I was born in Stoke-on-Trent in the 1940s where my father worked for Podmore and Sons, which made and processed raw materials like clays and glazes for the pottery industry.
My father’s connection to Podmore and Sons opened a door to some summer vacation work and it became my first exposure to both industrial chemistry and engineering. The rest is history.
Today, many people are undoubtedly attracted by the excellent pay, travel and simple job satisfaction from working in some of the fascinating and important industries which form the building blocks of the modern world.
Continue reading What made you become a chemical engineer? (Day 11)
One of my first privileges as president is to present medals to some outstanding people at IChemE’s Annual General Meeting (AGM).
The Institution has been awarding medals since 1928 when the Osborne Reynolds medal (now known as the Arnold Greene medal) was presented to former IChemE president Sir Alexander Gibb.
In 2013, over 20 individuals and organisations were honoured for their achievements and exceptional work across all aspects of chemical, process and biochemical engineering.
Continue reading A roll of honour (Day 10)
Most of my blog entries are about celebrating the achievements of chemical engineers now. But 6 June 2014 marks the 70th anniversary of the D-Day landings, when British, US and Canadian forces invaded the coast of Northern France in Normandy. It was the biggest amphibious assault in military history.
It was also a point in history when chemical engineers made a major contribution, which could easily be forgotten, that we should remember with pride.
The landings were the first stage of Operation Overlord – the invasion of Nazi-occupied Europe – and were intended to bring World War Two to an end.
Continue reading D-Day: a day chemical engineers should remember (Day 9)
An international collaboration of researchers in Germany, Netherlands and the US have used chemical engineering principles to track single molecules inside living cells with carbon nanotubes.
Chemical engineers from Rice University and biophysicists from Georg-August Universität Göttingen and VU University Amsterdam found that cells stir their interiors using the same motor proteins that serve in muscle contraction. The study, which sheds new light on biological transport mechanisms in cells, was published in Science.
Continue reading Stirring stuff (Day 9)
I had an interesting message from IChemE member and MediaEnvoy Keith Plumb overnight.
It covers a sensitive and sometimes controversial issue – the growth of human population – but he also points out the power of individuals to make a difference.
Using Keith’s words he says: “The elephant in the room with respect to climate change is the growth of the human population. I used to think that chemical engineers could do little until I read an article about a man in India who developed a simple machine for making sanitary towels.”
Continue reading Elephants in the room? (Day 8)
Some estimates suggest around a billion scrap tyres are produced every year.
Many countries have legislation controlling their disposal and there are several ways they can be re-cycled, such as for mats and ‘soft’ protective flooring in children’s play grounds. They even have potential as a source of energy.
But they remain problematic due to their sheer volume.
Continue reading A Tyred old problem (Day 8)
3D printing has made mainstream news in recent years and there are regular reports of fascinating products being produced by this quickly developing technology.
Last week there was a story about researchers at the University Medical Centre Utrecht experimenting using stem cells in 3D bio-printing. The result could be 3D printed body parts.
The materials used in 3D printing are important to the whole process.
Continue reading Stronger 3D printing (Day 7)
There’s lots of ways to advance chemical engineering worldwide, individually and collectively.
One of the best ways is to demonstrate technical excellence and leadership of your peers; to achieve distinction; to make a significant contribution to the profession. In other words, achieve Fellowship.
To become a Fellow of the Institution of Chemical Engineers is a tremendous achievement. Today, I am pleased to announce 29 new names to our list of around 2,900 Fellows across the world.
Continue reading Three cheers for our new Fellows (Day 6)
Forty years ago, today, the explosion at the Flixborough Nypro Chemicals site near Scunthorpe, UK, killed 28 people and injured 36 others.
It resulted in the almost complete destruction of the plant. Further afield, the blast injured another 53 people and caused extensive damage to around 2,000 buildings.
With the exception of the Buncefield fire in 2005, it remains the biggest post war explosion in the UK.
At the time there were no specific UK regulations to control major industrial hazards. The incident also exposed weaknesses in the understanding of hazards, the design of buildings, management systems and organisation.
Continue reading Flixborough remembered (Day 5)
As a professor of energy engineering at Imperial College London you would expect me to have a passion for education and a desire for learning. Hopefully, they are virtues we pass on to our students, which they hold throughout their careers.
But once students leave and enter the world of work their employers become pivotal to their continuing professional development.
And that’s why IChemE set-up its Corporate Partner initiative. The scheme publicly recognises organisations that invest significantly in their chemical engineering talent.
Continue reading It’s all about talent management (Day 4)
The alchemy of wine-making is centuries old. Many traditional methods are still used and the subtle aromas, delicate tastes and overall drinking experiences of fine wines are valued and celebrated all over the world.
But that doesn’t stop inventive engineers taking a fresh look at wine production in their quest to reduce costs and improve efficiencies.
Connoisseurs of sparkling wines will know that part of the process involves a secondary fermentation to produce the bubbles and a period of up to 60 days to allow the waste yeast to collect in the neck of the bottle. To remove the yeast, the bottle neck is plunged into freezing liquid and the frozen yeast extracted with the aid of the internal pressure in the bottle produced by CO2.
Continue reading Magnets and wine (Day 3)
Biofuels are the cause of much debate and they are controversial in many parts of the world for their displacement of agricultural crops.
However, new analysis in the US suggests that biofuels from algae is more efficient than some other sources of biomass and, importantly, can be grown on untillable land. They believe that land not suitbale for farming in countries like Brazil, Canada, China and the U.S. could be used to produce enough algal biofuel to supplement more than 30 percent of their fuel consumption.
Continue reading Fuel from barren land? (Day 2)
After winning three trophies, including the top prize, at last year’s IChemE Global Awards in Bolton, Queen’s University Belfast has been named among the winners of the prestigious Royal Society of Chemistry (RSC) Awards for its ground-breaking work in removing harmful mercury from natural gas.
The technology developed by Queen’s University Ionic Liquid Laboratories (QUILL), in partnership with PETRONAS, is being used to produce mercury-free natural gas at two PETRONAS plants in Malaysia.
Continue reading IChemE Award winners… win again (Day 2)
We’ve heard a lot about Graphene in recent years and it’s an area which is promising a revolution in electrical and chemical engineering
Graphene is the world’s thinnest material. It is a potent conductor, extremely lightweight, chemically inert and flexible with a large surface area. It could be the perfect candidate for high capacity energy storage.
It’s an opportunity the University of Manchester, UK, is looking to exploit in the coming years.
Continue reading Graphene revolution for chemical engineering (Day 1)
Communication is a central theme of my presidential year and I want us all to be more active in emphasising to those outside our profession the value of chemical engineering as an agent of ‘change for good’.
Be it with government, NGOs or the general public, we engineers are not as effective as we might be at conveying what we do, what needs doing and what we could do to get that done.
Let me try to illustrate what I mean by taking my own area of future energy and climate change avoidance as an example. Although great progress has been made in convincing governments and the public that climate change is a reality (with some obvious sceptical exceptions), convincing them of the need to respond quickly enough and on a large enough scale to avoid its catastrophic consequences is proving very difficult.
Continue reading Time for chemical engineers to speak out (Day 1)
It is a great honour to serve as the Institution’s 74th President and I look forward to a busy and exciting year.
I would also like to congratulate my predecessor, Judith Hackitt, for her leadership and outstanding ambassadorial work for the chemical engineering profession over the past 12 months.
Chemical engineers have a key role to play in addressing major global challenges concerning energy, water, food and health and Chemical Engineering Matters, IChemE’s technical strategy, enables its members to make a contribution to these key issues wherever they are. It’s a message I will repeat throughout my presidency and it should underpin all our activities.
Continue reading ChemEng365 is launched (Day 1)