Thank you and goodbye!

Video

Now that my blogging days as IChemE President are over, I’d like to say a heart felt thank you and goodbye to all my ChemEng365 readers and followers. So I’ve recorded a farewell message for you to watch:

Thank you for shining a light on chemical engineering with me. Goodbye!

Three is the magic number for chemical engineering education (Day 363)

Today is Day 363 and the end of my time in the blogosphere is getting closer. I have just three days left to shine a light on chemical engineering.

And since three is the magic number, according to the music of Schoolhouse Rock and De La Soul, I think it’s fitting to focus on three topics that underpin an excellent chemical engineering education. A sound knowledge of these topics, coupled with an ability to apply them in a practical setting, is a key part of the learning outcomes from an IChemE accredited degree course of which there are over 200 on offer in 60 university departments in 13 countries.

It’s fair to say that without a fundamental grounding in core chemical engineering principles, none of the achievements that I have described over the last twelve months would have been possible. And whilst this is not an exhaustive list, I’ve attempted to distil the richness of our profession into just three topics – topics that no chemical engineer can live without.

I’d be interested to hear if you agree with my three choices and, because there is no right or wrong answer in a debate like this, readers should feel free to disagree – and comment on the blog.

Without further ado, here are my top three topics:

1. Thermodynamics

Thermodynamics is the branch of physics concerned with heat and temperature and their relation to energy and work. It defines macroscopic variables, such as internal energy, entropy and pressure, that partly describe a body of matter or radiation.

It’s a rite of passage for first year chemical engineering undergraduates to get to grips with the laws of thermodynamics – and seemingly endless hours spent looking at steam tables!

pic to represent thermodynamics

Thermodynamics is an essential part of chemical engineering.  We need to understand how energy is transferred within a system and to its surroundings. Without it, we wouldn’t be able to analyse or design a chemical process. One the first stages of designing a process from concept phase is performing a material and energy balance. It’s a tough topic, but we’d be sunk without it.

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Four horsemen of the apocalypse – four challenges for chemical engineers (Day 362)

Day 362, four blogs to go. Four more opportunities to highlight chemical engineering in action.

In the Christian tradition, the four horsemen of the apocalypse are the harbingers of the end of the world.

Other faiths offer different views, but for the purposes of this blog post I’m taking a look at four big challenges that present a serious threat to life on earth: water scarcity; increasing energy demand; food security; and climate change. What are chemical  engineers doing to tackle these issues and avert the apocalypse?

perfect stormI have previously observed that we run the risk of sleep-walking towards climate catastrophe. But it’s more complicated than that. The water, energy, food and climate change challenges are interrelated. The former Chief Scientific Adviser to the UK Government, Sir John Beddington, used the term Perfect Storm to describe this phenomenon arguing that climate change will intensify pressure on resources further, adding to the vulnerability of both ecosystems and people.

Chemical engineering can provide shelter from John’s ‘Perfect storm’.  Here are some examples.

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Five projects that raise the profile of chemical engineering (Day 361)

Day 361 – five days and counting.

During my year as novice blogger, I’ve been made aware of many excellent projects involving outreach that raise the profile of our profession to the public, and in particular, to school children.

This blog post highlights five initiatives that will inspire a new generation of chemical engineers, as well as promoting the value of engineering to a wider audience:

1. Pint of Science

pint of science beer mat

Pint of Science beer mats

The Pint of Science festival is an annual event, held over three days, that takes place in pubs across the world. During the festival, researchers and experts in their field discuss their latest scientific work over a drink. Pint of Science has grown year on year since its inception in 2012 by two research scientists, Michael Motskin and Praveen Paul, at Imperial College London, UK.

This year I was invited to take part – and in return I was promised a free pint!  Well how could I refuse?  I’m a big fan of science communication and public engagement – the free pint had nothing to do with it!

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Seven Harry Potter spells – it’s not magic it’s chemical engineering (Day 359)

Today is Day 359, and there are just seven days left to shine a light on chemical engineering. So I thought I would try something a little different by highlighting seven Harry Potter ‘spells’ that are all in a day’s work for chemical engineers.

Most people enjoy a little magic, whether that involves reading fantasy fiction, watching a magical movie or even practising a little magic at family gatherings with the words ‘pick a card, any card’.

Credit | mashable.com

Credit | mashable.com

One of the most popular fantasy offerings in a generation is Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling, the epic tale of a boy wizard and his quest to defeat the evil Lord Voldemort.

Harry’s exploits along with his friends at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry have captured the imagination of millions of readers and film-goers around the world.

As a chemical engineer and covert Harry Potter admirer, I thought I would combine the two (with a little help from the mischievous blog elves) and highlight the science and engineering behind seven – the most powerful magical number – spells and potions from the wizarding world:

1. Essence of dittany

You may remember the use of this potion from the final instalment of the series, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, as Ron Weasley ‘splinched’ his arm after ‘disapparating’ to escape the grips of a Death Eater (follower of Lord Voldemort). Essence of dittany, from a plant that produces a healing and restorative properties, and was applied to treat Ron’s injuries – instantly.

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Shining a UV light to separate rare earth metals (Day 354)

There are 17 rare earth metals in the periodic table, but they are not ‘rare’ because of a lack of abundance – they are rare because they are usually found dispersed in small amounts.

Photo Credit | periodictable.com

Photo Credit | periodictable.com

These rare earth metals find use in many modern day applications ranging from healthcare and electronics, to computers and advanced transportation. Two rare earth metals that are particularly useful in sustainable technology and high-tech applications – europium and yttrium.

Europium and yttrium are difficult to mine but they can be recycled and recovered from another source – red lamp phosphor (a powder used in fluorescent lamps and low energy light bulbs).

Chemical engineers from the University of Leuven (KE Leuven), Belgium, have developed a method that recycles the red lamp phosphor as well as separates the rare earth metals, europium and yttrium, from a mixture using UV light.

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The wisdom of Trevor Kletz – the ‘founding father’ of inherent safety (Day 353)

Trevor Kletz

Photo Credit | tce
Trevor Kletz

The name, Trevor Kletz, needs little introduction to anyone who has been involved with chemical process safety over the past forty years. Trevor died in 2013 at the age of ninety.

He is greatly missed but his impact on the chemical engineering profession was enormous and his name is rarely uttered along without the words ‘hero’ or ‘guru’ as well as ‘teacher’, ‘mentor’ or ‘friend’, in the same breath.

Trevor spent his entire career at ICI (Imperial Chemical Industries), and by the time of his retirement in 1982 he had created a safety culture within the company with a major positive impact on accident statistics.

This success was attributed to his powerful intellect on one hand, but also to his exceptional communication skills. Trevor’s ability to reduce complicated issues to simple fundamentals was the stuff of legend.

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Engaging the public through Really Small Science (Day 347)

Outreach is a really important part of being a chemical engineer. Inspiring the next generation of engineers should be a priority for all of us.

really small science 2Throughout my year as president, I have become more aware of the great outreach initiatives and campaigns run by companies, organisations and universities around the world.

I’m proud to see so many chemical engineers who are enthusiastic about shining a light on our profession.

I recently attended a presentation given by Dr Mark Haw, senior lecturer in chemical and process engineering at the University of Strathclyde in Glasgow, UK. He talked about a fantastic group of researchers who run nano-themed workshops to engage with schools and the public through ‘Really Small Science‘.

So I have asked Mark to tell us more about their nano-enterprise:


mark_haw
Name
Dr Mark Haw
Job:
Senior lecturer in chemical and process engineering
Course: PhD Colloidal Physics, University of Edinburgh, UK
Employer: University of Strathclyde, Glasgow, UK

 

Quote startWe started ‘Really Small Science‘ with funding from the Royal Academy of Engineering in 2013. The original project was to run a four day event at the Glasgow Science Centre.

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Improving battery design by blowing them up (Day 344)

Lithium ion batteries are used in a wide range of applications and technologies. As it happens; if you are reading my blog on a smartphone, laptop or tablet, you are probably holding one right now.  From mobile phones to electric cars, Li-ion batteries are all around us, but how do we make sure they are safe?

As I have remarked previously in my blog ‘Bulletproof batteries‘, there are significant safety issues associated with Li-ion batteries. In 2013, a problem with overheating batteries forced airlines to ground their Boeing 787 ‘Dreamliner’ aircraft, after reports of batteries bursting into flames.

An exploding lithium ion battery Photo Credit | Donal Finegan, UCL

An exploding lithium ion battery
Photo Credit | Donal Finegan, UCL

The use of Li-ion batteries is becoming more wide-spread. So we need to gain a better understanding of the hazards and risks associated with their use.

That’s why a research group led by chemical engineers from University College London (UCL) UK, with the European Synchrotron (ESRF), Imperial College London and the National Physical Laboratory, have been working to figure out what happens to Li-ion batteries when they overheat and explode.

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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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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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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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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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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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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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A chemical engineer sings about university life! (Day 306)

By now, regular readers of this blog will have realised that I’m pretty passionate about chemical engineering, its application and why it matters the world over. The students I teach share my view, but they can be a bit more creative at expressing it.

Sandy Nimmo, a final year undergraduate at Imperial College, penned a song to describe his experience whilst studying our beloved subject. Rest assured, this is not part of the curriculum, but it just goes to show how inspirational chemical engineering can be.

Have a listen to his song ‘Music for Engineers’ here:

The years spent at university can be some of the best of your life, and as they draw to an end, its only natural to reflect on the time you’ve had. And this is exactly what Sandy did with his song.

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Nicklin Medal goes to ground-breaking young academic (Day 302)

When a young chemical engineer achieves worldwide acclaim for his work less than five years after gaining his PhD, it certainly brings about a sense of excitement.

Energy Centre Board and Advisory Panel members (L-R): Niall Mac Dowell; Colin Pritchard; Geoff Maitland; and Paul Smith

Niall Mac Dowell (Left) picture with Energy Centre Board and Advisory Panel members (L-R): Colin Pritchard; Geoff Maitland; and Paul Smith

So it gives me great pleasure to congratulate my colleague and friend, Niall Mac Dowell, on receiving IChemE’s Nicklin Medal for 2014. Already, in his short career he has come to be recognised as one of the UK’s top researchers in the area of low carbon energy.

Niall is the only researcher in the world to have published work at the molecular, unit, integrated process and network scales in the context of carbon capture and storage (CCS).

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Sheffield students win Caribbean field trip (Day 298)

BP logo - BP Hummingbird...BP has been asking STEM undergraduate students across the UK to compete in their annual Ultimate Field Trip competition Since 2010. Teams of three students are asked to propose a solution to real-world global energy challenges.

This year’s challenge was based on water – How to address the effective, efficient and sustainable use of wastewater from the production of oil, gas and biofuels.

Students were tasked with developing a novel technical solution to reduce water usage or find an effective use for water produced from operations.

trinidad and tobagoIt’s hats off to the team from the Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering at the University of Sheffield, UK, who ran-away with the 2015 prize – a two week field trip to visit BP operations in Trinidad and Tobago.

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The energy grand challenges and our international Energy Centre launch (Day 297)

Yesterday proved to be a pivotal moment in my presidential year. We successfully launched the Energy Centre and outlined our plans for this new and exciting initiative – inspired by Chemical Engineering MattersIChemE’s technical strategy.

EnergyCentreLogo_HiResI’m going to use today’s blog to explain what the Energy Centre is, what it will do and why it matters to chemical engineers, opinion formers and policy makers around the world.

IChemE is a global organisation, with over 42,000 members in 120 countries. The international launch of our Energy Centre reflected this. We held three simultaneous, video-linked events, with over 60 experts and opinion formers from industry, academia and government, in Brisbane, Kuala Lumpur and London.

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Chemical engineering students and the perfect pint (Day 294)

beerThe Students’ Union bar sometimes proves a more attractive option than completing that tricky course work and I have often wondered if extra-curricular high jinks might be the reason behind some of the dazed expressions that greeted me during the dreaded 9 o’clock Monday morning lecture.

But given that brewing is one of the earliest examples of chemical process engineering, maybe we shouldn’t be too hard on those who enjoy the end product.  Nonetheless, beer like many other chemically engineered products is best enjoyed in moderation!

Chemical engineers are still working to improve the brewing process and today I am highlighting the work of students from Newcastle University, UK and the University of Sheffield, UK, who have shown great entrepreneurial spirit and brewed their own beer.

Stu Brew, is a sustainable microbrewery managed by students for students. It was set up in partnership with the School of Chemical Engineering and Advanced Materials at Newcastle University. The microbrewery acts as a research unit for sustainable brewery design, with some students involved as part of their academic studies.

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Zeolite makes for a better battery life (Day 291)

zeoliteEarlier this week, I blogged about zeolite and its potential use for a more efficient carbon capture process via adsorption.

And now it seems that applications of zeolite stretches even further – today’s blog focuses on the use of crystalline zeolite membranes to extend battery life for renewable power systems.

Smart grids, along with renewable solar and wind power systems, require affordable and efficient energy storage batteries. The reason for this is rather obvious – renewable energy sources such as wind and solar are intermittent.  Also, there is a need to balance supply and demand.

But the current high cost and short life span of storage batteries are preventing widespread market penetration and economic viability of these renewable systems.

Research led by Junhang Dong, professor of chemical engineering at the University of Cincinnati, US, addresses this issue twofold.

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Ambassador Prize for clean energy expert (Day 290)

??????????IChemE has traditionally awarded a range of medals and prizes to acknowledge the achievements of chemical engineers around the world.

It’s one of the ways in which we recognise that chemical engineering matters at an individual (or team) level, and I always look forward to the announcement of the winners.

The medals and prizes will be presented at a range of events and locations in the months ahead, but given that the list has been publicised in the March issue of The Chemical Engineer (tce) magazine, I thought I’d take the opportunity to blog about some of the winners and their achievements.

First up is the Ambassador Prize, this year awarded to my friend and colleague, Dr Paul Fennell, for his outstanding work to bring greater understanding of chemical engineering to non-chemical engineers – from government ministers to university students and school children, to people in the pub!

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Chemical engineering graduates develop eco-friendly tyres (Day 289)

TyresYesterday, I blogged about the application of chemical engineering to reduce engine wear and tear. Today, I’m taking a look at another vital component of most road vehicles – the tyre.

Tyres are an underrated feat of engineering. They hold tonnes of weight on a cushion of air; provide traction between a vehicle and the road; and, because of their elasticity, can spring back to their original shape even after prolonged use.

The materials used in the manufacture of tyres include rubber, carbon black and other chemical compounds including sulphur and zinc oxide. The carbon black, which is manufactured via the incomplete combustion of heavy petroleum products, can be replaced with silica compounds.

So, in a novel approach to the production of this more sustainable alternative to carbon black, three chemical engineering graduates from the Indian Institute of Technology at Banaras Hindu University (BHU), Varanasi, have developed an eco-friendly process for extracting green silica from rice husk ash.

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Tiny carbon spheres reduce engine wear and tear (Day 288)

The reduction of friction and pumping losses in engines is important. Otherwise, the engine has to work that extra bit harder – up to 20 per cent of the total power produced can be wasted.

Photo credit | Purdue University This image taken with an electron microscope shows tiny carbon spheres added to motor oil

Photo credit | Purdue University
Image taken with an electron microscope shows tiny carbon spheres added to motor oil

Researchers from Purdue University, Indiana, US have addressed the problem by adding tiny, and perfectly smooth, carbon spheres to motor oil. This can reduce friction and engine wear by up to 25 per cent.

This offers major benefits in reducing friction and thus improved fuel economy.

Motor oil containing three per cent of the tiny spheres by weight, each measuring between 100-500 nanometres in diameter, delivered a reduction in friction between 10 and 25 per cent.

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New material could capture carbon more efficiently (Day 287)

A cleaner fossil-fuelled future is something that I, along with many of my colleagues, aspire to achieve during my lifetime. Carbon capture, storage and use, and its potential to mitigate climate change figures strongly on my research agenda.

Nasser Khazeni Photo Credit | New Mexico State University

Nasser Khazeni
Photo Credit | New Mexico State University

So I was particularly pleased to learn that researchers from New Mexico State University (NMSU), US, have developed a new material that could capture carbon dioxide more efficiently and with greater capacity than any technology currently in place.

Now you may think this a bold claim, but the research focuses on adsorption as opposed to absorption – which is the most common method used for capturing carbon dioxide.

Nasser Khazeni, a chemical and materials engineering PhD student from NMSU, led and developed the research into this new technology, with specific focus on post-combustion separation of carbon dioxide.

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Differences make us stronger – International Women’s Day (Day 285)

Diversity encompasses acceptance and respect. It means that each individual is unique and that there is a need to recognise our individual differences. These can be along the dimensions of age, sexuality, disability, race, religion, social background or gender.

It can be a very sensitive topic. On the political landscape there are issues around immigration and skills. At a more personal level, many people are conscious of the need to avoid discriminatory behavior and to avoid causing offence. Yes, it’s a tricky business, but I firmly believe that diversity is something that should underpin everything we do. And I am reminded of the quote attributed to the leading business thinker and author, Stephen R, Covey, who once remarked: “Strength lies in differences, not in similarities”.

international womens dayDuring my career, I have encountered many senior figures from  industry and academia. The overwhelming majority have shared my view that diversity is essential; not just because it fosters innovation and growth, but because it right.

Gender, culture, age, background and life experience bring different perspectives to the table, enriching us all in the process.

Today is International Women’s Day, and on this day we will focus on the achievements of women and the drive for equality. This year’s theme is ‘Make it happen’.

I believe, as I’m sure you do, that chemical engineers make it happen. I am proud that, relative to many other engineering disciplines, chemical engineering is a diverse profession, but I am also aware that there is more to be done.

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Breakthrough for clean water in developing countries (Day 283)

It’s all too easy to take clean water for granted; so many of us in the developed world can simply turn on a tap to get drinkable water – even if we just want to wash the car.

But the reality can be much grimmer in some parts of the world, as I discuss in my blog ‘Everyone should have a human right to water‘.

More than 70 per cent of illnesses in developing countries worldwide are related to water contamination, with women and children suffering most of all. In India, for instance, nearly 38 million people suffer from water-borne diseases, and up to 1.5 million children die from diarrhoea.

Facts like these make this award-winning breakthrough by chemical engineers from Nigeria and Germany incredibly important.

papaya seedsThe team from Redeemer’s University, Nigeria and the University of Potsdam and the Max Planck Institute in Germany, won the Dhirubhai Ambani Award for Outstanding Chemical Engineering Innovation for Resource-Poor People (which included US $10,000 cash prize funded by Reliance Industries) at the 2014 IChemE Global Awards.

This particular award recognises the use of chemical engineering technology to support people living on less than $2 a day. And the team did just that by developing a new hybrid clay adsorbent (HYCA), based on kaolinite clay and Carica papaya seeds, which removes heavy metal ion and organic pollutants from water.

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Yeast revealed as alternative to palm oil (Day 279)

palm oil fruit and oilPalm oil is widely used in the manufacture and production of food and cosmetics ranging from instant noodles to lipstick. This edible vegetable oil is also used to a lesser extent in biofuel production. Today, world production of palm oil and palm kernel oil is around 50 million tonnes per annum.

The oil palm is a very productive crop, and that’s why the two biggest producers of palm oil, Indonesia and Malaysia, can produce and process around 20 million tonnes each per year.

But, palm oil production attracts criticism the world over. Deforestation and the destruction of natural habitats, such as tropical rain forests, are some of the detrimental effects of palm oil plantations.

Palm oil has some very desirable properties, including an exceptionally high melting point and high saturation levels, so it’s easy to see why the palm oil industry isn’t slowing down, despite environmental and sustainability issues.

Researchers at the University of Bath, UK may have discovered a revolutionary palm oil substitute – yeast.

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A day in the life of a professor (Day 274)

Geoff Maitland IChemE PresidentI’ve been blogging continuously for 270 days now and I’m beginning to notice a few trends amongst my followers. Many readers are extremely interested in what chemical engineers do and where our profession can take us.

I’ve shared other people’s chemical engineering good news stories and talked about their work and their careers.  But I’ve not talked about myself all that much. Unless your were present at the 2014 annual general meeting that is, where I highlighted some aspects of my career to date in my presidential address, a recording of which is available to watch here.

brithday cakeBut it’s my birthday today – and given that birthdays are all about the birthday boy or girl –  I trust you’ll allow me to offer a brief insight into my own career. So this posting describes a typical day in the life of yours truly and one that happened last week. The exploits of a professor of energy engineering at Imperial College London and IChemE president.

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Work hard, play hard (Day 269)

IChemE foam finger bus55 years ago, a chemical engineering professor with a passion for sport and a strong sense of fun initiated an annual football game between the chemical engineering departments at Birmingham and Manchester Universities in the UK.

That professor’s name was Frank Morton, and he had strong connections with both departments having taught in Birmingham where he rose to professor, before moving to Manchester as the first head of chemical engineering at the new Manchester College of Technology in 1956.

And his passion for fun lives on in the annual Frank Morton Sports Day

Frank was a firm believer in the principle that chemical engineering students should work hard and play hard. This year’s participants certainly didn’t let him down.

The 2015 Frank Morton Sports Day took place at Frank’s old stamping ground in Birmingham earlier this week, and had he been there to witness the event, I’m sure that he would have had a huge smile on his face.

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