In the BENCHMARK April 2021 Issue, you will find out about:
If, like me, you’ve ever tried to explain what the world was like pre-smartphone to a teenager, you’ll be familiar with the glance that combines disbelief with disdain and mistrust all rolled into one. It’s unthinkable to them. And yet, one of the technological cornerstones that makes the smartphone, the laptop and the digital video camera (if we still have those) possible, the lithium-ion battery, was only made commercially available, on a limited basis, in 1991. Thirty years ago. Before that, we had ‘car-phones’ the size of a breezeblock and computers that were more power-pack than anything else. The idea that we’d be carrying so much power in our pockets everyday only existed in the realms of fantasy, science fiction and The Simpsons (the true visionaries of the future - nafe.ms/bart).
While I have no intention of turning this into one of those dull “look how far we’ve come” pieces that we’re all tired of, it is, however, worth expressing just how genuinely exciting it is to think where we might be in another thirty years. If I’m still at NAFEMS, I’ll come back to this and write a retrospective, although hopefully, I’ll be on a beach somewhere enjoying my retirement by that point. Have we become any better at predicting how society and technology will change? I’m not sure about that. It still feels likesome game changer will disrupt everything we’re currently working towards and take us in a different direction. If the past 12 months have taught us anything, it’s that you very rarely really know what’s coming next.
In a development that looks like it may be as significant as the aforementioned lithium-ion battery, the work being done by Quantum Scape on battery tech feels like it might be another transformational moment in time nafe.ms/quantumscape. Although it’s difficult to discuss since the exact nature, and even colour, of the material being used in their ceramic battery is a closely guarded secret. The VW group are no mugs though, and if plans are in place to start manufacture soon, then there must be something in it. A battery capable of extending the range of an EV by 50% sounds like a significant step.
We need those steps, and we need them fast. There was a time when talking about the “climate disaster” would be met with derision, but it’s now not just on the horizon; it’s right in front of us and humanity’s collision detection system is beeping furiously. We’re running out of time to protect our planet and ensure that it’s still a safe and sustainable place to live for our grandkids – we need to take it seriously.
And that means every industry needs to start designing for tomorrow. Sustainability needs to be built into the heart of the product development process, and simulation needs to not only look at the cheapest and most efficient way of designing something, but also at the most environmentally friendly and least destructive way of doing things. That needs all of us to pull together, which is the other thing the past 12 months have reminded us how to do.
This issue focuses on just that – how can simulation ensure a sustainable future for our people and our planet? We have the tools to lead the way, should we choose to, so how can we use them? This is onetime when simulation shouldn’t just be part of a toolkit or something that can “help out” – I believe this is what simulation was designed to do. As Sir Geoff Palmer, human-rights activist, inventor of the barley abrasion process, and professor emeritus at our very own Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh said in a recent interview, “Technology is science that works”. Turning science into that working technology is what will take us through the next 30 years.
I hope you enjoy this issue. As ever, your feedback is very welcome at email@example.com.
David Quinn - Editor
If you have feedback or would like to see your article featured in benchmark contact firstname.lastname@example.org
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