This personal statement was part of this student’s successful application to University of Cambridge, Durham University, Imperial College London, UCL and University of Bath for Chemical Engineering.
Families living in most rural areas of Malaysia lack access to potable water. Whilst shadowing a professor at the University of Malaya, I was introduced to the possibility of solving water poverty with a novel ultrafiltration system. Driven inquisitively by the complexity of the solution, I explored three ways in which Chemical Engineering can be applied to make it more smart through artificial intelligence, more efficient with improved solar cells and more simple through innovative membrane technology.
Automated cleaning is a unique innovation to overcome the challenge of membrane fouling. In this ultrafiltration system, electronic sensors are adapted to detect membrane clogging followed by activating preset backwash procedures when appropriate. Intrigued, I extended my research and discovered that AI would likely drive drastic advances in membrane control. Computerised predictive models could first examine feed water quality, then adjust the system to achieve optimal operating conditions. For instance, varying filtration and backwash durations accordingly minimises fouling propensity, saves unnecessary backwash sequences and reduces overall water loss. Evidently, improvement in the sustainability of resource exploitation will go beyond the aspect of membrane fouling by utilising AI in filtration systems. The increasing integration of sophisticated technology enhances the potential of conventional frameworks, demonstrating the value of an interdisciplinary approach for scientific breakthrough in all other industries.
Due to the abundance of sunlight available in Malaysia, solar energy is a sustainable source of electricity to power the UF system. However, it is inefficient and lacks consistency as supplementary energies are required for low light operations. Curiosity led me in search of a constructive response to this problem. I came across a recent article from MIT news which reported the discovery of hafnium oxynitride being an intermediate layer that can couple energy released from singlet exciton fission in tetracene to silicon. The photovoltaics industry now has the potential to harness the commercial use of singlet fission and design cells with increased power conversion efficiency. I proposed the idea to the UM professor, deducing that this is a possible solution to improve energy productivity, which could then dismiss the need to develop a second energy source. Though experiments would be expensive to conduct, we concluded that this novelty leverages existing resources and optimises the current filtration system.
Realising that treating microorganisms with UV radiation is the subsequent step after membrane filtration, I explored the thought of merging them into a single process. I read about an interesting solution that utilises membranes made of bacterial nanocellulose incorporated with reduced graphene oxide. The photothermal property of this material enables it to absorb light and instantly dissipate heat to purify water of unwanted bacteria. This multifunctional membrane improves the longevity of the system by inhibiting biofouling and promotes greater sustainability through eliminating a two-step process. Furthermore, many water treatment plants in Malaysia could utilise this modern membrane technology to replace chlorination as a means to achieve bacterial lysis, thereby also reducing the input volume of raw materials. I realised that analysing the dynamics of a problem while keeping an open mind to introduce futuristic developments is key to construct significant and long-lasting impact.
With these implementations, the ultrafiltration system can emerge as more adaptable, cost-effective and sustainable. Having experienced the applications of Chemical Engineering to pressing real-world problems, I am inspired to pursue this degree with passion to support the unprivileged in my country and excitement to seek deeper understanding.
DISCLAIMER: The personal statements on this site are strictly meant as a starting point to give an idea of how successful personal statements look like. There is no surefire formula to writing good personal statements. COLLEGELAH IS STRICTLY AGAINST PLAGIARISM OF ANY KIND. UCAS employs a plagiarism check system that checks applicants’ work against other published writing so please DO NOT PLAGIARISE.