In Silico SE Blog
Contributing to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) through virtual simulation.
March 30, 2022
By: Tatiana Gómez Bustamante
Every day that passes reaffirms the need to bet on the creation of just nations, where people do not live in conditions of poverty, hunger or discrimination; where ecosystems are respected, innovative industrial processes are sustainable; and where all these projects are supported by public policies.
The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) were adopted in 2015 by the United Nations as a universal call to action to favor social, economic and environmental sustainability from diverse contexts in nations.
To achieve the SDGs, it is necessary to integrate different areas of knowledge and rely on cutting-edge technological tools such as virtual simulation, which can favor the development of technological products and processes, from life-saving medical devices or treatments, to renewable energy processes, to industrial plant processes. There are countless applications that can be favored with virtual simulation or in silico testing, let’s see some of them according to the focus of the SDGs.
SDG 3: GOOD HEALTH AND WELL_BEING
Within the search for the well-being of each individual and of society as a whole, health plays a very important role and some efforts have been directed towards the diagnosis and treatment of diseases, the increase in life expectancy and the decrease in infant and maternal mortality rates; this implies that medical treatments and devices must be increasingly safer, more efficient and comply with international regulations necessary for their commercialization and use.
For example, a medical device for thermal treatments, before being used on people, must ensure that it meets its specifications: what would be the maximum temperature that the tissue exposed to the treatment would reach?; what portion of the benign or malignant tissue would be damaged?; how long exposure time would be effective for the thermal treatment? Virtual simulation makes it possible to get closer to answering these questions.
Other applications inherent to healthcare lines could also be simulated, such as the transport of a drug through the blood, the mechanical properties of prostheses, medical procedures with radiofrequency, improvement of vascular implants, support for diagnosis and treatment in personalized medicine, among many others.
Recently, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has identified that modeling and simulation can contribute to 4 of its 8 strategic priorities: modernizing toxicology, fostering innovation in clinical trials and personalized medicine, ensuring that an emerging technology is ready to go to market, and leveraging data through ICT (Information and Communications Technology). This shows that more and more regulatory bodies worldwide are relying on in silico results for the development of technological products and processes.
SDG 4. QUALITY EDUCATION
Who hasn’t had trouble understanding some complex concepts? Do you know what the magnetic field around a magnet would look like? Or how the flow through a pipe would change depending on the properties of the fluid? Sometimes imagining these scenarios is difficult and their explanation is limited to simplification to idealized or very basic situations, which would not be seen in real life, considering the complexity of what surrounds and composes us.
With virtual simulation we could explore more complex situations and support the understanding with 3D, 2D or 1D graphics, which facilitate the understanding of physical, chemical and mathematical concepts.
This could help to reduce dropout rates by having students who better understand the topics seen; it would also facilitate the migration or complement of some practices in physical laboratories to virtual laboratories, to strengthen the theory and compare simulated and experimental data. For example, in laboratories where they perform stress-strain tests, transport phenomena, pharmacology, physical or chemical concepts.
By training professionals with excellent knowledge in their field of action and with skills in these cutting-edge tools that more and more industries require, we also promote decent work and economic growth, SDG 8, which should be linked to SDG 5 for gender equality, where each person who is part of the community, contributes from their field of action, cultural, technical and relational diversity, for the benefit of all other SDGs.
SDG 6. CLEAN WATER AND SANITATION
According to the United Nations Development Program, the shortage of drinking water affects more than 40% of the world’s population; in order to facilitate universal access, infrastructure, sanitary facilities, water purification treatment, and other aspects must be taken into account.
For the storage and distribution of water, it is necessary to have tanks and pipes that mechanically support the stress to which they will be subjected, as well as to guarantee a composition of materials that will prevent corrosion depending on the conditions to which they will be exposed; with the virtual simulation it is possible to experiment with different materials, shapes, sizes, operating conditions and choose the best configuration.
Another possible application is to obtain water in environments where access to drinking water is difficult; with virtual simulation the process of absorption of water from the environment could be tested using permeable membranes, varying their permeability or materials, or different humidities of the environment could also be considered to define under what conditions the installation of this equipment would be strategic.
Another field where in silico experimentation can contribute is in wastewater treatment, if it is necessary to involve chemical agents that can later contaminate effluents, it would be possible to determine their quantity, possible substances to replace them and results when varying treatment conditions; this would also benefit SDGs 14 and 15 on the protection of aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems. This highlights the importance of articulating actions from different contexts to achieve a greater impact.
ODS 7 - 13. Affordable and clean energy - Climate action
Although more and more people have access to electric energy, as the world population grows, so will the demand for energy, and considering that electric energy contributes to the emission of greenhouse gases, which have a significant influence on global warming, efforts should focus on clean energy processes.
Recently, hydrogen is being explored as a clean and very efficient fuel; with simulation, physical and chemical processes could be improved to obtain and store hydrogen and for its final use, respecting natural resources and reducing pollution. Possibly in the near future a large number of electric vehicles will run on hydrogen-based fuel cells.
Wind or photovoltaic (solar) energy systems could also be simulated, where better materials, sizes, shapes and operating conditions can be chosen. Efficiency in different geographical locations could also be analyzed with simulation, to take advantage of the environmental conditions of each territory, without forgetting the environmental responsibility that this implies.
It is also necessary to ensure that industrial processes are energy efficient, in order to comply with regulations on polluting emissions, reduce fuel consumption and gain easier access to international certifications for environmentally friendly processes and products. In silico experimentation could be used to optimize industrial processes involving mixtures, chemical reactions, thermal processes, pressurized chambers, centrifugation, among many others, not only to improve energy efficiency, but also to optimize processes according to their industrial purpose, making responsible use of resources and also contributing to SDG 9: Industry, innovation and infrastructure.
How to make all this real?
Virtual simulation or in silico experimentation can undoubtedly contribute greatly to research, development and innovation projects in different areas that positively influence the SDGs, facilitating experimentation, decision-making, saving time and costs and actively involving different people and disciplines.
But all these projects must also be accompanied by public policies that promote them and expedite their implementation, partnerships that favor them, good management: planning, execution, closure and feedback and, above all, a constant diagnosis that allows decisions to be made that increasingly impact the SDGs more and better.
In Silico SE SAS Solutions
If you are sure, or you think that simulation can boost any project you are part of, tell us more, we would love to explore options to help you make it happen.
If you want to learn about virtual simulation, you can access our STEM training courses, where you can start from scratch to acquire skills in this cutting-edge tool.
You can also access customized consulting packages to solve specific doubts with your simulation project, both from academia and industry.
In Silico SE SAS has more than 26 years of experience in systems and process simulation, scientific research, university teaching and development of engineering projects; we would love to contribute together to the fulfillment of the SDGs, contact us.
Notes about the author: Tatiana Gómez Bustamante
I am a biomedical engineer passionate about life and science. I really enjoy learning and teaching and I firmly believe that together we can generate a better impact on our society if from our skills (both technical and human) and field of action we seek to contribute to the SDGs.