Achieving the seventh Sustainable Development Goal – ensuring access to affordable, reliable, sustainable modern energy, can only be met if humanity changes their lifestyle habits and devise creative solutions that reduce the impact on our home planet but also feeds growth positively.
Dr Lee Keat Teong, Professor of Chemical Engineering and Director of Research Creativity and Management Office, Universiti Sains Malaysia
The perks of being a scientist is not only doing research and lecturing; but also being in the driver’s seat and venturing into scopes that mankind has not yet explored; nonetheless, it is pertinent to ensuring that societal needs are met in the most efficient and sustainable manner possible, without having a negative impact on the environment.
According to Dr Lee Keat Teong, Professor of Chemical Engineering and Director of Research Creativity and Management office, Universiti Sains Malaysia, “achieving the seventh Sustainable Development Goal – ensuring access to affordable, reliable, sustainable modern energy, can only be met if humanity changes their lifestyle habits and devise creative solutions that reduce the impact on our home planet but also feeds growth positively”. Putting this to the test, he asked his students if anyone wants to sit outside for the lecture. It was no surprise that everyone preferred to stay indoors within the comforts of an air-conditioned room. This simple analogy exemplifies that most are reluctant to see through the change that is required within ourselves to achieve the sustainable development agenda.
Whilst propagating changing lifestyle habits to reduce the impact of climate change, improvement can also be achieved by discovering creative solutions in the way of alternative fuels that cater to the increasing global demand for energy, whilst reducing impact on the planet.
For Dr Lee, the experience, at first-hand, that the world was getting warmer is the unpredictably recurring heat waves and increased perspiration from soaring temperatures, motivated him to explore creative solutions by studying the properties of algae as an environmentally friendly fuel source for cars etc.
The algae are largely found in drains and rivers, and there is reasonable amount of oil that can be extracted from them.
The task at hand may seem novel but he’s quick to point out that there are some challenges to be resolved. A critical juncture is identifying a process to harvest the oil because algae have high-water content.
Given that our primary energy comes from fossil fuels, the inherent issue is also trying to cultivate algae at the lowest cost with minimal energy usage. Achieving this is important because, it needs to affordable for the average consumer, which encourages wide-spread usage. It also needs to be sustainable.
Dr. Lee Keat Teong is currently a Professor at the School of Chemical Engineering and is the Director of Research Creativity & Management Office and International Collaboration Center, Universiti Sains Malaysia. Dr. Lee has co-authored 2 books, 10 book chapters, 30 review papers and more than 100 research papers in peer reviewed international journals. Dr. Lee is also the Co-Editor for Energy Conversion and Management (Elsevier) and Editorial Board Member for Bioresource Technology (Elsevier) and Energy Science & Engineering (Wiley). He has also won numerous awards including Young Scientist Award 2011 by The International Forum on Industrial Bioprocess and 2012 Top Research Scientists Malaysia by the Academy Sciences of Malaysia.
In his own time, he enjoys watching musicals and Broadway shows, which further stimulate his creative side. He is most relaxed when camping or in nature. His favourite place on the planet is New Zealand, for its sheer natural beauty and picturesque landscape.