Finding Innovative Approaches to Sustainability in Megacities

Megacities—urban centers that house more than 10 million people—differ in landscape and climate. But population density produces similar challenges and demands for innovative solutions.

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Shanghai is nearly nine times the size of Singapore, the island city-state off the coast of Malaysia. Although they are distinct in land area, climate and governance, both are considered megacities—urban centers with populations exceeding 10 million people—and therefore face similar challenges.

In a blog post for Scientific American, Augustine Quek and Yen Wah Tong, engineering professors at the National University of Singapore, write about one such challenge—the incineration of food waste—and present possible solutions. They introduce readers to a three-stage anaerobic digester that converts food waste into a mixture of different gases.

The digester was identified during a collaboration between top universities in Singapore and Shanghai that has culminated in the Energy and Environmental Sustainability Solutions for Megacities program—or E2S2 for short. The group’s webpage lists a variety of ways to address issues like food incineration, and the subsequent problems they trigger (such as water and air pollution), in megacities.

The researchers have developed their own responses to these issues: a gasification technology that can similarly convert solid wastes into a gas mixture and a type of charcoal. The team is conducting pilot tests at restaurants in Singapore to see whether the technology is feasible in such settings. This type of work and collaboration, write Quek and Tong, is critical for addressing the sustainability challenges arising in megacities.

By: Maya Miller, Scientific American


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