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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Here’s why chemical engineers make a difference (Day 318)

shout outOne 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.

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Yeast revealed as alternative to palm oil (Day 279)

palm oil fruit and oilPalm oil is widely used in the manufacture and production of food and cosmetics ranging from instant noodles to lipstick. This edible vegetable oil is also used to a lesser extent in biofuel production. Today, world production of palm oil and palm kernel oil is around 50 million tonnes per annum.

The oil palm is a very productive crop, and that’s why the two biggest producers of palm oil, Indonesia and Malaysia, can produce and process around 20 million tonnes each per year.

But, palm oil production attracts criticism the world over. Deforestation and the destruction of natural habitats, such as tropical rain forests, are some of the detrimental effects of palm oil plantations.

Palm oil has some very desirable properties, including an exceptionally high melting point and high saturation levels, so it’s easy to see why the palm oil industry isn’t slowing down, despite environmental and sustainability issues.

Researchers at the University of Bath, UK may have discovered a revolutionary palm oil substitute – yeast.

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Chemical engineering matters of the heart (Day 263)

I would have to say that I am a bit of a cynic when it comes to Valentine’s Day, whilst it is important that we show our love for those in our lives, I wonder if we need a set day of the year to do so.

However, in view of the occasion, today I thought I’d go down a different route.

virtual image of heartThe focal point of Valentine’s Day is celebrating the human heart. And whilst I (and science) would dispute the fact that our emotions develop here rather than in the brain, the heart is symbolic on this day of the year.

Our heart however is a vital organ and when it goes wrong, the consequences can be drastic.

Chemical engineers have also been involved in this struggle, with a particular focus on the materials and flow involved in understanding how blood circulates through the heart.

And so today, I am using today’s blog to highlight the work of a few chemical engineers who are focused on making our hearts beat.

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A new focus on water (Day 234)

Eye looking over waterWhen universities establish a new research centre it’s worth taking note.

Not just because it’s a way to further our knowledge, but, in the case of the University of Bath’s new Water Innovation and Research Centre (WIRC), it reflects the fact there are growing and significant challenges ahead.

The issues go well beyond the obvious of providing clean water for everyone – although with a growing population this will be hard enough.

The challenges include a completely fresh approach to using water more efficiently – whether it’s the treatment of our waste, use by industry, processing of our food or consumption at home.

WIRC has been established to provide a unique environment for conducting research into water technologies and resource management.

It’s a collaboration between the University of Bath and Wessex Water and has ambitions to contribute to future water policy and the development of innovative and integrated sustainable water treatment systems. Continue reading

Espresso fuel (Day 89)

Cooking FatDiesel, petrol and battery power are familiar ways to power our transport. LPG and natural gas are other alternatives.

But there are other more obscure (and sometimes less practical ways) to power vehicles.

Air, waste cooking oil, waste vegetables, beer and spirits, chocolate, nappies (diapers), sawdust, nuts, styrofoam and other waste or co-products all have the potential to fuel cars.

In fact, finding ways to convert industrial co-products into biofuel always seems a sensible and sustainable way to re-use our raw materials – especially for high volume commodities like coffee.

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Electronic bugging of the water variety (Day 79)

Water testing

Current water monitoring can be costly, time-consuming and require technical expertise.

Sharing new technology and developments, and making sure there is greater equality in its use across the world, requires political commitment.

But, arguably, making technological advancements that are affordable, especially for developing countries, is essential if it is to be deployed on a global scale.

So, I was really encouraged to read a story this week about something important to all of us – a new lower cost way of testing for water pollution and checking the quality of drinking water.

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