3D printing a space rocket (Day 338)

Regular readers of my blog will know that I have shared many chemical engineering good news stories about space: the final frontier.

From chemical engineers who also happen to be astronauts (see my blog ‘A path to the stars‘) to chemical engineers developing technology to power a lunar space mission with poo, and even chemical engineers who have created a template for extra-terrestrial life. It’s clear to see that chemical engineering is not limited to just planet Earth.

space rocket3D printing has also featured substantially throughout #ChemEng365. Whilst not synonymous with the chemical and process industries, I have still shared chemical engineering stories on ‘Deep sea printers‘, ‘The affordable kidney‘ and ‘Breakthrough in 3D printing inspired by the Terminator‘.

So you can imagine my delight when I happened across a piece of news that combined space exploration and 3D printing. Researchers at NASA’s Glenn Research Center in Ohio, US, have successfully printed a space rocket engine part that can function at both extremely high and low temperatures.

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Using podcasts to achieve educational excellence in South Africa (Day 337)

For an individual to excel at chemical engineering, both a good education and personal determination are needed.

Chemical engineering education must be built on a solid foundation in the fundamental principles of chemical engineering science. However, there is a need to constantly review and modernise not just our course content, but the way we deliver it as well.

Chemical engineering students

Photo Credit | UCT
Chemical engineering students

The Department of Chemical Engineering at the University of Cape Town (UCT), South Africa, has a research group dedicated to engineering education. This group contributes to a wider collaboration in the Centre for Research in Engineering and Science Education (CREE).

At UCT, there is a passion to provide the best possible foundation for young chemical engineers.

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Maple syrup magnifies antibiotic attack (Day 336)

maple syrupMost of the time, maple syrup is deliciously sloshed all over our pancakes.

However, a group of researchers at the Department of Chemical Engineering at McGill University, Canada (rather fitting given Canada’s love of the sticky stuff), have discovered another use for it.

Maple syrup can render bacteria more vulnerable to antibiotics.

The syrup, which is produced by concentrating the sap from North American maple trees, is a rich source of phenolic compounds with antioxidant properties.

And it is these antioxidant properties that prompted the team, led by Professor Nathalie Tufenkji, investigate the potential of maple syrup.

The team began by removing a concentrated extract from the syrup. They tested this extract on several infection-causing strains of bacteria, including E. coli and Proteus mirabilis (a common cause of urinary tract infection).

The syrup was mildly effective combating the bacteria on its own. However, once mixed with the antibiotics the maple syrup was particularly effective;  seemingly synchronising its assault with the pharmaceutical ingredient.

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Chemical engineer develops sanitary towels to help girls stay in school (Day 335)

Here in the UK and other developed countries, it’s all too easy to take some things for granted, such as access to education, to clean water and to sanitary facilities.

When we look at the developing world, it can be difficult to comprehend the challenges people face on a daily basis.

Photo Credit | Anton_Ivanov / Shutterstock.com

Photo Credit | Anton_Ivanov / Shutterstock.com

In Ethiopia, as many as 18 million young girls and women have no access to sanitary towels. This forces many young girls to drop out of school. But the good news is that one chemical engineer is trying to change that.

For most girls, their first menstrual cycle is awkward and embarrassing, but seen as a natural transition towards womanhood. However, in Ethiopia it can be an incredibly taboo subject. As a consequence, misinformation, negative beliefs and myths hold sway.

In the rural Tigray region of Ethiopia, where chemical engineer Freweini Mebrahtu grew up, young girls found out about their menstrual cycle through overheard rumour and myth; often leaving them shocked, confused and afraid.

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A teacher worthy of Frank Morton’s mantle (Day 334)

What does it take to be a good teacher?

FM medalChemical engineering professor Frank Morton had some very good ideas – perhaps because he left school aged 14 and worked his way through night school and then university to achieve global recognition for his dedication to future generations of chemical engineers.

Frank was also distinguished by his care for the sporting and social side of his students’ lives (see my blog ‘Work hard, play hard‘ for the 2015 Frank Morton sports day).

So, sharing this dual perspective, Professor Redhouane Henda of Laurentian University in Ontario, Canada, is a very worthy winner of the 2014 Frank Morton Medal for excellence in chemical engineering education.

I’m sure we all remember good teachers on our way to becoming chemical engineers.

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Sneaky shape-shifting molecule mimics DNA to trick viruses (Day 333)

Very few discoveries truly revolutionise the way we look at the world.

However, the discovery of the structure of DNA is one of them. And it was on this day in 1953, that the structure of DNA was published in the journal Nature.

dnaThis discovery is often seen as controversial, not due to its scientific content, but the fact that the work was largely attributed to one team; Watson and Crick.

This work was published at the same time in a number of papers in Nature by three teams: Watson and Crick; Wilkins, Stokes, and Wilson; and Franklin and Gosling.

The key break through for Watson and Crick’s work came from Rosalind Franklin who studied DNA using X-ray crystallography, but this was largely unacknowledged at the time. In 1962 Crick and Watson, along with Wilkins, received a Nobel Prize for their discovery. Rosalind had died four years earlier so was not eligible for a Nobel Prize.

So to ensure that we celebrate all their work today, I thought I would bring to your attention a recent innovation, which would not have been possible without this major discovery.

A team of scientists and engineers from the University of Chicago (UChicago) and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), US, have developed a new spectroscopy method that could prove useful in developing the next generation of anti-viral treatments.

The team used synthetically designed shape-shifting molecules which are able to resemble natural DNA bases, but can convert into a different molecular structure by repositioning their hydrogen atoms on nitrogen and oxygen atoms.

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Ten ways chemical engineering has changed science fiction into fact (Day 332)

I always enjoy reading stories and watching films that are set in the future – often in amazement at the mind-boggling ideas and inventions that are imagined by authors and scriptwriters.

fractal cityHowever, I think I’ve spotted a trend. Much of the contemporary science fiction on offer in films and books is decidedly dystopian in its outlook.

This means that it paints a dark vision of the future. Maybe this does science fiction a disservice? I want to be a little more positive and take a look at a few stories that explore the upside of the advances that science and engineering might bring.

A good science fiction story can be short hand for an excellent innovative idea. It might even inspire researchers to try something different.

Looking at this premise from a different angle, let’s examine some notable examples from the genre where science fiction has become science fact.

Here’s my top ten:

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Tell me your thoughts on IChemE’s blogging future #ChemEng365

Sadly, my blogging days are drawing to a close.

It’s been a fantastic experience. When I started, I had no idea that my daily diet of chemical engineering good news was going to be read on computers, tablets and smartphones more than 200,000 times, in over 170 countries.

There’s only a month left before #ChemEng365 wraps up. So I think this is a good time to ask you, the reader, what you think should happen with this blog once my term of office is over.

I won’t be spearheading the blog beyond 27 May 2015. After IChemE’s Annual General Meeting, I will be handing over the reins to the legendary team of ‘blog elves’, who have been working hard behind the scenes to support me throughout #ChemEng365.

Please complete this short poll and share your ideas for the future of IChemE’s blogging activity.

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Nanofibres can ease the pain of Parkinson’s disease (Day 331)

In the UK this week, it is Parkinson’s Awareness Week. The aim is to raise awareness of the disease by doing a good deed and tweeting about it using #upyourfriendly.

We can all get involved; just by being nice to the people we meet. You can make new friends and maybe someone’s life a little easier without even knowing it. Check out the campaign to learn more.

Pair of carbon nanotube fibres

Photo credit | Rice University
Pair of carbon nanotube fibres

With this strategy in mind, I thought I’d raise awareness of the work of some chemical engineers who are definitely ‘up-ing their friendly’ by working behind the scenes to help combat the symptoms of this debilitating disease.

Researchers at Rice University in Texas, US, have developed flexible carbon nanotube fibres, that may provide an effective way of communicating directly with the brain.

Parkinson’s disease affects one in every 500 people. That’s an estimated 127,000 people in the UK – or around 8.5 million globally.

It is a progressive neurological condition that affects nerve cells in the brain, causing them to die. This results in lower dopamine levels in the body with serious implications for mobility and emotional behaviour.

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Time to dust off and deliver (Day 330)

As you well know, I started this blog to highlight all the good things that chemical engineers do and how we can make a positive difference.

The stimulus for me to do this came from my experience of talking to the media (see my blog on ‘Chemical engineers and the media‘) and in particular, when asked to comment on the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.

Process safety is embedded in our profession and is considered in everything we do. Because of this we are always striving towards improvements in process design, process delivery and also in research – something we definitely need to talk more about.

green dustSo I was pleased to learn that a group of researchers from Norway, Italy and Canada have investigated a dynamic approach to risk management.

Their particular focus is on metal dust explosions. Dust can present a significant hazard in mining, food processing (eg flour dust) and other industrial settings.

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Turning packing peanuts* to power (Day 329)

Chemical engineers don’t like waste. We are always looking for ways to use and reuse items that would otherwise be discarded (see my blog ‘Ionic fluids pack a punch for biofuels‘).

At a first glance, some products only have one function. For example, the loose-fill packing peanuts that make shipping fragile items easier.

Packing peanuts normally end up in landfill sites where they remain intact for decades and as they’re difficult to breakdown, only around 10 per cent are recycled in the US.

idea batterySo, researchers from Purdue University, US, did some clever thinking and found a way to convert packing peanuts into carbon electrodes that can outperform the conventional graphite electrodes found in lithium ion batteries.

It all started when Professor Vilas Pol, an associate professor of chemical engineering, and his postdoctoral researcher, Vinodkumar Etacheri, were unpacking boxes filled with instruments for Vilas’ new lab. After emptying the boxes, they had great new lab full of instruments and a surplus of packing peanuts.

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World’s first fully transparent solar cell (Day 328)

The UN General Assembly designated 2015 as the International Year of Light. A global initiative to highlight the importance of light and lighting technologies to societal development.

It provides an opportunity to inspire, educate, and connect people on a global scale. It is anticipated that the International Year of Light will inspire people to think of new ideas, new solutions and new products for the future.

transparent luminescent solar concentrator moduleWhich brings me rather neatly to a solar project that caught my eye recently.

Richard Lunt, an assistant professor from the Department of Chemical Engineering and Materials Science at Michigan State University, US, and his team have developed the world’s first fully transparent solar cell.

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Ionic liquids pack a punch for biofuels (Day 327)

In my blog, ‘the sweet smell of success‘, I discussed the use of ionic liquids – salt in a liquid state as a result of poor ionic co-ordination – in perfumes and alluded to other fields of research where they are used. Today I’m delving a little further and shining a light on the use of ionic liquids in biofuels.

PIL-treated corn stover and PIL/lignin

Photo credit | NC State University
PIL-treated corn stover and PIL/lignin

Researchers at North Carolina State University, US, (NCSU) are investigating the use of ionic liquids to strip lignin from plant cells. Their aim is to find a cost-effective method of processing biomass for biofuel production.

Lignin is a complex phenolic polymer that is found in plant cell walls. It plays an important structural role, providing the plant with strength and rigidity due to a cross-linked structure that is difficult to break down. After cellulose, it is the most abundant source of renewable carbon on earth.

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Shaping the evolution of chemical engineering – The Sargent Medal (Day 326)

Many people in the chemical engineering community have taken their inspiration from Professor Roger Sargent who served IChemE as its President in 1973. Roger is described by many as the “Father of process systems engineering”.

It was entirely fitting that IChemE should create a medal in his honour in 2014 to recognise research in computer-aided product and process engineering (CAPE).

Photo Credit | Carnegie Mellon University  Professor Ignacio E Grossmann

Professor Ignacio E Grossmann
Photo Credit | Carnegie Mellon University

The first recipient of the Sargent Medal is himself an undisputed leader in the field.

So it gives me real pleasure to congratulate Ignacio Grossmann, the Rudolph R. and Florence Dean University Professor of Chemical Engineering at Carnegie Mellon University, US on this great achievement.

Roger Sargent’s influence in the field of process systems engineering is massive – not just because of his ground-breaking research, but also because of the extraordinary scale of his academic ‘family tree’ of research students. By the beginning of the 21st century, the tree included seven ‘generations’, numbering over six hundred people in all.

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Ten of the best engineering memes ever (Day 325)

Today’s blog is going to be a little different from my previous posts.

Sometimes, when it comes to describing a profession such as chemical engineering, less is more. When my blogging elves pointed me in the direction of memes, I was pleasantly surprised by their ability to capture the engineers’ sense of humour in a single image.

For those of you who don’t know what a meme is, it is an idea, concept or catchphrase that spreads from person to person usually via the Internet. They can often take the form of an image (as featured in today’s blog), video, vines, or even #hashtags. 

So after a little more digging and research, we put together a list of some of the funniest engineering related memes. This might brighten up your Friday morning.

And without further ado, here are the top ten:

1. Engineers and their trusty Casio calculators

Photo Credit | 9GAG

Photo Credit | 9GAG

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Engineered yeast on par with conventional fuels (Day 324)

earth on flamesHere’s a question for you. How much fuel do you think you have consumed so far today,?

Whether it’s heating your home, cooking your breakfast, driving your car or using electricity to light up your life – we, as a society, are heavily reliant on non-renewable fuels.

As people become more affluent through global development and industrialisation, their demand for energy grows and the consumption of finite resources accelerates.

This presents chemical engineers with a difficult task – to find and develop new pathways to more sustainable energy consumption. And time is running out.

Over in the US, the main strategy for winning the global race in clean energy technology is through the advancement of biofuels by capitalising on domestic energy resources.

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England’s North East – still a powerhouse of industry and innovation (Day 323)

For a long time now, my mantra has been “Chemical engineering matters.” If you’ve read anything by me, or listened to me speak, the message will have been loud and clear. And that’s why this principle is now embedded at the core of IChemE.

Playing table football at the North East annual dinner with Teesside Member Group Chair, Adrian Northey

Playing table football at the North East annual dinner with Teesside Member Group Chair, Adrian Northey

But sometimes even I am overwhelmed by just how strongly other people feel the same way. And my recent visit to Teesside, in England’s North East, was one of those times.

I had the privilege of addressing the North East IChemE annual dinner, as well as visiting several sites in the area where chemical engineers are creating sustainable solutions for a wide range of challenges. Time and again, I was impressed by the dedication and achievements of the people I met.

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Think like a chemical engineer to save time and money (Day 322)

Excellent chemical engineering can transform businesses.

Costain is a British construction and engineering company that provides innovative engineering and technology-led solutions. They are also one of IChemE’s Bronze Corporate Partners.

Strensham water treatment works

Strensham water treatment works

A project that highlights their novel way of thinking involved working with Severn Trent to upgrade their Strensham water treatment works in Worcestershire, UK. Severn Trent, a leading utility company, had set challenging efficiency targets.

They asked Costain help them with the refurbishment of 21 rapid gravity filters.

However, all this needed to be done without disrupting the water supply to 350,000 customers. And they wanted the project completed in less than 88 weeks, which is pretty demanding for the water industry.

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The sweet smell of success (Day 321)

We all want to make a good first impression, but when we feel anxious our body responds by sweating and this can result in an unappealing body odour.

When we want to make the right impact at an interview or on a date, we need a little help to make sure we are smelling fresh.

So fear not. There’s now a perfume that improves its performance the more we sweat.

Release of fragrances triggered by water

Photo credit | QUILL
Release of fragrances triggered by water

Researchers at the Queen’s University Ionic Liquid Laboratories (QUILL) Research Centre in Belfast have developed a unique perfume. It releases its aroma the more it comes into contact with moisture. So the more you sweat, the better you smell!

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Behind every good manicure is a great chemical engineer (Day 320)

ManicureAs one industry cuts back on jobs due to the recession, another blooms. Last year $8.5 billion was spent in US nail bars. That’s a $1 billion increase since 2012.

So why are more people visiting nail bars now, than when times weren’t so tight and we had more cash in our pockets?

One explanation is the ‘lipstick effect’. When our budgets are squeezed, rather than losing the taste to splurge we simply trade large extravagancies for cheaper luxuries to cheer ourselves up. Cue the nail bar, manicures and chemical engineering.

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The sweet stuff in the white stuff (Day 319)

milkLactose is a sugar found in milk. Typically, it makes up between 2 to 8 per cent of milk and is a significant byproduct of the dairy industry.

Lactose is a major export good. In 2012 the US exported 170,000 tonnes, the EU 142,000 tonnes and New Zealand 20,000 tonnes of lactose – making the lactose a billion dollar industry.

The world’s largest dairy product exporter, Fonterra, has worked in partnership with Aurecon to develop an innovative evaporation system – CrystalLac for which a patent is pending.

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Here’s why chemical engineers make a difference (Day 318)

shout outOne of the central messages in my presidential address was the resolute assertion that chemical engineers should stand up and speak out.  We need to tell the world about the difference that we make.

I’ve been repeating this mantra pretty much ever since. Indeed that’s the driving purpose behind this blog.

But there’s a key consideration in all of this that engineers of all types frequently overlook.  We have to talk to the public in a language that they understand. This sometimes proves challenging because let’s be honest, some of the stuff that we do is pretty complicated.

Thirty years ago we could get away with fobbing people off with the argument that “it’s over your head; don’t worry; leave it to us…” But that won’t wash today. We have a duty to explain what we do and we must be able to explain things simply and lucidly.

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New drug approved to fight ovarian cancer (Day 317)

Now that we are in the home stretch of my presidency, I thought I’d look a little closer to home for examples of chemical engineering success. IChemE’s Corporate Partners are a great place to start.

AstraZeneca, a multinational pharmaceutical company employing around 57,000 people worldwide, were awarded Silver Corporate Partner status in 2011.

woman with cancerThey are one of only a handful of companies involved in every aspect of pharmaceutical production from start to finish; from research to supply. So next time you pick up a prescription, there’s a good chance that AstraZeneca might have been involved.

One of their latest drugs to be approved is Lynparza, which is prescribed to patients who have been diagnosed with a mutated form of ovarian cancer.

Over 7,000 women in the UK are diagnosed with ovarian cancer every year. It’s the fifth most common cancer among women, mainly affecting the over 50’s – although it can affect women of any age.

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Ten ways to maximise your impact at a conference (Day 316)

One of the most enjoyable aspects of life as a chemical engineer working in academic research is attending conferences and finding out more about the work of other groups.

Today and tomorrow; I’m in the north of England for ChemEngDayUK2015. It’s the UK’s national chemical engineering research event and this year it’s hosted by the chemical and biological engineering department at the University of Sheffield.  Postgraduate students from all corners of the UK are here to network and talk about their work. So today is a good opportunity to share some tips for getting the most out of a conference.

Here are ten ways to maximise your impact:

1. Talk to someone new

UndergraduatesThe biggest mistake that many people make at conferences is to only talk to people they came with. Attending the talks is not enough; if you really want to make an impression, you need to network and make new contacts.

2. Take one key message from every talk you attend

notebookEvery talk, seminar or workshop is different. But you need to remember what was said. After each session, ask yourself what struck you the most, what did you learn? Was there a conclusion that you could adapt or a piece of advice that really resonated? If you write anything down during a conference, make it the one key message from each session that is worth revisiting when you get back to the lab.

3. Share your details

people speech bubbleTo truly make an impact at a conference you need to participate. This can be through presenting, displaying a poster or running a session. However, not everyone attending can do this, so instead sign up for workshops or networking sessions. Make sure to take some business cards and use social media. While you’re there, you’ll be among hundreds of participants, so make sure you stand out from the crowd.

4. Ask questions

Always Seek KnowledgeYou’ll probably attend many conference sessions. There’s generally time for questions at the end.  So put your hand up and ask one – don’t forget so say who you are and where you are from.  Planning to ask a question will focus your listening during sessions. I find that it helps me to think about how the work presented can influence my own activity. It also allows you to interact directly with the presenter and offers a chance to continue the discussion after the session.

5. Put away your phone

no phonesIf you arrive at a conference planning to do work or make phone calls, you are in the wrong place. People attend conferences to have face-to-face interactions.  Electronic devices can be a barrier to making connections. You don’t have to disconnect completely but put your phone away when you’re waiting for a session to start or during the coffee breaks. This will give you a chance to start conversations with the people around you.

6. Try something new

lightbulbFrequently people attending conferences tend to go to sessions on their subject, or talks by someone they know. Try going to at least one session that is different or unusual. You may surprise yourself by learning something completely new and sow the seeds of a new collaboration when you least expect it.

7. Plan ahead

social speech bubbles (800x648)Look at the conference programme in advance and plan which talks and seminars you want to attend. Have a look at the delegate list and identify a few key people to talk to. Planning your time in advance means you won’t miss the crucial sessions and it gives you time to take a break and socialise with fellow delegates.

8. Go to the social events

buffet lunchThe social events surrounding a conference are just as important as the conference itself. They offer the opportunity to talk to people informally in a more relaxed setting. These are a lot of fun and really help to extend the energy of the conference. If you are shy, take a friend with you. Don’t be afraid to just relax, mingle and let the conversation flow.

9. Share what you learn

Cafe CultureIf you are one of only a few people from your department or research group attending a conference, it often helps to focus on what you can take back for others. Be an emissary for your group and share what you learn with your colleagues. Bring the conference highlights home by presenting to your department, hosting a debrief or sharing key messages.

10. Follow-up post conference

cropped-chemeng_masthead.jpgAt the conference, you’ll be collecting business cards and social media contacts.  Afterwards, it’s time to do something with them. This is the step people often forget, but if you don’t use this information you’ll lose the benefits of attending the conference. Reach out to your new contacts, blog about it, thank them for their ideas and look for new projects.

These are just a few ideas to get you started.  Everyone has their own way of working a room.  And bear this in mind, the easiest way to convince the boss that you should be attending  a conference is by reminding them about the positive outputs and valuable contacts that you made at the last one.

It you are reading this before ChemEngDayUK2015 finishes, come and say ‘Hello’.

All great networks start with that first ‘Hello’.

The world’s biggest oil refinery (Day 315)

CP logos 2014IChemE’s Corporate Partners make a major contribution to the chemical engineering profession and to the world around us. The list of Corporate Partners is growing and it’s worth highlighting some of their success stories in my blog.

Our three-tiered Corporate Partner scheme was launched in 2009 to build links with industry. Corporate Partnership recognises a company’s commitment to engineering excellence, employee professional development and inspiring the next generation.

Bechtel celebrate achieving IChemE gold corporate partner

Bechtel celebrate achieving IChemE Gold Corporate Partner status

Bechtel is a global leader in the design, procurement, construction, and project management of oil, chemical, and natural gas facilities.

They employ 500 chemical engineers worldwide and became a Gold Corporate Partner in 2013. They even baked us a cake to help celebrate!

Since 1898, Bechtel have completed more than 25,000 projects in 160 countries on all seven continents. That’s no mean feat. And recently, they constructed the biggest oil refinery in the world.

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Breakthrough in 3D printing inspired by the Terminator (Day 314)

3D printing is a misnomer; it is actually 2D printing over and over again.

Most 3D printing occurs by building up objects layer-by-layer. However, Carbon3D Inc has developed a new method that allows objects to rise continuously from a liquid media.

Joseph M. DeSimone, professor of chemical engineering at NC State University, US, and of chemistry at the University of North Carolina (UNC) at Chapel Hill, US, is currently CEO of Carbon3D.

Joe co-invented this new method with colleagues Alex Ermoshkin, chief technology officer at Carbon3D and Edward T. Samulski, also professor of chemistry at UNC.

chromeJoe says that this idea was inspired by the Hollywood film, Terminator 2: Judgement Day. In this film, the T-1000 robot rises from a liquid metal puddle to assume its form. This made Joe and his team think – why can’t we create objects in this way?

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Spinning a sustainable future – The Underwood Medal (Day 313)

Mention the word ‘spinning’ to most people, and they might be transported back to their childhood and fairy tales of princesses in towers. They might think about industrial Britain in the 19th century, and the revolution in textile manufacture. Or they might be reminded of the gym session that they look forward to and dread in equal measure every week.

Professor Neal Tai-Shung Chung

Photo Credit | National University of Singapore
Professor Neal Tai-Shung Chung

But for chemical engineers, spinning – of fibres into membranes for separation – can be a doorway to a sustainable future.

The winner of this year’s Underwood Medal for research in separations, Professor Neal Tai-Shung Chung, is a true master of the science and technology of hollow fibre membrane spinning.

Membranes offer several advantages in separation over alternatives such as distillation, sublimation or crystallisation. They permit the use both fractions (the permeate and the retentate) after separation and because no heating is involved, less energy is used.

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Star heat pumps can access energy stored in cold water (Day 312)

Harnessing the energy stored in ice cold water has been highlighted as a potential solution to heat towns and cities without the use of fossil fuels – it’s a great example of chemical engineering making a difference.

Through the use of heat pumps and district heating, lakes and rivers can provide enough energy to heat water to 90°C.

Drammen heat pumps

Heat pumps used in Drammen Star Photo Credit | Star Renewable Energy

Whilst not an obvious source of energy, a district heating company in Drammen, Norway, have managed to use an ice cold fjord to provide hot water to heat an entire community of  65,000 people.

Drammen Fjernvarme (DF) have teamed up with the city council and Glasgow, UK’s Star Renewable Energy to build this efficient district heating system.

Star Renewable Energy are better known for providing refrigeration systems to large retailers. However they were able to think outside the box and offer an alternative heat pump design.

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Fighting skin cancer with a bracelet (Day 311)

Skin cancer is amongst the most common forms of cancers in the world with its highest incidence in Australia, New Zealand, the US and Europe.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates that between two to three million non-melanoma and 132,000 melanoma skin cancers are diagnosed each year.

Dr David Hazafy

Photo Credit | Queen’s University Belfast
Dr David Hazafy

So researchers from the School of Chemistry and Chemical Engineering at Queen’s University Belfast, UK, have developed an early warning sunburn indicator that could tell sunbathers when to take to the shade.

The team, led by Dr David Hazafy, have developed a strip of plastic – containing ‘smart’ ink – which turns colourless from an initial blue colour to indicate a high exposure of ultraviolet light from the sun. This should prompt the user to move into the shade before burning, reducing the risk of skin cancer.

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Catalysing a gold rush (Day 310)

We have been attracted to gold for millennia both for its beauty and its value.

Gold is considered so attractive because it does not corrode or tarnish. It’s also very ductile. These properties have led to gold being used in works of art and treasures of great historical and cultural significance.

Gold has inspired great art, but what about great chemistry and chemical engineering?

Professor Graham Hutchings

Photo Credit | Cardiff University
Professor Graham Hutchings

At the end of February I attended a dinner at the Royal Society hosted by the UK Catalysis Hub. There, I discussed catalysts with IChemE fellow Professor Graham Hutchings, director of the Cardiff Catalysis Institute at Cardiff University.

During the evening Graham shared many interesting insights into UK catalysis research. Catalysis is at the core of the UK economy and contributes over UK £50 billion annually. It is central to the wellbeing of society and is involved in some way in 80 per cent of all manufactured goods.

Graham then told me about his work with gold catalysts. With his team, he has discovered that gold has the potential to improve health, clean up the environment and save lives.

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‘Cross over’ engineer wins recognition with Geldart Medal (Day 309)

This year’s recipient of the Geldart Medal for a major contribution to research in particle technology has had such a long and distinguished career in chemical engineering, he hardly needs introduction.

colin thornton

Photo Credit | University of Birmingham Dr Colin Thornton

But perhaps not everyone knows that Dr Colin Thornton is actually a civil engineer.

Colin’s cross over to chemical engineering in 1984 was a great move. From that time he became a pioneer in the application of the Discrete Element Method (DEM) to problems in particle technology.

Colin soon realised that the crux of the matter lay in contact mechanics for particle interactions. At the time, there was little or no theoretical basis for describing elastoplastic and adhesive contact deformation.

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