An Imperial College London PhD student turned co-founder of sustainable solutions company Chrysalix Technologies, chemical engineer Florence Gschwend is passionate about creating a clean future for all.
It’s her company’s initiative the BioFlex Process – a process that turns thousands of tonnes of unused biomass material, including agricultural residues, energy crops and waste construction wood, into new raw material – that won her the Younger Researcher Award at the IChemE Global Awards 2019.
To mark World Environment Day today (5 June), we’re sharing Florence’s story. In this video Florence explains more about how she and her colleagues are scaling up this sustainable technology and why she was delighted to be crowned the category winner at the IChemE Global Awards.
Do you know a young researcher who is using their technical knowledge to help address important economic, environmental or social issues?
Why not nominate them for the Young Researcher Award. Nominations are open now. The deadline for entries has been extended until 10 July 2020.
Science and engineering research is key to innovation as society evolves. Breakthroughs are happening every day, all over the world, in laboratories and in field research.
Assessing the quality of research in UK higher education institutions, evaluating its impact to ensure world-class, dynamic and responsive studies are maintained, and providing accountability for public investment is a big job – and one carried out by the Research Excellence Framework (REF).
Awarding Chartered Chemical Engineer status is just one of the ways we aim to be the organisation of choice for chemical engineers. We do it because we think hard-working, competent, professional chemical engineers should be recognised and provided with a mark of trust.
Okay so easy is the wrong word to describe it, because the hard-work you put in as a chemical engineer is what makes you eligible for Chartered status. It carries a lot of weight those letters after your name, they signify that you are an engineer who has the technical knowledge, practical experience, and training to be a trustworthy professional.
But trust us, the process to get there is actually pretty straight-forward. First, watch the below video, then read the 10 steps for a bit more detail – and let us know what you think in the comments.
COP22, or the 22nd Conferences of Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), has come to an end. Billed as the ‘COP of action’ by UNFCCC Executive Secretary Patricia Espinosa, an estimated 25,000 people descended on Marrakech, Morocco to start the process of implementing the Paris Agreement.
However, COP22 had a lot to live up to, following the historic result of the Paris Agreement at the conclusion of COP21. All the countries of the world were invited to attend COP22, but only the countries who had ratified the Paris Agreement had decision- making authority.
The Marrakech 22nd Conference of Parties ran from 7-18 November 2016. It was also the 12th Conference of the Parties serving as the Meeting of the Parties to the Kyoto Protocol (CMP 12), and the 1st Conference of the Parties serving as the Meeting of the Parties to the Paris Agreement (CMA 1).
The event looked at practical solutions to implementing the Paris Agreement, with the help of chemical engineers and financial institutions. Dr Rachael Hall, from the Energy Centre Board, gave the first presentation, an overview of deployment technologies available to mitigate climate change. Rachael outlined pathways to a zero-carbon economy, as demonstrated in IChemE’s technical policy document Chemical Engineering Matters.
Mark Apsey, also a Board member of the Energy Centre, gave his presentation on the pathways for organisations to deliver energy efficiency projects. Outlining various ‘road blocks’ to implementing greener energy solutions, Mark made it clear that he felt that more needed to be done to incentivise delivery.
COP22’s interesting side-event programme was jam-packed, and this year saw an increased focus on technology solutions for and the investment required to mitigate climate change.
Mark said: “From IChemE’s perspective Chemical Engineering Matters has been created to not just cover energy, but water, food, and wellbeing – which are really trying to look at the whole system, as well as specific solutions to energy problems”.
The UNFCCC needs more chemical engineers at the table proposing feasible solutions for mitigating climate change and applying a systems thinking approach to the implementation of the Paris Agreement.
COP22 was also Ban Ki-moon’s last COP conference. The Secretary-General of the United Nations until the end of the year, he spoke about the success in ratifying the Paris Agreement, which was announced just last month: “Countries have strongly supported the Agreement because they realize their own national interest is best secured by pursuing the common good. Now we have to translate words into effective policies and actions. This is critical to protect our planet, safeguard the most vulnerable and drive shared prosperity. Low-emission development and climate resilience will advance all the Sustainable Development Goals”.
An inspirational figure in the fight against climate change, Ban Ki-moon’s presence will be missed.
The aim of COP22 was to spend the conference working out a clear work plan for achieving the targets set in the Paris Agreement, however the UN has set a target of 2018 to have these plans finalised. This meant that a large proportion of COP22 was spent ‘fleshing out’ the Agreement’s fine print. This included financial support, which will have a massive impact on developing nations. Much of this year’s discussions surrounded the funding gap to research, and scale-up and implementation of the technology solutions to reduce carbon emissions.
During the CMA plenary, parties adopted the agenda and the organisation of work. UNFCCC Executive Secretary Patricia Espinosa reported that, as of 16 November 2016, 110 parties to the Convention had deposited their instruments of ratification, acceptance, approval or accession to the Paris Agreement, representing more than half of Convention parties (at time of writing this figure is now at 111).
Ibrahim Thiaw, Deputy Executive Director, UN Environment, said that the current pledges are insufficient to reach the Paris Agreement’s goals, but cited opportunities to “bend the emissions curve.” This means that we have to act now to ensure we implement climate mitigation strategies. Chemical engineers have a key role to play in solution implementation and applying systems-thinking.
During the conclusion of COP22 there was some exciting news, 47 countries from the Climate Vulnerable Forum committed to going 100% renewable as they adopted the ‘Marrakech Vision’.
Almost 200 countries gathered in Marrakech to work out the details of implementing the Paris Agreement. This deal established the overarching global goals for tackling climate change, but didn’t include the detail of how we get there. This left COP22 with a lot of complicated work to do.
Despite being billed as the COP of action, COP22 was instead the COP of discussing the next steps required to implement the Paris Agreement. However, this was a very necessary step if we are to successfully halt catastrophic climate change.
You can read the latest version of the COP22 proceedings by following this link.
If you were at COP22 please get in touch and tell us how your work is saving the planet.
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.”
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 26, a 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.
“You edit a magazine about chemical engineering?” repeated the man fixing my washing machine, “Blimey, that sounds really boring!”
It’s refreshing to meet someone so willing to wear their heart on their sleeve, and of course all the more pleasing to have spent the next half hour proving him completely wrong. The truth is that chemical engineering touches almost every aspect of our lives, it’s just that so few of us realise it.
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.
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:
Name: Chris Short Job: Consultant and Chartered Chemical Engineer Company: Chris Short Water Quality (previously Yorkshire Water) Special Interest Group: Water, Chairman
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.
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?
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.
The 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.
At 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 CO2 concentrations 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.
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.
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.
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.
Today 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:
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.
The 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.
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:
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.
Name: Geoff Maitland Job: Professor of Energy Engineering Course: Chemistry, University of Oxford, UK Graduated: 1969 Employer: Imperial College London, UK
Last 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.
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!
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.
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.
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:
Thermodynamicsis 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!
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.
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?
I 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.
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
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!
Today is Day 358, and there are just eight days left to shine a light on chemical engineering. One of the driving motives behind this blog has been to find ways to make chemical engineering more accessible to a wider audience.
We sometimes struggle when we have to explain our work to non-chemical engineering friends and family. But I think I know how to do this and over the years I have found a variety of useful examples to help get the point across.
Here are my eight simple ways to demystify chemical engineering to your friends and family:
1. Turn the lights off
This is probably the easiest way to demonstrate the power (if you’ll excuse the pun) of chemical engineering. So much of the work we do goes to provide electricity supplies for homes and business worldwide. Without chemical engineering, our lives would be much harder and a lot darker. Turn out the lights and challenge your audience to switch them on again without gas, oil, coal, nuclear or renewable power and a lot of chemical engineering.
Today is Day 357, meaning there are just nine days left to shine a light on chemical engineering. I thought today would be a good opportunity for me to select my nine favourite reasons why chemical engineering matters.
I really enjoyed the whiteboard messages that were written at the ChemEngDayUK 2015 conference held earlier this year in Sheffield, so I have chosen my favourite ‘I make a difference’ snapshots to share with you today.
Here are the nine people who use chemical engineering to make a difference:
1. Jon from the University of Bath who makes a difference “by providing safe water to developing countries”.
If you are reading this in the UK – still home to around half of IChemE’s members – I’m sure you are aware that a General Election is taking place today.
IChemE is politically neutral and it adopts an independent position on issues that are viewed as partisan. However, the institution believes that political decisions should be evidence-based and supported by the strongest possible input from the engineering community. That’s why it’s important to engage with politicians and to express a view.
So for today’s blog post, I’ve asked IChemE CEO, Dr David Brown, to share his thoughts on the need for chemical engineers to influence policymakers, not only in the UK but around the world.
Pollsters are predicting that this UK general election will be one of the closest in living memory. In the latest edition of tce (May 2015) I set out my election wish-list for the new UK government covering areas such as education, immigration and climate change.
Whatever the outcome of the election, the government that emerges will undoubtedly have an impact on many areas of the UK economy that rely on chemical and process engineers.
That’s why we need to engage in debates on public policy issues.
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.
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.
One 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.
They 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.