This post comes from a group of our students who recently went to Bristol to explain some of their work to a mixed audience.
The Tobacco Factory in the heart of Bristol was the location of two recent talks on sustainability by CSCT PhD students. The students formed two panels to present their respective expertise at a recent Science Café event under the headings of “What’s in Your Shopping Bag?” and “Fuelling the Future”.
The first group involving Thomas Forder, Julia Griffin, Luke Williams, Rebecca Bamford and Will Reynolds spoke about the chemicals and elements that most people will encounter on a day-to-day basis, most likely without even realising it. This went on to address some of the negative preconceptions people might bear towards perfectly benign or indeed beneficial chemicals.
Lee Burton, Lisa Sargeant and Daniel Minett delivered the second talk discussing the ways in which we can move away from fossil fuels to cleanly and efficiently power the world of tomorrow. This included a variety of important topics ranging from climate change to renewable energies in the context of recent policy changes at home and abroad.
Both talks were followed by questions from the 40-strong audience leading to a wider dialogue between all participants, from retired professors to students with no scientific background.
Laura Walker, who co-ordinates the events, said she was “very impressed … with the high calibre of these students and the excellent talks they delivered … with confidence and clarity. The presentations were excellent and pitched exactly right for the diverse audience.”
The students also attracted the interest of others working to deliver science to a wider audience, including the director of Bristol based company My Future My Choice, Mr Hugh Thomas. Building on the successes of these events to further extend the impact of our science, the CSCT congratulates our students on their continued excellence in the field of public engagement.
DTC MRes student Marcus Johns brings us this report on the recent Global Sustainability Jam.
Sustainability Jam participants pitch their project idea
48 hours to create a brand-new real-world idea with a group of people you’ve never met before, could it happen? Being intrigued, I decided to find out.
This was the first Global Sustainability Jam to be run, building on the Global Service Jam, and the London event was one of 58 simultaneously run events across the world over the weekend of 2nd-4th November. The basic concept was to do rather than discuss and this immediately came across: we were given just over an hour from meeting the other members of our groups on Friday night to come up with a single idea to work on over the rest of the weekend, based on the theme of ((heart))beats.
Most people present at the event were designers of some form with the event doubling up as a networking event. Being a voluntary project, a number of people failed to turn up on the Saturday – for example, the group that I was in went from 9 people to 3. This wasn’t necessarily a bad thing as it helped us focus more than some of the other groups.
It was interesting to see how people perceived ‘sustainability’ – I may have been the only person who brought up the Brundtland definition – with most people talking about life-cycles of products and getting people involved with nature and their local community, and a number of people saying that they’d never heard of the word before.
Over the course of the weekend 244 separate projects were generated and presented across the globe, ranging from promoting the local community via bread baking to encouraging businesses to turn off their lights at night. The project I was involved with came up with an innovative way to deal with the two major problems with Barclays Bikes, namely the time taken to actually get a bike out and the lack of spaces or bikes at your location.
The weekend was an enjoyable experience albeit stressful – our initial idea was scrapped at 17:30 on the Saturday – and we have the option to continue with the projects in the future, which is an exciting prospect.
More information on the Global Sustainability Jam
Jess in the cockpit of an Airbus A400M
As recently mentioned on the CSCT news, DTC students Jessica Sharpe and Rhodri Jenkins won a trip to Farnborough Airshow as special guests of CSCT partner EADS.
Here's a short report on the experience from Jess:
On the 13th July, I attended Farnborough International Airshow as a guest of EADS after winning a poster competition. The morning was spent wandering around the various stalls and exhibitions, my favourite of which were a remote controlled robotic arm designed for use in space, an unmanned aerial vehicle display, and a talk from Paolo Nespoli, an astronaut who had travelled into space abroad the Space Shuttle Discovery.
From there I went to the EADS hospitality area, where I was provided with a fantastic lunch alongside members of the EADS Innovation Works UK. Following this, we got taken on private tours of the EADS aircraft, the Vulcan and the new A400M, and then were taken into the press
area where we could sit on the balcony and watch the flying displays. All in all it was a very successful day which I enjoyed greatly.
Students in the CSCT have been promoting their research as well as environmental awareness at the annual "Bath Taps Into Science" event. Following some general advice ("don't say 'Doctor'!"), the first-year DTC students planned and built their rigs around a CO2 theme. Practice runs led to a few modifications, and confidence was fairly high.
On Friday 9 March, local schools brought their classes to the Founders' Hall on the Bath University Campus. Lured by the gentle waves of dry ice from the "factory", school groups were spread along the CSCT stand. This culminated in the ever-popular "Make Your Own Bouncy Ball" table, which was present for the third year running. The other material was new: chemical and solid carbon capture, reducing our personal emissions, and efficient lighting.
Saturday 10 March was more leisurely at Green Park Station. There were many tangential conversations with members of the public, and a variety of family groups. There was also more socialising between various stands; students took the opportunity to get stuck into maths problems, build impossible objects and, inevitably, eat their way through the Farmers' Market.
In case you missed it, there will be a similar CSCT stand at the Cheltenham Science Festival, 12–17 June 2012.
EADS are a major force in the global aerospace and defence industry. They are fully committed to embedding sustainability into their company culture, with eco-efficiency as a core part of their corporate strategy.
Three PhD projects and two MRes projects this year are being supported by EADS, focusing on sustainable production of aircraft fuel. The investigations include:
- Production of lipids from yeasts and algae suitable as a feedstock for a biojet fuel;
- Chemical upgrading of biomass to produce high performance fuels and additives;
- Hydrogen storage on aircraft; and
- Pathways to dealing with on-aircraft emissions.
EADS are providing financial support, sponsoring student internships, granting access to a wide range of their partners and providing technical expertise and advice.
Professor John Price, Executive Advisor for EADS Innovation Works, holds full industrial membership of the DTC Strategic Advisory Board.
EADS values its longstanding relationship with the University. The DTC offers additional opportunities to build on this in key areas of sustainability, including:
- Alternative fuels, and effects of operating with them
- Renewable energy
- Advanced and novel energy storage
- Improved chemical processes to reduce waste and energy use
- Production from renewable feedstocks
EADS also anticipates opportunities for multidiscipline evolution of research within the university, enabling transfer of technology with other disciplines, industries and universities, perhaps exploiting links with existing high value projects and with established and new industry partners.
The Centre for Sustainable Chemical Technologies continued its on-going tradition of hosting world-leading symposia last week with “Photovoltaics— the future is bright”.
Over 100 registered attendees took part in the event, including staff and students from various departments of the University of Bath and even a few external visitors. Speakers ranged from theoretical chemists to process engineers from both industry and academia, providing insight into the scientific challenges and opportunities in one of the most active fields of science today.
The University of Bath’s very own Professor Laurie Peter wrapped up the day by returning focus to the principal theme of the centre: sustainability. Many issues experienced in the field were discussed, including the availability of elements and energy payback times, providing ample food for thought over delicious nibbles and drinks!
Special thanks are extended to the students who organised the event as well as all the speakers for making it such a success.
Responsive nanocapsules for detection and treatment of infection
This research fits under the "pharmaceutical and wellbeing" theme in the CSCT. In paediatric patients, the immune response to burn trauma is similar to that observed in infection, making infections in burns difficult to diagnose. Burns have the potential to kill the patient, through infection with a toxin producing strain of staphylococcus aureus resulting in toxic shock syndrome. Importantly, this outcome is unrelated to the size of the burn. To prevent scarring and promote healing, a ‘Biobrane’ silicone-collagen dressing must be left on for 12 days. Removal prior to this results in scarring for life. However, if infection is present the patient could die in less than 24 hours.
This project focuses on the development and stabilisation of responsive nanocapsules for detection and treatment of bacterial infections in paediatric burns. As shown in the image, a stable nanocapsule containing an antimicrobial and/or dye is attached to a scaffold; in the presence of non-pathogenic ‘friendly’ bacteria the nanocapsule does not respond, however, in the presence of pathogenic ‘unfriendly’ bacteria the nanocapsule is broken open and the antimicrobial and/or dye is released. This response will allow the released antimicrobial to attack the bacteria, and the dye signal the changes in the wound environment, allowing appropriate intervention, before infection takes hold.
Serena Marshall is in the first year of her PhD, studying "Responsive vesicles in an aqueous cream emulsion for dermatological applications". She is supervised by Dr Toby Jenkins in the Department of Chemistry.
Biodiesel has the potential to be an environmentally sustainable alternative fuel source for diesel engines. It is made by the transesterification of triglycerides, which are the main components in fats and oils. Transesterification is a chemical reaction which, in the case of biodiesel, leads to the long fatty acid chain being removed from the glycerol backbone of a triglyceride (fat) molecule and being replaced by an alkyl group from a short chain alcohol, such as methanol, as shown in Figure 1. This has historically been done with the aid of a dissolved or liquid catalyst, either an acid or a base. Unfortunately, this leads to increased wastewater production, as the catalyst must be washed out of the fuel before being neutralised. Additionally, the faster basic catalysts are extremely sensitive to both water and free fatty acids (FFA), resulting in the formation of soap from the latter. If these catalysts can be replaced with a solid, water and FFA tolerant catalyst, the production of biodiesel can be made much cleaner and more economical.
Figure 1. Reaction scheme for biodiesel production
My project is focused on developing a solid catalyst anchored on a support structure, which will allow the catalyst to be fixed inside a reactor while the oil and methanol are pumped through it. The main aims for the catalyst are that it:
- Does not dissolve (leach) into the reaction mixture
- Stays active for a prolonged period of time
- Is tolerant of FFA and water
Previous work at the University had focused on a zinc-amino acid complex, but this was ultimately shown to leach. Thus, focus has shifted to catalysts that can be physically incorporated into a coating layer, such as a sol-gel. Currently, strontium oxide is being examined as a candidate, as it is a very effective catalyst when used as a powder.
About the author
Ben Firth is in the first year of his PhD, studying "Biodiesel production in fixed bed catalytic reactors". He is supervised by Prof Stan Kolaczkowski in the Department of Chemical Engineering.
KNOTHE, G., VAN GERPEN, J. & KRAHL, J. 2005. The biodiesel handbook, Urbana, Ill., AOCS Press.
The greatly anticipated 10th Cheltenham Science Festival took place this week, with some great names in science drawing crowds from all over the country. Not to miss such a great opportunity, the CSCT team were there as part of the family fun days on Saturday and Sunday.
Being well versed in the art of public engagement after Bath Taps into Science, the 2010 students wowed kids of all ages with the tried and tested elephant toothpaste and bouncy ball demonstrations. For the bigger kids (of all ages), we hosted an “alternative energy” display that boasted a direct methanol fuel cell, a water powered car and some of our very own solar cells.
Once people had seen what was on offer they were invited to take part in a poll as to what they thought would be the most important source of energy in 10 years time. The results showed that most people believed a mixture of all available renewables would be required to meet our energy demands, an opinion held by most of the students themselves!
After two days of solid science and a light sprinkling of rain, it was time to pack up and head back to bath - hopefully leaving the people of Cheltenham a little bit more enthusiastic about the available alternatives than before!
Here are the recipes for our demonstrations at the Cheltenham Science Festival this coming weekend. These can be tried at home, but make sure you're always supervised by an adult… and remember, making bouncy balls can get messy!