Using oregano as an antibacterial agent (Day 346)

Contamination is a big danger in the food industry. For example, in the US nearly half of all food borne illnesses can be attributed to contamination.

Preventing and controlling bacterial contamination is critical to ensure the food we eat is safe.

oil with oregano leafThe most common strategy to do this is through industrial washing of food in water containing chlorine. However, this is often not effective and there is a need to develop new methods to combat food contamination.

A team of researchers from Wayne State University, US, have found an alternative to conventional methods; by using oregano oil, which is known to have a strong antibacterial effect.

Continue reading Using oregano as an antibacterial agent (Day 346)

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.

Continue reading Improving battery design by blowing them up (Day 344)

Creating products to Goldilocks’ standard (Day 342)

goldilocksMost people, in the UK at least, will be familiar with the fairy tale of ‘Goldilocks and the Three Bears‘, where Goldilocks, a young girl, seeks out products that are not too strong and not too weak – aiming for ones that are ‘just right’.

This is the aim of chemical engineers who work on the development and delivery of consumer products. There is a strong focus on achieving a consistent outcome that the customer deems to be ‘just right’.

I recently attended a talk given by Professor David York, Chair of Structured Particulate Products, from the University of Leeds, UK, on how to convert commodities into high value components.

David described how science and engineering are applied to transform household detergents into higher value specialty products. He went on to explain how improved consumer satisfaction is being delivered by creating a washing product that leaves an appealing fragrance on freshly laundered clothes.

David and his team achieved this by creating a product that deposits perfume micro-capsules onto fabric during the wash cycle. The capsules subsequently fracture and release a pleasing odour in controlled doses.

Continue reading Creating products to Goldilocks’ standard (Day 342)

Putting the lab into the patient to improve chemotherapy success (Day 341)

The fight against cancer is ongoing and I have blogged about this before; see ‘Twin track cancer attack’ and ‘Fighting lung cancer with personalised medicine’. Each new discovery we make shines more light onto effective treatments.

Chemotherapy is a type of cancer treatment that uses one or more chemical substances to kill cancerous cells. It can be used in conjunction with other cancer treatments, or given alone. But as there are over 100 different chemotherapy drugs, our ability to prescribe the most effective drug to treat a particular tumour can be difficult.

MIT chemical engineers have designed an implantable device that can deliver many drugs at once, allowing researchers to determine which drugs are the most effective against a patient's tumor.
Picture Credit | MIT
MIT chemical engineers have designed an implantable device that can deliver many drugs at once, allowing researchers to determine which drugs are the most effective against a patient’s tumor.

A new device, developed by chemical engineers from Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), US, could provide a solution.

The device, which is about the same size as a grain of rice, is not swallowed or injected, but instead is implanted directly into a cancerous tumour, where it can directly administer small doses of up to 30 different drugs.

 

Continue reading Putting the lab into the patient to improve chemotherapy success (Day 341)

Super cooling computers could save billions (Day 340)

We are all heavily reliant on personal computers.  At home, at work and on the move. However, we have all experienced the noise and annoyance of the cooling fan in our computers when we push their processing power too hard.

A team of chemical engineers from the University of Alabama in Huntsville (UAH), US, have come up with a solution – ditch the fan altogether.

The cooling computer
Photo Credit | UAH
The cooling computer

Now obviously, their solution is not as simple as that; they have also developed technology that keeps computer chips cooler.

The team also estimates that the adoption of this technology could save US consumers more than US $6.3 billion a year by reducing the energy used in computer cooling fans.

Continue reading Super cooling computers could save billions (Day 340)

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.

Continue reading 3D printing a space rocket (Day 338)

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.

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

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.

Continue reading Maple syrup magnifies antibiotic attack (Day 336)

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.

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

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:

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

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.

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

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.

Continue reading Time to dust off and deliver (Day 330)

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.

Continue reading Turning packing peanuts* to power (Day 329)

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.

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

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.

Continue reading Ionic liquids pack a punch for biofuels (Day 327)

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.

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

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.

Continue reading Engineered yeast on par with conventional fuels (Day 324)

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!

Continue reading The sweet smell of success (Day 321)

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.

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

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.

Continue reading New drug approved to fight ovarian cancer (Day 317)

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?

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

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.

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

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.

Continue reading Fighting skin cancer with a bracelet (Day 311)

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.

Continue reading Catalysing a gold rush (Day 310)

‘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.

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

Engineering hydrogels to treat spinal cord injury (Day 308)

Spinal cord injuries are extremely serious and the road to recovery is often a long one.

Two million people worldwide are affected by spinal cord problems that result in the loss of motor and sensory function below the point of injury, which can be devastating.

I’ve blogged previously about a team from Stanford University, which is working reduce the trauma of injections and improve the ‘healing help for spinal injuries‘. It’s an area where chemical engineers are making a difference. Here’s another great example.

Dr. -Ing Laura De Laporte
Photo Credit | Dr. -Ing Laura De Laporte

The European Union has awarded a 1.5 million Euro grant to a chemical engineer, Dr.-Ing Laura De Laporte, from DWI – Leibniz Institute for Interactive Materials to research an injectable hydrogel that will help spinal cord repair.

Laura’s research objective is to develop a minimally invasive therapy for spinal cord injury. She will do this by engineering a biomaterial in a project she calls ANISOGEL.

Her goal is to develop an injectable material with the potential to provide biochemical and physical guidance for regenerating nerves across an injury site.

Continue reading Engineering hydrogels to treat spinal cord injury (Day 308)

Blog leads to a breakthrough in antivenoms (Day 307)

Being a part of the blogosphere over the past 307 days has opened my eyes to how many of us bloggers are actually out there. So I was especially pleased to read today’s story about how blogging caused a scientific breakthrough.

Research into the innate immunity of opossums (marsupials found in the Americas) to a variety of snake venoms and their possible use to create antivenoms was first patented by Binie Ver Lipps in 1996.

Dr Claire Komives
Photo Credit | San Jose State University
Dr Claire Komives

However, this research went largely unnoticed. But Binie’s work was mentioned by a blogger in 2012. This led to an article being written on Yahoo!News, which was subsequently read by chemical engineering professor Dr Claire F. Komives.

Inspired by the story Claire and her team, from San Jose State University, US, demonstrated that genetically modified bacteria could produce the protective peptide at low costs.

This simple peptide could prevent countless deaths from snakebites and the antivenom relies on a sequence of just 11 amino acids, copied from an opossum protein.

Continue reading Blog leads to a breakthrough in antivenoms (Day 307)

Raising a sustainable glass of South African wine (Day 304)

Sustainable water research is big news in South Africa especially for the wine industry.

wineThe South African wine industry is the 9th largest wine producer in the world, with over 100,000 hectares of land dedicated to vineyards.

South Africa is committed to sustainable wine growing and recognises the problems of cultivating the majority of its wine in a biodiversity hotspot: the Cape Floral Kingdom.

So the introduction of the integrity and sustainability seal for wine, launched in 2010, certifies that the wine in question has been made in a manner that is respectful to nature, and guarantees sustainable wine production.

To make their wines sustainable, producers are taking responsibility by dedicating land for conservation, removing foreign plants and restoring wetlands and rivers. But there have been particular issues in many regions, for example in the Witwatersrand Basin there are reports of soil being highly acidic and contamination of water resources.

Dr Craig Sheridan, from the University of the Witwatersrand (Wits) School of Chemical and Metallurgical Engineering openly confesses to having a passion for chemical engineering and water!

Continue reading Raising a sustainable glass of South African wine (Day 304)

The impact of water (Day 299)

wwd2015-logoToday is UN World Water Day – a day for water and for sustainable development.

This year, World Water Day focuses on the following ideas: water is health; water is nature; water is urbanisation; water is industry; water is energy; water is food; and water is equality. But I want to add something to this list: water is chemical engineering.

The importance of water is often overlooked. Water is not only essential for life but it is of key importance in chemical engineering too.

In the past, I have discussed the relationship between water and food, water and energy and the water-energy-food nexus, and I can’t stress enough the importance of these interdependencies.

Today, however, I thought I’d focus on the more light-hearted work of the chemical engineers at the University of Minnesota, US, who are working to understand the impact of raindrops.

Continue reading The impact of water (Day 299)

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.

Continue reading Sheffield students win Caribbean field trip (Day 298)

Smart bandage could save lives (Day 295)

When someone suffers a serious injury, timing can literally be a matter of life or death. Blood loss must be tackled immediately, but care must also be taken to prevent infection of the wound.

Chemical engineers working at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) have developed a dual-function ‘smart bandage’ that could save lives, not only by stopping bleeding but also by preventing infection.

The bandage is designed to rapidly dispense a coagulating agent that stops bleeding and then slowly release an antibiotic to prevent infection. This work is published in the journal ACS Biomaterials Science and Engineering under the title: Multifunctional Self-Assembled Films for Rapid Hemostat and Sustained Anti-infective Delivery.

Professor Paula T. Hammond
Photo Credit | MIT
Professor Paula T. Hammond

The group developing these smart bandages is led by Professor Paula T. Hammond, the David H. Koch Chair Professor of Engineering in the Chemical Engineering Department at MIT. Paula suggests that the bandages might prove particularly effective in the treatment of wounded soldiers on the battlefield when a medic is not present.

Continue reading Smart bandage could save lives (Day 295)