Spotlight on: Chemical Engineers and Horlicks #ichemeawards

111 GSK - imageTea, coffee, ice cream, chocolate, pizza – just some of our favourite foods and drinks that have been around for hundreds of years. Nearly all of them involve a process, and that process was probably refined and scaled-up by chemical engineers.

Horlicks is no different. It’s associated with bedtime in the UK, but in South Asia it’s the country’s number one health food drink.

GSK Consumer Healthcare are responsible for producing more than 150,000 tonnes of Horlicks every year, and up until recently were continuing to use the original 135-year-old process.

CKEVnTcUYAEql3W (002)GSK’s small technical team were tasked to fundamentally re-think the process, considering energy, water usage, and cost.

Previously only incremental changes had been made, due to concerns about negative consumer feedback. As a result, the team of chemical engineering put the consumer first – and through reverse-engineering took the product back to the fundamental flavour, protein and carbohydrate chemistry.

From there, the process could be re-assembled to optimise every step – from converting starch to sugar, to drying the product in to a powder. The results are astounding – with the team eliminating any water usage and reducing the amount of energy used by 80%. Both factors are extremely advantageous to Horlicks’ main market of India, and the energy saved in the process alone could power 400,000 homes in the region. What’s more, the cycle time has been reduced from 18 hours to just 10 minutes.JR3C8371

And that’s what our profession is all about isn’t it? Or, as GSK’s Ben Jones puts it: “Chemical engineering matters because it is the bedrock of how we’re going to improve physical and chemical processes for the next generation.”

Ben was joined by Paul Heath at the IChemE Global Awards in November 2017 where they collected the Food and Drink Award for this project. The Award was presented by Nigel Hirst, on behalf of category sponsor – IChemE’s Food and Drink Special Interest Group.

Check out their reaction below:

The original team took five years to take this project from concept to pilot plant. Now the very same team is leading the construction of a full-scale commercial plant. What a fantastic achievement for all involved.

We’re delving into the pharmaceutical industry in our next ‘Spotlight’ piece, so don’t forget to swing by the IChemE blog tomorrow.

Are you feeling inspired to apply for the IChemE Global Awards 2018? Whether you would like to enter your own project, sponsor a category, or just attend to support your fellow professionals – register your interest here.

The IChemE Global Awards 2017 were held in Birmingham, UK on Thursday 2 November, held in partnership with Johnson Matthey and Wood.

Read the IChemE Global Awards 2017 Review


Spotlight on: Going Beyond Energy Neutrality in the North West #ichemeawards

179 United Utilities - imageThe world is becoming more focused on sustainability. For chemical engineers working in the water industry, sewage sludge is rapidly becoming a valuable resource that can be reused for a variety of purposes.

In the North West of England, the Davyhulme Treatment Works is one of the biggest wastewater treatment plants in the UK. It operates 24 hours a day, treating more than 30,000 litres of water a second. It also operates an integrated energy generation centre.

In 2015 the energy generation centre was turning 91,000 tonnes of sludge into 36 million Nm3 of biogas. The biogas generated 73,000 MWh of electricity per year – enough to run the entire works.

However, an opportunity arose to make the process more efficient. There was also a need to integrate a ‘biogas to grid’ solution – which would export excess energy to National Grid.  This is where a collaborative team of chemical engineers were needed.

JR3C8355Cue United Utilities, Jacobs and Laing O’Rourke – a collaborative team that had twelve months to take energy generation at Davyhulme to the next level. Working together, they delivered a solution that uses water scrubbing at medium to high pressures to process biogas and deliver a high grade biomethane product for supply to National Grid.

The design has delivered a carbon emissions reduction of 7,400 tonnes of CO2 per year, as well as financial benefits that will keep energy costs low for customers.  It also has a strong focus on operational flexibility – to manage demand of electricity, heat and green gas – with an option to produce green fuel in the future for transport.

5J5A5851A great deal has been achieved by the team, particularly in the timescale. According to United Utilities Pat Horne: “On 11 March we had to commission this plant within two weeks. From a chemical engineering point of view, we turned it on, it worked – from start to finish within 24 hours. To see something come from paper to reality in one day was fantastic.”

There was a triumphant whoop from the floor when we announced this project had won the Energy Award at the IChemE Global Awards in November 2017. We just managed to get them all on stage, as they were presented with the trophy by Lee Greenlees, Design Manager at Rolls-Royce, who sponsored the Energy Award.

Watch our interview with some of the team, and find out more about the works:

It’s also been great to see United Utilities engaging with the local community around this project. They have invested £48,000 in community parks, centres, and education, and visited several schools around the Davyhulme plant to get them excited about engineering.

Join us tomorrow when the spotlight is on that favourite British bedtime drink – Horlicks!

Are you feeling inspired to apply for the IChemE Global Awards 2018? Whether you would like to enter your own project, sponsor a category, or just attend to support your fellow professionals – register your interest here.

The IChemE Global Awards 2017 were held in Birmingham, UK on Thursday 2 November, held in partnership with Johnson Matthey and Wood.

Read the IChemE Global Awards 2017 Review

Spotlight on: Vaccination Research at University of Bath #ichemeawards

Ensilicated proteins in powder form Credit University of BathEvery year millions of people around the world die from vaccine preventable diseases. Why?

Well, researchers at the University of Bath, led by Dr Asel Sartbaeva found that keeping vaccines cold was the one of the biggest challenges in transporting these vital medicines around the world.

If the proteins in vaccines reach a temperature above 8ºC they can become ineffective and unusable – and in some cases, even toxic.

As a result, vaccination levels are 16% lower in low-income countries compared to the developed world, in part, because they do not have the electricity, infrastructure or equipment to store and transport these vital medicines.

To help tackle this challenge, Asel and her team have developed a method called ‘ensilication’ which involves encasing vaccines in silica to protect the proteins, and eliminate the need for refrigeration.


The technology has been several years in development, and as well as helping millions of people around the world, it is also highly sustainable. The material is non-toxic and biocompatible, and the elimination of refrigeration ultimately reduces the environmental burden of generating power to run medical fridges.

As Asel says: “It’s very important because today we don’t deliver vaccines to millions of people. In fact, statistically more than 7 million people die around the world from vaccine-preventable diseases.”

This amazing project won an IChemE Global Award in November 2017, under the category ‘Biotechnology’. Asel collected the Award from Peter Farrelly, Managing Director of PM Group – category sponsor.

Watch her reaction and find out more about the project in our short video:

What’s more, just one week after getting her IChemE gong, Dr Asel Sartbaeva was awarded the Women in Science and Engineering (WISE) World Award for her vaccinations project. Congratulations Asel!

Come back tomorrow when we’ll be shining the spotlight on another 2017 IChemE Global Award winner.

Are you feeling inspired to apply for the IChemE Global Awards 2018? Whether you would like to enter your own project, sponsor a category, or just attend to support your fellow professionals – register your interest here.

The IChemE Global Awards 2017 were held in Birmingham, UK on Thursday 2 November, held in partnership with Johnson Matthey and Wood.

Read the IChemE Global Awards 2017 Review

IChemE in Numbers: a 2017 round-up

cropped-ar1.jpgIChemE’s offices close from today until 2 January 2018. It’s been a busy year, and in today’s blog post we take a look at some of the highlights in numbers.

Remember, our Annual Review is published in May 2018 – giving a comprehensive overview of IChemE’s 2017 activities and achievements. Check out the Annual Review archive here. 

We look forward to working with you in 2018. If you are a volunteer, thank you for your support. If you have engaged with us, if you have attended our events, if you have joined the conversation via this blog or social media – thanks for helping us to advance chemical engineering worldwide.

Season’s Greetings and best wishes for 2018.

Continue reading IChemE in Numbers: a 2017 round-up

Recognising excellence in chemical engineering research #ichemeawards

It’s Friday, and the final stage of our IChemE Global Awards winners round-up. We hope you’ve enjoyed the posts this week, and learnt a little more about each of our winners.


Today we are shining a light on the research superstars of the Awards. IChemE has always maintained strong ties with the academic community, supporting the host of ChemEngDayUK each year and accrediting courses. We also do proactive work with our UK Research Committee, who last night launched ten chemical engineering research case studies that have had a significant impact on the UK economy. Read all about the research event, held in Parliament, here.

So, on to the winners and the final three IChemE Global Awards videos, produced in association with Morgan Sindall. All these winners have demonstrated fantastic research capability, but most importantly their studies have a real-world application that can really make a difference.

Enjoy these final three videos, and season’s greetings to all our members worldwide.

Continue reading Recognising excellence in chemical engineering research #ichemeawards

Celebrating chemical engineering achievement in sustainability #ichemeawards

5j5a3287It’s time for another round -up of our IChemE Global Awards 2016 winners, and this time we’re focusing on sustainability.

In our modern world projects that deliver a sustainability benefit are usually successful. In fact, all our winners this year have demonstrated some kind of sustainable element in their work. Whether it’s taking on large projects, developing products for poor communities, or innovating to change lives.

But these winners have put sustainability at the heart of what they do. Pushing the limits to find the most environmentally-friendly way of doing things, some of them are also very young companies – and ones to watch in the future.

So please take a look at the following three winners videos, and as always thanks to Morgan Sindall for helping us to produce them.

Continue reading Celebrating chemical engineering achievement in sustainability #ichemeawards

Tackling big chemical engineering projects #ichemeawards

We are now midway through our round up of this year’s IChemE Global Awards 2016 winners. Produced in association with Morgan Sindall, we have got a special interview video for every single winner.


So far we have seen some life-changing products that will make a difference all over the world, as well as chemical engineering projects designed to benefit resource-poor communities in developing countries.

Today we go to the big projects in chemical engineering that require strategy, innovation and teamwork. These winners are demonstrating great chemical engineering in its purest form. All of the projects below have demonstrated a key chemical engineering skill, systems thinking, and a drive for achieving the best results.

Take a look at their work below and don’t forget to leave a comment.

Continue reading Tackling big chemical engineering projects #ichemeawards

Chemical engineering matters for the developing world #ichemeawards

Thanks for joining us for round two of our blog series, celebrating the very worthy winners of the IChemE Global Awards 2016. With help from our friends at Morgan Sindall we have produced a video for every category, and each one includes a special interview with the winners.


Yesterday we looked at some life-changing products, and the theme remains the same in today’s post. However today’s products have a little something extra – they have been specially designed to help tackle a problem in low-middle income countries.

This goes to show that chemical engineering really does matter, and that the work of chemical engineers doesn’t just make our lives easier – it is solving some of the world’s biggest poverty issues.

Enjoy the three videos below, and stay tuned the rest of the week when we reveal even more winning projects.

Continue reading Chemical engineering matters for the developing world #ichemeawards

Chemical engineering creates products that are changing lives #ichemeawards

Last month the IChemE Global Awards 2016 were held in Manchester, UK, in one of the biggest celebrations of chemical engineering achievement worldwide. Our judges had a difficult task narrowing down 16 winners from 120 amazing finalists.jr3c3275

The ceremony was held at the Principal Hotel and welcomed over 400 guests from around the world to recognise and celebrate chemical engineering success stories.

For many, success doesn’t end after collecting a trophy, but marks the starting point on a journey to excellence. An IChemE Award can take you to some unexpected places, make commercialisation easier, help to develop your team or grow your portfolio. You could even get a letter from the US President. 

So every day this week we’ll be dedicating special blog posts to the 2016 Award winners and their innovative, fascinating, problem-solving projects. With the fantastic support of Morgan Sindall we have produced a video for every one – enjoy!

Continue reading Chemical engineering creates products that are changing lives #ichemeawards

IChemE Global Awards success stories that make you proud to be a chemical engineer

Awards Global logo_webRecently we announced the finalists for the IChemE Global Awards 2016. The ceremony takes place on 3 November in Manchester, UK – and we can’t quite believe how quickly Awards season has come round again!

Each year our Awards judges have the tough task of narrowing down the hundreds of excellent entries to a select group of exceptional finalists for each category. We have seen some fantastic projects over the years, and 2015 was really special. 16 well-deserved winners were handed trophies at the Global Awards evening, which took place on 5 November 2015 in Birmingham, UK.

Read on to find out what some of our 2015 finalists have been up to since the ceremony, and re-cap some of the best moments of the night.

1. Ohio State University congratulated by President Obama 

Photo credit: Ohio State University (
Photo credit: Ohio State University (

Bharat Bhushan and Philip Brown from Ohio State University, US were awarded the Water Management and Supply Award in 2015. To win the award they developed a special mesh which uses a unique coating and tiny holes to separate oil from water. The ground-breaking work, designed to help clean up oil spills, was even noticed by the President of US, Barack Obama, who sent the researchers a congratulatory note.

Continue reading IChemE Global Awards success stories that make you proud to be a chemical engineer

Breakthrough for clean water in developing countries (Day 283)

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

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

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

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

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

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

Continue reading Breakthrough for clean water in developing countries (Day 283)

Thailand’s world first in waste (Day 275)

A shocking one-third of the food produced for human consumption – over a billion tonnes – is wasted every year – the United Nations tells us.

Global Water Engineering logo - GWE Chok...So you can imagine my delight when I learnt about the ground-breaking system developed by Global Water Engineering (GWE). Their system turns leftover cassava pulp into green energy using advanced anaerobic technology – and it does much more besides.

This certainly is another triumph for chemical engineering, and so it’s only fitting that GWE’s innovation earned them the IChemE Global Award for Energy back in November 2014.

Continue reading Thailand’s world first in waste (Day 275)

Hummingbird® propels biofuel technology into the 21st century (Day 272)

hummingbirdMany people share my passion for a world of cleaner transport. So I am excited by the amount of progress that has been made towards lower-emission fuels, especially in the domain of biofuels – fuels made from plants, other vegetable- and animal-derived materials.

In fact, the International Energy Agency‘s (IEA) technology roadmap for biofuels in transport suggests that, by 2050, biofuels could provide over a quarter of the world’s total transport fuel, and avoid around 2 gigatonnes of CO2 emissions per year.

Perhaps less obvious is the spread of bioplastics – plastics made from vegetable fats and oils, corn starch and other biomass sources – in the form of food and other packaging, crockery, cutlery, straws and more.

Bioplastics have non-disposable uses such as mobile phone casings, car interiors, and even medical devices. This is a fast growing market; I recently read a forecast predicting a doubling in biodegradable plastics alone from around UK£3.6 billion in 2015 to UK£8.2 billion in 2025.

BP logo - BP Hummingbird...For me, the IChemE global award-winning BP Hummingbird® project to develop a catalyst and process for converting bio-ethanol to ethylene is an excellent example of the ground-breaking chemical engineering that is bringing this cleaner, more cost-effective technology ever closer.

Continue reading Hummingbird® propels biofuel technology into the 21st century (Day 272)

Using innovation to solve problems quickly (Day 230)

One of the greatest skills of chemical engineers is their ability to innovate. But I am constantly amazed at all the new ideas and processes that are being developed.

United Utilities Logo

One that impressed me greatly was the winner of IChemE’s Global Water Management and Supply Award; a result of collaboration between United Utilities and KMI Plus.

This project succeeded in restoring the required design capacity to an important works which was suffering from process problems and reduced output.

They managed to do this while reducing the construction period from 30 to 10 months and achieved major cost savings.

The design and construction of the works included the latest thinking on rapid gravity filter process design and using pre-fabricated modular stainless steel units.

Continue reading Using innovation to solve problems quickly (Day 230)

A winning project – it’s the ‘white’ stuff (Day 179)

By now, I hope you are all aware that this blog has a single-minded purpose – to shine a light on chemical engineering and the profession by showcasing and sharing good news stories every day.

Recently, we celebrated all the great work chemical engineers are doing around the world at the IChemE Global Awards on 6 November 2014.

I blogged about the triumphant night, the winners and highly commended entries. But I didn’t get chance to share their innovations, projects and processes in much detail – apart from the overall winner.

I did, however, blog about one of the short-listed entries, preventing blindness with a sleep mask, before the event and I’m happy to report that they won the Innovative Product of the Year Award on the night – so congratulations to Polyphotonix!

Huntsman Pigments
Huntsman Pigments – winners of the Chemical Engineering Project of the Year Award

Another winner on the night was by Huntsman Pigments, based at their Greatham site in Hartlepool, UK, for their innovative project which improves titanium dioxide efficiency in the manufacture of titanium dioxide pigments.

They bagged the Chemical Engineering Project of the Year Award sponsored by Sellafield Ltd.

Continue reading A winning project – it’s the ‘white’ stuff (Day 179)

Five ways to have a successful research career (Day 169)

SuccessWhen I meet with up and coming chemical engineers – and via this blog – I often get asked for advice on what career route they should take.

My guidance is always to look at all the options; do your research; talk to family and friends; gain work experience if possible; and analyse your own strengths and weaknesses. In some cases you may even seek professional careers advice.

But, importantly, the decision must be yours, especially as it may prove to be the most dominant and consistent feature of your life for 50 years or more.

However, one of the options is a career in academia and I hope you find this information useful background to any decision you make.

Relatively few chemical engineering graduates continue on into further study; for example in the UK, 33.1 per cent of chemistry graduates carry out postgraduate study compared with 16.5 per cent of chemical engineering graduates.

Continue reading Five ways to have a successful research career (Day 169)

Shining a light on chemical engineering (Day 164)

IChemE Awards 2014Few professions have the power globally to shape and improve the future.

Chemical engineers have this privilege and this year’s IChemE Global Awards once again illustrated how our profession is setting new standards in healthcare, energy, water, safety and a more sustainable planet, including supporting some of the poorest people in the world.

The Awards finished just over an hour ago and it was a thoroughly enjoyable evening. IChemE was joined by nearly 500 people, who were treated to some excellent entertainment, food and the chance to mingle with colleagues and friends from around the world.

But, as always, the highlight of the evening was the awards and the chance to showcase some of the best chemical engineering talent, innovation and success from around the world.

And in 2014, the night belonged to Australasia, which collected a clutch of awards and highly commended entries, including the overall prize.

Continue reading Shining a light on chemical engineering (Day 164)

Preventing blindness with a sleep mask (Day 140)

The number of people who are diagnosed with diabetes around the world is approaching 400 million.

In the UK, there are 3.2 million people diagnosed with the condition and an estimated 630,000 people have it, but don’t know it. The cost of diabetes to the NHS is estimated to be about £10 billion a year overall, with £7.7 billion related to health complications and £2.1 billion spent on treatments.

Sleep Mask
PolyPhotonics’ Noctura 400 mask is shortlisted for an IChemE Global Award in 2014.

This is a huge amount of money, and with the World Health Organisation (WHO) predicting a 55 per cent increase by 2035 in people living with diabetes worldwide, the cost is only going to increase and put a strain on the already limited resources.

PolyPhotonix, a bio-photonic and OLED (organic light-emitting diode) research company headed up by  Richard Kirk, has developed an innovative product that can save the NHS up to £1 billion a year by preventing and treating diabetes retinopathy and age related macular degeneration.

Continue reading Preventing blindness with a sleep mask (Day 140)

Just horsing around (Day 120)

Horse race
Horse fungus may help produce biofuel. Photo credit – Dziurek |

You may have noticed that the IChemE Global Award finals are just around the corner.

It’s an anxious wait for the 70 or so shortlisted finalists until 6 November 2014. However, I hope to share with you some of their work and achievements in the coming weeks on this blog.

Some of you may have noticed that this year’s venue is Cheltenham Racecourse, Gloucestershire, UK.

They’ve been racing at Cheltenham since 1815 and today attracts huge crowds from all over the world for events like the Cheltenham Festival. It also has some fantastic facilities, which is why we’ll be there on 6 November with 500 guests.

But today’s blog illustrates that the ubiquitous chemical engineer operates even in the equine world – a chemical engineer has found fungi in the intestinal tracts and faeces of horses which could help produce biofuels from non-food plants.

Continue reading Just horsing around (Day 120)