 70 years millions of Americans—and billions of people 42 Making a World of Difference

around the world—lack even basic health care. virtual reality. We have altered genes to boost Clearly, good health is about far more than crop yield; developed new materials that make sophisticated MRI machines or other cutting- tennis rackets more powerful and airplanes edge technologies. But engineering has key faster, safer, and more fuel efficient; reduced roles to play in public health challenges. Basic pollution; and developed new sources of engineering technology can bring proper energy. Entire industries have been trans- sanitation and clean water to millions of people formed, from publishing and manufacturing who now lack safe water, making perhaps the to retail and politics. single greatest possible contribution to human New engineering creations have enriched health. Development of electronic health our lives, expanded our potential and our reach, records, interconnected information systems, even deepened our understanding of what it and data mining techniques can help doctors means to be human and of where we fit into the P recious C ommodities compare health outcomes after different universe. Nor is this the end of the story. As a treatments. The tools of system engineering peek into universities, national laboratories, and Safe drinking water is scarce in many parts of the world, then make it possible to design and monitor companies around the country would quickly where people often have to walk great distances to a source more effective health care delivery processes. show, the pace of innovation isn’t slowing. of clean water and then carry heavy containers back to their Meanwhile, our increasingly interconnected The path to the future will never be easy homes (above). Solving that problem would be an enormous contribution to human health. Meanwhile, bioengineers have world allows telemedicine and robotic surgery or smooth, of course. The sobering truth is that created gene-spliced crops, such as soybeans (below), with to deliver quality medical care in currently even as engineering invents ways to solve myri- increased yields to help feed the world’s hungry. underserved regions, whether in the United ad human and societal problems, the solutions States, Africa, or war zones in Afghanistan. And themselves may have unintended, adverse new devices—purchased over the Internet for consequences. So it is through a combination about $100—can monitor physical activity and of individual choices and public policies that diet and might help people lead healthier lives. we constantly strive to maintain the right balance of benefit and cost. The heartening As the last half century has demonstrated truth is that as costs become burdensome, the again and again, people naturally embrace the challenge to restore balance will be met by the innovations that improve their lives and offer most inexhaustible resource that we have— new capabilities. Engineering has enabled us to human ingenuity, which gives us discoveries leap from tinny-sounding transistor radios and derived from science and innovations created rotary dial phones to smartphones, from bulky by engineering.  black-and-white TVs to giant flat displays and Engineering Ideas into Reality 43

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Fifty years ago, the National Academy of Engineering (NAE) was founded by the stroke of a pen when the National Academy of Sciences Council approved the NAE's articles of organization. Making a World of Difference commemorates the NAE anniversary with a collection of essays that highlight the prodigious changes in people's lives that have been created by engineering over the past half century and consider how the future will be similarly shaped. Over the past 50 years, engineering has transformed our lives literally every day, and it will continue to do so going forward, utilizing new capabilities, creating new applications, and providing ever-expanding services to people. The essays of Making a World of Difference discuss the seamless integration of engineering into both our society and our daily lives, and present a vision of what engineering may deliver in the next half century.

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