Friday, April 7, 2017

The Sustainability Series: Aravind Muthiah

Aravind is a talent pool himself. When he is not working on his PhD on high voltage lithium battery technology and his clean technology start-up, he likes to spend his time being shy when asked do accents (although he's awfully good at it), correcting others' grammar, meditating or playing the flute. Dynamic, intelligent and sarcastic, he's every grandma's dreamboy.

How do you think you have contributed or are contributing to sustainability, professionally or personally?
First I must define my perspective of sustainability in order to judge how I have contributed to it. Sustainability to me is consistent material development of the human race while ensuring such development is in harmony with the environment sustaining us. I must consider myself blessed in that the opportunities presented to me with regards to my professional life have been in line with my personal ethos. Therefore there has been a seamless integration of contribution between the two. My vegetarian upbringing was, I guess, my first unconscious contribution to sustainability. My first conscious contribution however came quite late in life when I was finishing up my Bachelor’s degree. Having to decide which path I wanted to take in my life, I had a strong urge to contribute to society through my background in chemical engineering. So through a Master’s program at Masdar Institute of Science and Technology, a clean-tech oasis in the deserts of the Middle East, I contributed a part of the research towards dye sensitized solar cells based on date fruit extract. Subsequently I moved to Singapore to research high voltage lithium battery technology in order to solve the energy storage bottleneck that plagues renewable energy technology. During my PhD I simultaneously co-founded a clean technology company called Blueren to upcycle plastic waste to carbon nanotubes. 

2)      Name one measure/innovation in sustainability that has impressed you in the past.
Did you know energy can be harvested from just the mixing of river and sea water? Osmotic power through pressure retarded osmosis technology is able to utilize the difference in concentrations of salt between sea and river water to generate electricity, at large scales. With the number of rivers reaching the seas across the world, the possibilities for realizing this clean power source are immense. However beyond a Pilot plant by Statkraft in Norway, this hasn’t progressed much, I think. 

3)      Mention 5 small steps every individual can adopt in their daily life to make our planet more sustainable. 
  1. Go up to your rooftop at least once a week and watch the sunrise while taking in the sights and sounds to appreciate the beauty of our planet
  2. Pay a visit to a local animal shelter to develop compassion for the nature surrounding you. 
  3. Extra food after catering for an event? Invite or distribute the food to foreign workers to or prevent food waste.
  4. Avoid Styrofoam cups at work place.
  5. Turn off your mobile charger after charging your phone.

4)      What are your inspirations to work towards sustainability and aspirations to contribute more to sustainability?
The best fit and the most inspiring idea to me in this regard was renewable energy technology. Therefore, since the time I completed my bachelors, I have been journeying in the same path, researching and developing clean technology in the areas of renewable energy, energy storage and waste upcycling. 
5)      If you were a renewable energy, what would you be and why? (You do not need to be technical; you can choose the one that suits your personality most.)
I would be geothermal as i believe all the energy one requires lies within. 

6)      What is your idea of a utopian world and a dystopian world?
Utopian – one where every being treats another being, whether plant or animal, the way they themselves would like to be treated.
Dystopian – the opposite. 

7)      Would you rather (and why):
a)       Shower on alternate days or drink less water, if there was a water crisis? :P
Shower on alternate days. Less water intake can cause far worse nasal issues for colleagues. 
b)      Hug a tree for a day, for preventing it from being cut or impose on someone a prohibition of eating shark fin soup for life?
Prohibition of shark fin soup as the tree can be cut the next day. (Duh!)
c)       Be vegetarian or consume human flesh after they are dead (not from disease, let us say) to save on resources to burn/bury their body?
Vegetarian. Putrefied flesh is far less nutritious than fruits and vegetables.
d)      Dedicate your whole life fighting against pollution or spend it saving endangered species?
Fight against pollution by giving poachers jobs in the environmental agency as self-preservation assumes highest priority. 
e)      Be born in this era/generation, in the past, or in the future (speaking solely from the sustainability point of view)?
The present affords immeasurable opportunity to create meaning of life from the sustainability point of view. I would thus favor no other era.
f)        Take public transport for the rest of your life or travel by plane only for business to minimize your carbon footprint?
I think planes are public transport too.

1 comment:

  1. Now I see what you meant by the research. It's an awesome project and a whole lot of inspiration on motivating people. Keep up. Love Arvinds notion on sustainability too
    Keep all the five them coming .
    xo Sabbi