Chemical engineers gathered at Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh this week for the annual ChemEngDay conference. ChemEngDay was initiated to facilitate networking between chemical engineers in the academic community, and this year was the first time it has been held in Scotland.
116 chemical engineering academics, researchers, PhD students and industry experts came together to share insight and knowledge under the following themes:
• bioprocessing and biotechnology;
• catalysis and novel materials;
• particulate technology;
• process modelling and simulation; and
• sustainable industry.
IChemE joined Aramco, Armfield, GUNT Technology and PA Hilton to exhibit at the conference and to speak to the academic community to learn more about their work and how these chemical engineers are helping provide solutions to global challenges.
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.
It 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?
Lithium ion batteries are used in a wide range of applications and technologies. As it happens; if you are reading my blog on a smartphone, laptop or tablet, you are probably holding one right now. From mobile phones to electric cars, Li-ion batteries are all around us, but how do we make sure they are safe?
As I have remarked previously in my blog ‘Bulletproof batteries‘, there are significant safety issues associated with Li-ion batteries. In 2013, a problem with overheating batteries forced airlines to ground their Boeing 787 ‘Dreamliner’ aircraft, after reports of batteries bursting into flames.
The use of Li-ion batteries is becoming more wide-spread. So we need to gain a better understanding of the hazards and risks associated with their use.
I didn’t originally plan on becoming a biochemical engineer. The main bulk of my applications through UCAS were to study medicine – my dad was a GP and perhaps it was an expected route for me to take.
But one of my applications was to study biochemical engineering and to be honest, at that time, I didn’t really know what it was. I chose biochemical over chemical engineering because I was more interested in the pharmaceutical aspect of the discipline.
At my UCAS interview, I felt as if I was being recruited. I don’t recall being asked a lot of questions, but instead being drawn into a world of ‘what if’. What if experimental procedures such as gene therapy or biofuels were successful? And how could I, as a biochemical engineer, be part of the solution?
I am always impressed by the ingenuity of our chemical engineering community to find ways to communicate about our work, so when I was contact by Erik Engebretsen a member of a team of PhD students, lecturers and industrial partners based at UCL (University College London) about their public engagement work I was immediately interested.
In 2011 the idea to start the initiative came from a suggestion by Ralph Clague and Ellen Dowell (the curator of Einstein’s Garden at the Green Man Festival) that it could be possible to power a small tent of electronics at Green Man using just green energy.
Ralph then began searching for UCL students interested in taking on the idea as a summer project, aiming to find a way to build a hydrogen cell system that could provide emission free power for Einstein’s garden.
Separations in manufacturing can be challenging and energy intensive. For many products, careful removal of impurities is essential to the formulation of the end product – particularly areas such as pharmaceuticals.
With the growth in biochemical engineering and biopharmaceuticals, the challenge of bio separation is also being more widely addressed. In some mixtures, there are the issues of multi-component separations.
Biopharmaceuticals include proteins and other large molecules which may require complex chromatographic separations. Purification of biopharmaceuticals can account for 50-80% of the total cost of production and is often considered the bottleneck in the process.
Many people won’t look beyond jewelry and coinage for the most important usage of precious metals, but chemical engineers know that precious metals like gold, silver, platinum, palladium, rhodium, ruthenium, iridium and osmium have many more valuable uses.
Solar and other fuel cells, batteries, electronics, drugs, after shaves, bandages and even traditional photography have some reliance on precious metals.
Of particular interest to chemical engineers are their uses as chemical catalysts. But, being precious, chemical reactions that require large volumes of the metals are naturally going to be expensive and unsustainable.
One of the solutions is to use computational modeling below the nanoscale level to design more efficient and affordable catalysts from gold. And a transatlantic alliance of three universities have collaborated to achieve just that.
If you’ve ever had a tropical aquarium there’s a good chance you’ll have owned and been delighted by the vibrant colours of a darting Zebrafish.
What you may not know is that the Zebrafish has become a firm favourite of the research community. One reason for this is that Zebrafish embryos are completely transparent making them ideally suited for studying developmental processes as they occur.
As a general introduction to why Zebrafish are so attractive to the science community, take a look at this YouTube video produced by University College London (UCL).