Vista, CA. - A new survey of chemical engineers, published by the Institution of Chemical Engineers (ICHemE), reports that the ability to treat water so that it can be used for human consumption is the most significant invention in the modern era.

Beyond simply treating water, this involves such innovations as desalination as well as solar-powered systems that can be used to purify and disinfect water in developing countries with very hot climates, according to Klaus Reichardt, CEO and Founder of Waterless Co., maker of no-water urinal systems.

Using a short list, which included more than 40 important inventions, the chemical engineers identified the following "solutions," as they called them that have had the most impact on society in at least the past century:

1. Treating water for drinking
2. Gasoline and related fuels
3. Antibiotics
4. Electricity generation from fossil fuels
5. Vaccines
6. Plastic
7. Fertilizers
8. Sanitation
9. Electricity generation from non-fossil fuels
10. Dosed medications, referring to medications in tablets, pills, and capsules.

Some notable inventions that did not make the list include biofuels, contraception, batteries, adhesives, and photographic film.

Regarding what to expect in the future, the Institution reported that with a growing population, inventions fostering energy generation, food production, and potable water will likely be at the top of the list.

"To meet future demands for fresh, clean water will be a huge challenge all around the world," says Reichardt. "But, it can be addressed through improved [water] infrastructure, innovation, and by using water more and more efficiently."