Five chemical engineering research stories from June 2016

To help you stay up-to-date with the latest achievements from the chemical engineering research community here is our monthly installment with some of the latest stories.

Here are five stories of amazing chemical engineering research and innovation:

Using plant-based sorbents to clean up oil spills

seedlingsResearchers from Russia analysed the possibility of using low-cost plant-based sorbents modified in various ways to clean up water surface oil spills as opposed to man-made sorbents such as perlite, expanded clay, or silica gel.

This article was published as part of the Process Safety and Environmental Protection special issue on Air Pollution Control and Waste Management. The researchers identified sorption as the most effective and environmentally acceptable but the most expensive method for oil spill clean-up. However, using plant-based sorbents can improve cost-effectiveness and the plant waste can later be recycled for asphalt production and fuel.

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Top 5 UK Women in Chemical Engineering #NWED2016

The Top 50 Women in UK Engineering was published today by the Daily Telegraph, in partnership with the Women’s Engineering Society (WES). It celebrates female engineers across a broad range of sectors and disciplines to mark National Women in Engineering Day – 23 June. Over 800 nominations were received, so to make the Top 50 is a huge achievement.

But which chemical engineers made the list?

1. Dame Judith Hackitt

IChemE AGM 20 05 13

The first chemical engineer to make the list (coming in at number 18), Dame Judith Hackitt, spent 23 years in industry before moving on to represent various professional institutions and boards. She was the Chair of the Health and Safety Executive for 8 years, and has recently become Chair of the EEF.

Judith was IChemE President 2013-2014, is an IChemE Fellow and an active member of the Institution. She is passionate about valuing diversity, and is strongly opposed to positive discrimination and tokenism. An interview we did with Judith for International Women’s Day is available here.

TOP QUOTE: “Teachers are ill-informed about engineering. They don’t know what it is and they have pre-conceived notions that it’s dirty, its greasy, it’s all these things which it’s not. And they say ‘No, that’s not for girls.’ You still find that even now, forty years later.”

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Ten things we learned at Hazards 26

IChemE’s flagship process safety symposium, known far and wide simply as ‘Hazards‘, goes from strength to strength. From its modest beginnings in Manchester, England in the 1960’s the event has grown into an international brand attracting delegates to conferences in Europe, Australasia and South East Asia.

Last month we welcomed over 300 delegates to the Edinburgh International Conference Centre for Hazards 26a three-day event that featured some notable keynote speakers, who offered some powerful insights on a wide range of process safety topics.

Those who were fortunate to have a ticket for the biggest process safety event in Europe this year, went back to their day jobs armed with valuable lessons in how to improve process safety performance.  But for those of you who couldn’t attend, here’s a flavour of the key messages that were delivered by the keynote speakers and some of the big names who were present in Edinburgh.

  1. We forget the past at our peril

Haddon-Cave 1

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Relevance in a Changing World

On 24 May 2016 at the Edinburgh International Conference Centre, Professor Jonathan Seville was inaugurated as IChemE President for 2016-17. The Executive Dean of Engineering at University of Surrey delivered his Presidential Address on the subject of relevance. Jonathan challenged us all to think: how will the Institution and the profession stay relevant in a world that is rapidly changing?

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Five chemical engineering research stories from May 2016

Since the end of ChemEng365 our ChemEngBlog has become a little quiet. To make sure you stay up-to-date with the latest achievements from the chemical engineering research community we will be providing you with monthly updates on some of the latest stories.

So here are five stories of amazing chemical engineering research and innovation:

Seven chemical separations to change the world

Floating energyDavid Sholl and Ryan Lively, chemical and biomolecular engineers, from the Georgia Institute of Technology, US, highlighted seven chemical separation processes that, if improved, would reap great global benefits. The list they have drawn up is not exhaustive (we are sure there are more we could add!) but includes; hydrocarbons from crude oil, uranium from seawater, alkenes from alkanes, greenhouse gases from dilute emissions, rare-earth metals from ores, benzene derivatives from each other, and trace contaminants from water.

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ChemEngDay UK 2016 – Highlights

ChemEngDay UK, the UK’s annual chemical engineering conference for the research community, came to a successful close last week. Hosted this year by the University of Bath, it welcomed over 250 delegates to Bath from across the UK and beyond.

28937 Chem Eng Day 31 March 2016. Coverage of the Chemical Engineering conference held at the University of Bath in the Chancellor's Building. Client: Carolina Salter - Chem Eng and Rob Breckon - Press Office

ChemEngDay UK was begun to facilitate networking between chemical engineers across UK universities. Attended predominantly by PhD students, post-doctoral researchers and academics, together with delegates from industry, it is the only chemical engineering conference in the UK for the academic community.

Check out some event highlights below:

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Guest blog: #WorldWaterDay

IChemE’s Special Interest Groups (SIGs) are an essential way for our members to share knowledge and collaborate on initiatives, which are of significance to their sector.

drop on water

Today is World Water Day, and our Water SIG is a hugely important part of providing expert advice and consultation to the innovations that could change our world. Water is essential to life, it must be sustainable or we cannot survive. Chemical engineers are an important part of making sure water provision is sufficient, clean, economical, and environmentally-friendly.

Chris Short, Chair of the IChemE Water SIG, explores in more detail the current challenges for the water sector in today’s blog post. Read on to hear his thoughts, and feel free to join the conversation on Twitter using #WorldWaterDay or by leaving a comment below:


chris-short

Name: Chris Short
Job: Consultant and Chartered Chemical Engineer
Company: Chris Short Water Quality (previously Yorkshire Water)
Special Interest Group: Water, Chairman

Quote start
Today is World Water Day, and I’ll be attending a conference in Leeds, UK, on Innovations in Wastewater Treatment. The focus will be on the recovery of value from wastewater and I expect to hear how leading-edge technologies are performing and what new processes are being evaluated by researchers.

This is exciting stuff.

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Guest Blog: Does oil have a future?

UCL Ramsay Society Panel

UCL Ramsay Society Panel L-R: Jama Salimov (moderator), Paul Ekins, Abhishek Goswami, Myrian Schenk and John Kemp

The UCL Ramsay Society held its Annual Debate on the Friday 4 March. The topic – ‘Does oil have a future?‘ – explored areas such as energy policies, emissions, sustainability and the cyclic nature of the oil and gas industry.

The panel members were; Professor Paul Ekins , Dr Myrian Schenk, Abhishek Goswami and John Kemp.The event ended with a Q & A session with members of the audience.

IChemE member Matthew Howard was there to report on the debate. Here are his thoughts:


Matthew HowardName: Matthew Howard
Job: Process Engineer
Course: Chemical Engineering (MEng), University of Cambridge
Graduated: 2011
Special Interest Group: Oil and Natural Gas SIG Webcast & Education Officer

Quote startIt quickly became clear that this year’s UCL Ramsay Society Debate “Does Oil Have a Future” was somewhat of a forgone conclusion; its title mirroring alarmist traditions of media headlines which you could imagine exclaiming “Oil is Dead”.

While this would be great news for atmospheric CO2 concentrations, there was agreement between the speakers that yes, oil does have a future. But the question remains, for how long?

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“It’s about valuing diversity”, an interview with Dame Judith Hackitt for #InternationalWomensDay #IWD2016

Today is International Women’s Day, and to celebrate we decided to put a chemical engineering leading lady in the spotlight – Dame Judith Hackitt.

Judith Hackitt, who was IChemE’s second female president (2013-2014), has had an eventful 2016 so far. The Chair of the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), was made Dame in the New Year Honours, and has recently announced her new appointment as Chair at the EEF, the manufacturers organisation.

We sat down with her to look back on her career so far, and get her perspective on the gender debate, and the future of chemical engineering.

IChemE AGM 20 05 13

Thanks for joining me today Judith. You have had quite an impressive career. I’m sure you’re a bit sick of this question but what was it like to be made a Dame in the New Year’s Honours List?

Well on a day-to-day basis it doesn’t make any difference, I’m not using the title anywhere and everywhere and insisting people call me Dame Judith! I was at home on the day the letter arrived, it was first of all a big surprise but also a massive honour. It’s hard to describe but you feel like it’s something special. I really am genuinely honoured to be offered this, and it was a delight to write back and say yes, of course I’d accept.

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Ten ways chemical engineers can save the world from climate change #COP21

COP21 logo12 December 2015 will go down in history as the day the world agreed to do something about climate change. The impact of countries around the world reaching such an agreement cannot be ignored. However, for us to actually achieve the targets set in Paris we need to act now.

Chemical engineers have been working for some time to find and implement ways to combat climate change.

Here are just ten of the ways that chemical engineers can save the world from the impact of climate change:

1. Systems-thinking

systems engineeringChemical engineering makes its professional contribution by understanding how whole systems work, and generating engineered system solutions to meet desired targets. The ideology and discussion behind climate change solutions is in place, but it needs a chemical engineering, systems thinking approach to apply the technical solutions.

2. Energy efficiency

shutterstock_274012796Becoming more energy efficient is the obvious easy win (at least for chemical engineers). The 2012 Global Energy Assessment stated that 66 per cent of the energy produced today is wasted. The chemicals sector is the most energy intensive industry, but current internal rates of return stand at just 12-19 per cent. Chemical engineers can change this and make energy efficiency the number one priority

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From Paris to London – IChemE Energy Centre speaks out at #COP21

COP21 logoWe hope you have been following our series of #COP21 blog posts, focusing on the IChemE Energy Centre’s five priority topics for the COP21 climate talks.

As an agreement looks set to be on the horizon (fingers crossed!) the Energy Centre was involved in two events.

Both events asked the same question – Do you believe that the technical solutions to reducing greenhouse gas emissions already exist?

Find out what happened below.


Paris

Our official COP21 side event in Paris saw several leading thinkers – including our own Chair of the Energy Centre Stefaan Simons – deliver their thoughts on ‘Technology solutions for a two degree world’.

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Making renewables work through energy storage and grid management #COP21

solar power plantIn order to deliver a low carbon economy, we must move away from our current low efficiency, high carbon energy system. Our new energy system must be much more efficient, and low carbon.

This will mean abandoning the linear system of large scale, centralised energy production from fossil fuels.

The replacement should be a non-linear system where electricity is produced at widely distributed sites, at various scales, using renewable sources of energy.

To meet base load power demand, this system will need to combine fossil fuels with carbon capture and storage (CCS), and other sources of energy – such as nuclear.

This future low carbon energy system can only work if the way we generate and consume energy becomes much more flexible, and is able to respond rapidly to external weather and price fluctuations.

Matching supply with demand, particularly when a significant proportion of electricity is being generated by intermittent renewable sources, such as wind and solar, will require energy storage.

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The future of nuclear power generation #COP21

Nuclear power is already playing a vital role in decarbonising the global energy economy. Its capacity to provide base load power makes it a stable and low-carbon energy supply.

Nuclear power provides approximately 11 per cent of the world’s energy. In the UK, nuclear power generation makes up 19 per cent of the energy landscape. The proportion is much higher in France, at 75 per cent.

Thorp reprocessing plant - Sellafield Ltd

Thorp reprocessing plant – Sellafield Ltd

However, there are still significant public concerns over the safety and environmental impacts of nuclear power, and the legacy issues of waste. These concerns mean there is often very little support for new nuclear power plants.

As we move to a low carbon future nuclear, new build will have to play an even bigger part in the energy strategies of many governments, because nuclear doesn’t emit carbon dioxide during power generation.

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Sustainable bioenergy can dramatically reduce global carbon emissions #COP21

The COP21 talks in Paris came to a turning-point on Saturday, as an update to the draft agreement was released. Finance appears to be the over-riding issue as we settle in to the second week of the conference – but what about the solutions?

Did you know that more than half of the world’s annual carbon emissions could be prevented over the next 50 years by using sustainable bioenergy?

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According to research by Pacala and Socolow, outlined by the IChemE Energy Centre, 25 billion tonnes of carbon emissions can be prevented from entering the atmosphere – simply by switching from fossil-based petroleum to bioethanol as our primary transportation fuel.

So why aren’t we using it already?

The raw materials used in bioenergy production – food crops like maize and sugarcane – come with a lot of associated challenges. Food crops are by no means guaranteed; a bad season could have a detrimental effect, particularly in developing countries who rely on their crops as a means of livelihood. Concerns about the economical implications for developing countries have already been raised in Paris – and could be a deal-breaker for alternative fuels like bioenergy.

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Carbon capture and storage is part of the climate solution #COP21

Bulbs and energyThe world’s population is expected to exceed nine billion by 2050. With this growth there will be an increasing demand for energy.

As it stands, fossil fuels provide more than 85 per cent of the world’s energy. And despite significant global efforts to shift to renewable energy generation, renewable sources only accounted for 2 per cent of the global energy supply in 2014.

It is therefore logical and reasonable to believe that fossil fuels will remain an indispensable part of the world’s energy landscape until at least the end of this century.

Climate Change - sliderAt COP21, representatives from over 190 countries will try to reach an agreement to limit global warming to the two degrees target, and this will involve stabilising atmospheric COconcentrations at a level of 450 parts per million (ppm).

So what does this mean? For fossil fuels, it means we need to decarbonise electricity production; and carbon capture and storage (CCS) is a readily deployable technology solution to do this.

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Why are we wasting so much energy in industry? #COP21

shutterstock_274012796Yesterday we outlined the IChemE Energy Centre’s five priority topics for focus at COP21 to help solve the global climate change challenges we face today.

The first is energy efficiency, a central part of ensuring we maximise the energy we produce to reduce both waste and harmful emissions.

The need to improve energy efficiency is perhaps one of the easiest topics to get a consensus on, and it will form an imperative part of an effective agreement at the Paris climate talks over the next week.

The numbers speak for themselves. The 2012 Global Energy Assessment revealed that 66 per cent of the energy produced today is wasted. For the chemical process industries and the chemical engineering sector, the implications of this statistic are huge.

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Chemical engineers can help solve the climate challenge #COP21

COP21 logoThis week saw the start of the 21st Conference of Parties, COP21. More than 190 countries and 150 global leaders have gathered in Paris, France, to discuss a new global agreement on climate change.

The United Nations (UN) event will host around 40,000 people and runs right through until the end of next week (11 December).

The future of the natural world, and the animals and plant life that call it home, depends on the outcome of this conference. If we don’t limit global warming to 2 degrees, the consequences will be catastrophic.

Polar bearWhilst we cannot accurately predict the scale of any potential impacts now, what we do know for certain is that climate change is happening, and we have a responsibility to reduce any further damage.

Chemical engineers are part of the solution, and the IChemE Energy Centre has identified five priority areas where technology can be deployed now to help mitigate climate change.

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Why join IChemE?

We hope you have been keeping up with our ChemEngProfiles video blogs. Over the last few weeks, we have shared the stories of twenty chemical engineers – at various stages in their careers, and working for some of the biggest companies in the world.

Last week we gave you ‘Five powerful reasons to be a chemical engineer at Shell’, following the success of our previous posts – ‘Five sweet reasons to be a chemical engineer at Mondelez’, ‘Five great reasons to be a chemical engineer at BP’, and ‘Five great reasons to be a chemical engineer at Syngenta’. So what’s next?

The thing that our interviewees had in common was that they are all IChemE members, and they view membership as an important addition to their CV.

IChemE_10mm_RGBIn today’s post we’ve turned the spotlight on ourselves – IChemE, the global professional membership organisation for chemical, biochemical and process engineers.

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Five powerful reasons to be a chemical engineer at Shell

Over the past few weeks we have been sharing real-life experiences of IChemE members, working at some of the world’s most innovative organisations. So far, our ChemEngProfiles video blogs have covered: ‘Five great reasons to be a chemical engineer at Syngenta‘, ‘Five great reasons to be a chemical engineer at BP‘, and most recently, ‘Five sweet reasons to be a chemical engineer at Mondelez’.Royal_Dutch_Shell

Today we turn our attention to Shell – one of the six oil and gas ‘supermajors’ and an IChemE Gold Corporate Partner. Through oil and gas exploration, production, refinement and distribution, Shell makes it possible for us to heat our homes, fuel our cars and cook our food.

But what is it like to be a chemical engineer at one of the world’s most valuable companies?

Exciting, diverse, challenging – maybe all of the above? Check out our latest ChemEngProfiles videos to find out.

(1) You work on meaningful projects that affect various stakeholders, right from the start.

Carlyn Greenhalgh, a process improvement practitioner at Shell, loves the complexity of chemical engineering. She explains how she went from University, to working on a production site with her own unit. Her pilot plant is now being manufactured and sold worldwide.

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Five sweet reasons to be a chemical engineer at Mondelez

If you’re an avid follower of this blog (and you really should be!), then by now you will be familiar with our series of ChemEngProfiles video blogs. We’ve had two so far: ‘Five great reasons to be a chemical engineer at Syngenta‘ and ‘Five great reasons to be a chemical engineer at BP‘.

From practical problem solving at BP to travelling the world with work for Syngenta, it’s clear to see that life as a chemical engineer brings great benefits and opens up a world of opportunities.

mondelez bannerToday it’s time to shine a spotlight on the lads and lasses at Mondelez International – one of the world’s largest confectionery, food and beverage companies. Their products and brands, including  Cadbury, Philadelphia and Oreo fill the shelves in shops and supermarkets all over the world.

So what’s it like to be a chemical engineer at Mondelez?

Are they the modern day Willy Wonkas? Check out the videos and find out for yourselves:

(1) Chemical engineers at Mondelez work out new and inventive ways to produce more with less

Benjamin Hodges, a graduate trainee at the Mondelez Bourneville factory in Birmingham, UK, talks about the demands on a chemical engineer in the food industry – from reducing waste  to increasing raw material yield:

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Five great reasons to be a chemical engineer at BP

Earlier this week, we launched the first in a new series of ChemEngProfiles video blogs.  Our good friends at Syngenta started the ball rolling and you can check out their stories in ‘Five great reasons to be a chemical engineer at Syngenta‘. But it’s not only chemical engineers at Syngenta who want to share their passion for the profession and we’ve got lots more in the pipeline.

BP logo - BP Hummingbird...Today we’re featuring a diverse group of chemical engineers from BP – an IChemE Gold Corporate Partner and one of the word’s six ‘supermajor’ energy companies.

We’re all familiar with the big energy challenges confronting humanity 21st century. Chemical engineers are on the front line in the battle to deliver affordable, secure and sustainable energy supplies and IChemE members at BP are no exception.

But don’t take our word for it, check out these video clips from the boys and girls at one of the world’s leading international oil and gas companies. 

(1) Protecting the planet by switching to biofuels

Aidan Hurley is a Chief process safety engineer at BP Alternative Energy. Here he’s talking about his work with biofuels and how, as a chemical engineer, he is developing solutions to the challenges associated with energy including climate change:

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Five great reasons to be a chemical engineer at Syngenta

You’ll probably know by now that IChemE exists to advance chemical engineering worldwide and the reason is a simple one – chemical engineering matters. As such, it’s important  to highlight some areas where the Institution and its 42,000 members make a difference.

Graduation hatsThe first is to inspire the next generation of chemical engineers, particularly young women. Because let’s face it, who else is going to solve the grand challenges of the 21st century and beyond?  And the more diverse the chemical engineering workforce, the better.

Next, we need to promote the wide variety of careers available within the broad spectrum of chemical engineering to improve graduate retention in the process industries.

Finally, we need to stress the importance of achieving chartership and continuing professional development (CPD) throughout a fruitful and rewarding chemical engineering career.

And what better way to do this than to hear it straight from the horse’s mouth? Through our ChemEngProfiles videos, you can listen to our members share their passion for chemical engineering.

syngenta bannerToday’s blog focusses on what it’s like to be a chemical engineer at Syngenta – one of the world’s leading agrochemical companies and also one of IChemE’s Bronze Corporate Partners.

So without further ado, here’s five reasons to be a chemical engineer at Syngenta:

(1) You can be responsible for making a process profitable

Dan Clarke, a process engineer at Syngenta, explains how chemical engineers are usually the ones who make a process profitable. Listen to him talk agitators, scale-up and scale down here:

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ChemEng makes the wheels go round

Photo Credit | Radu Razvan / Shutterstock.com

Photo Credit | Radu Razvan / Shutterstock.com

Over the last few years, cycling has seen a meteoric rise in both popularity and participation. Its most gruelling and testing competition, the Tour De France, drew to a close last month with another British victory.

So it seems quite apt to share how chemical engineering plays a part in this sport.

The phrase ‘chemical engineering in cycling’ may raise a few eyebrows. Indeed, some of the ways in which competitors have broken the rules can be – if you’re able to discount the morality of the outcome – seen as impressive feats of human engineering.

I’m sure you’ve heard of blood doping, where athletes improve their aerobic capacity and endurance through either one of the two following ways:

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Your ChemEng research round-up: June 2015

Since ChemEng365, our new ChemEng blog has become a little quiet – except for a last minute hurrah from Geoff Maitland, see his guest blog ‘Five of our Past President’s favourite ChemEng365 blogs‘.

lightbulbThe ChemEng365 campaign concluded at the end of May when Geoff’s term as president ended. But of course, all the amazing chemical engineering research and innovation still goes on. So, it seems only fitting to give you a research round-up on all things chemical and process engineering for the month of June – just in case you missed anything!

Injectable hydrogel could help wounds heal more quickly

A team of chemical engineers from the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), US, have a developed a material that creates an instant, superior scaffold that allows new tissue to latch on and grow within the cavities formed between linked spheres of gel.

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Five of our Past President’s favourite ChemEng365 blogs

IChemE’s immediate past president, Geoff Maitland, handed over the presidential chains to Dr Andrew Jamieson at the end of May. You can read about this year’s presidential address by Andrew here.

So to kick-start our new ChemEng blog, the blog elves thought it only appropriate to welcome back blog-elf-in-chief and ChemEng365 blogger, Geoff Maitland, to pick his top five blogs from the past year.


geoff maitlandName: Geoff Maitland
Job: Professor of Energy Engineering
Course: Chemistry, University of Oxford, UK
Graduated: 1969
Employer: Imperial College London, UK

Quote startLast month saw my last ever ChemEng365 blog posted online. It was both a sad and happy day for me. Sad that my time as IChemE president and blogger was over, but happy that we have managed to achieve so much and reach so many people in just 365 days.

To keep that momentum going, I hope you will join me in supporting IChemE’s blog elves as they re-launch the blog as – the ChemEng blog (the name was voted for in my recent poll – see ‘Tell me your thoughts on IChemE’s blogging future #ChemEng365’).

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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!

One year, 365 days blogging as IChemE President (Day 365)

And then there was one…

Andrew Jamieson, IChemE President 2015-2016; and myself, Geoff Maitland, IChemE President 2014-2015

(L-R) Dr Andrew Jamieson, IChemE President 2015-2016; and myself, Geoff Maitland, IChemE President 2014-2015

Well here we are. It’s the final day of the ChemEng365 blog and last night I handed over the chains of office to my successor, Dr Andrew Jamieson.

Aided and abetted by my team of loyal ‘blog elves’, it’s been quite a journey. But I hope you’ll agree with me that we’ve made a pretty good fist of my original ambition, which was to shine a light on chemical engineering on every single day of my presidency.

It’s been great fun and I trust that you have been impressed at the seemingly endless supply of chemical engineering good news that has been aired via my blog over the last twelve months.

The stories will remain here to provide an enduring resource for anyone who wants to find out more about what chemical engineers get up to. So when you come across someone who ought to know more about the profession, send them here!

The search box at the top of the page is a doorway to the richness and diversity of chemical engineering.

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Two disciplines: chemistry and chemical engineering matter together (Day 364)

Today is Day 364, the penultimate day of my blog and just two days left to shine a light on chemical engineering.

So I want to take the opportunity to talk about the important relationship between chemistry and chemical engineering before time runs out on ChemEng365.

Element cubesMy most popular blog over the course of this year has been ‘Ten differences between chemistry and chemical engineering’ and I hope that this has helped to clarify the differences between the disciplines.

However, it is also important to note that chemistry and chemical engineering are interdependent and must work together. I have made it part of my focus as president of IChemE to build further on our strong relationship with the Royal Society of Chemistry (RSC).

I am proud to have started out my career studying chemistry at the University of Oxford, UK, however, I am also now proud to be a chemical engineer and to have spent my presidential year promoting the fact that chemical engineering matters.

But let’s not forget that chemistry matters too.

So I’m going to use today’s blog to highlight two world-changing collaborations between chemists and chemical engineers, which illustrate the importance of the relationship really is.

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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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