Misconceptions in engineering (III) - Electricity from living plants with Salinna Abdullah

By Dan Mannion, 2nd year Electrical and Electronic Engineering with Nanotechnology MEng, University College London

Our final interview is with Salinna Abdullah, a 3rd year electronic engineer at UCL. She is currently researching green energy production using living plants - this is based on a paper published in the International Journal of Energy and Research. The project is heavily biology orientated yet Salinna is able to use the skills she picked up in her engineering degree to carry out the research.

Let’s hear some more about it…

Dan: Tell us more about yourself.
Salinna: I’m a second year electronic engineer, and I’m currently working on my summer research project here at UCL.

Dan: Can you tell me more about your project?
Salinna: This is an interdisciplinary project, I’m trying to harvest energy from plants. Here we have some electrodes and some soil which behave as the membrane for the microbio fuel cell.

Dan: So just to clarify you are trying to harvest energy from living plants?
Salinna: Yes! The plant generates some chemical compounds through photosynthesis. These are then used for growth, but any extra is excreted through the roots into the soil. Then the bacteria living in the soil break down these compounds, generating electrons and ions which can be used to produce energy.

Dan: So you study electronic engineering, would you say it is a flexible subject?
Salinna: Yes it’s a very flexible subject actually. For example I’ve seen electronics being applied in the medical field, and right now I’m using it in the biological side of the world.

Dan: Have you enjoyed your engineering education?
Salinna: I have, it’s very challenging but the satisfaction that you get from completing a project or finishing your code is just priceless.

Dan: What would be your proudest moment as an engineer so far?
Salinna: My proudest moment would probably be finishing my code for my object oriented programming module. You have no idea - when you spend such a long time debugging your code, when it finally works that is such a great feeling.

So after these interviews, what have we learnt?

Personally the aspect of engineering that stands out the most from these interviews is its diversity. We fail to realise it, but everything we interact with in our everyday life involved an engineer in the making or design stages. Mechanical engineers design our cars, electronic engineers push our internet speed to the limit, civil engineers design the layout of our cities and transport infrastructures.

But these are just a few of the engineering fields that exist and only a few of the jobs that you can do as an engineer. It would not be possible for me to list everything you can do as an engineer!

Engineering is a buzzing and exciting area to work in. It gives you the chance to study what you love and help change the world, drawing on mathematic and scientific tools. However, no matter how great engineering may seem now there is no doubt that it’s future will bring you far superior possibilities.

As internet traffic increases at an alarming rate, stretching our current network capacities to the limits, and our modern day lifestyle is slowly eating away at our planet, it is the job of the engineers of today and the future to guide research and industry down a path that will overcome these issues before they are a concern for the global public.

If you’re interested in a career in engineering, go for it. Speak to engineers, arrange work experience placements, keep up to date with the latest news and don’t forget to get into the workshop, or onto a computer, and start making!


Engineering at University College London

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