The Greatest Engineering Challenges for the Future

If there would be a way to see the future, we believe the engineering one would be extremely exciting. With the development of science and technology, the progress of the Human Kind is going on at very high rate. Almost every day of modern history is known as the beginning of some new and amazing discovery or even achievement. From that perspective, the future of engineering seems quite promising.

But, from today’s point of view, what would be the greatest engineering challenges for the future? By a committee of the National Academy of Engineering, the Grand Challenges for engineering would be:

Make solar energy economical

As everyone knows, the Sun is a source of energy in our Solar system. It out-powers anything that human technology could ever produce. Only a small amount of the Sun’s energy comes to the Earth. Amazingly, even that provides 10,000 times as much as all the commercial energy that humans use on the planet. Imagine what would be the possibilities of the commercial use of solar energy.

Provide energy from fusion

If you have any mobile device at home, its battery normally consists of the metallic element lithium. Theoretically, the lithium in that battery could supply your household electricity needs for 15 years. Imagine what else would be feasible if we could provide an energy form fusion.

Develop carbon sequestration methods

The fact is that the growth in emissions of carbon dioxide causes a global warming. That problem no longer can be ignored. Perhaps it can be buried deep underground or beneath the ocean.

Manage the nitrogen cycle

The human-induced changes in the global nitrogen cycle pose engineering challenges just as critical as coping with the environmental consequences of burning fossil fuels for energy.

Provide access to clean water

When Samuel T. Coleridge wrote “water, water, everywhere, nor any drop to drink,” he did not know about 21st century’s global water situation. But, he wasn’t far from correct. Today, the availability of water for drinking and other uses is a critical problem in many regions of the world.

Restore and improve urban infrastructure

By definition, infrastructure is the combination of fundamental systems that support a community, region, or country. It includes everything from water and sewer systems to road and rail networks to the national power and natural gas grids. However, there will be a hydrogen grid in the future as well.

Advance health informatics

No aspect of human life has avoided the impact of the Information Age. On the other hand, in no area of life is information more critical than in health and medicine. As computers become more and more capable for resolving different sorts of problem, there is now a consensus that a systematic approach to health informatics can greatly improve the quality and efficiency of medical care and the response to public health emergencies.

Engineer better medicines

Doctors have long known that people differ in susceptibility to disease and response to medicines. But, with little guidance for understanding and adjusting to individual needs, treatments developed have generally been standardized for the many, rather than the few.

Reverse-engineer the brain

For decades, some of engineering’s best minds have focused their thinking skills on how to create thinking machines — computers capable of emulating human intelligence. By many, this challenge appears as the most exciting.

Prevent nuclear terror

From the beginnings of the nuclear age, the materials suitable for making a weapon have been accumulating around the world. Nuclear reactors is capable of producing the raw material for nuclear devices. The instructions for building explosive devices from such materials suggests that access to the ingredients would make a bomb a realistic possibility.

Secure cyberspace

Personal privacy and national security in the 21st century both depend on protecting a set of systems that didn’t even exist until late in the 20th — the electronic web of information-sharing known as cyberspace. Cyberspace security is not only crucial in computer network systems, but also in industry, energetics and many other aspects of human activities which have strategically important character.

Enhance virtual reality

For many, virtual reality consists mainly of clever illusions for enhancing computer video games or thickening the plot of science fiction films. The virtual reality in Hollywood ranges in movies from the crude video-viewing contraption “Brainstorm” to the entire virtual universe known as “The Matrix.”

Advance personalized learning

For years, researchers have debated whether phonics or whole-word recognition is the best way to teach children how to read.

Engineer the tools of scientific discovery

In the popular culture, scientists and engineers have distinct job descriptions. Scientists explore, experiment, and discover; engineers create, design, and build. But in truth, the distinction is blurry. Engineers collaborate with scientist in scientific process of discovery.


In the coming issues of our magazine, we plan to go through each of these challenges and provide a well-researched and knowledgeable explanation of all of them.


[1] Internet Resource: