Centre for Sustainable Chemical Technologies

Scientists and engineers working together for a sustainable future

Conference report: 35th Symposium on Biotechnology for fuels and chemicals

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📥  Seminars & Conferences

This post comes from 3rd-year DTC PhD student, Lisa Sargeant.

Lisa Sargeant and Rhodri Jenkins

Lisa Sargeant and Rhodri Jenkins

It’s a sure-fire sign that you’ve chosen the right conference to attend when even feeling tired and jet-lagged doesn’t stop you having a conversation with a Prius-owning taxi driver about the fuel efficiencies of hybrid engines. From Monday 29 April to Thursday 2 May CSCT Whorrod Prize Fellow, Dr. Chris Chuck; fellow CSCT student, Rhodri Jenkins; I (Lisa Sargeant) and colleagues from the Department of Biology and Biochemistry were fortunate enough to travel to the USA to attend the 35th Symposium on Biotechnology for fuels and chemicals. The symposium was hosted by the Society for Industrial Microbiology and Biotechnology in Portland, Oregon, a city famous for beer, coffee and wine!

Across the four days of the conference, we heard talks ranging from conversion technologies for biofeedstocks to biorefineries and the economics & commercialisation of biofuels/bioproducts.

Chris Chuck and I both presented posters on liquid fuels from M. pulcherima and R. glutinis respectively. Rhodri presented a fantastic talk about his research on ‘The identification and engine testing of potential renewable oxygenated biofuels for the aviation and road transport sectors’. These led to discussions with researchers from the University of British Colombia, NREL, University of Campinas, Brazil and Michigan State University: contacts we hope to develop in the future.

The talks were sandwiched between the keynote speech from Dr. Lee Lynd and the banquet speaker, Prof. Douglas Eveleigh. Lee Lynd set the tone for the conference perfectly by addressing any doubts on the feasibility and desirability of large-scale cellulosic biofuel production, whilst Douglas Eveleigh wrapped-up the conference with his highly entertaining talk entitled “Cellulase – the greatest show on earth” with references to Lewis Carroll’s Jabberwocky, Thomas Crapper and the extinction of the dinosaurs.

Making the most of being State-side, we took the opportunity to take a holiday and hired cars to tour the West coast taking in sights such as Crater Lake, San Francisco, Yosemite National Park, Death Valley, Las Vegas and Los Angeles.


Energy Young Entrepreneurs Scheme

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📥  Events

Team CSCT presentingFour DTC students  recently participated in a three-day energy themed business competition organised for postgraduate researchers in the EPSRC-funded Network of Energy Centres for Doctoral Training.

Lee Burton, David Miles, Lisa Sargeant and Kathryn Wills represented our DTC to compete against nine other teams at the Energy Young Entrepreneurs Scheme (Energy YES) which took place in Edinburgh on 22-24 May. The scheme was created to develop business awareness and an understanding of entrepreneurship amongst researchers.

Over the three days there were presentations and case studies from leading business and industry figures which covered a range of topics around entrepreneurship, commercialisation and technology transfer. In addition to these sessions, the teams also spent a large part of the week devising a 5-year business plan for a new business idea related to an energy technology.

Mentors from a variety of backgrounds with experience spanning the energy sector and start-up businesses were on hand to offer advice and the week culminated with an oral business plan presentation to a group of potential investors.

Although it was the team from the Midlands Energy Graduate School who were ultimately successful, our students all agreed that the workshop was a very useful experience for learning business skills and an excellent opportunity for networking with the other Energy CDTs and energy-sector professionals.

Photos 1 & 2 reproduced with permission from the Energy CDT Network.


Internship report: Julia Griffen, University of Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

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📥  Internships & visits

Julia Griffen, final year DTC student, undertook a one month internship way back in November at the University of Addis Ababa in Ethiopia. Here’s what she had to say about her experiences:

I thoroughly enjoyed my time spent at the University of Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. The experience was extremely beneficial to my professional and personal development and overall I found it thoroughly rewarding. Predominantly my time was spent preparing undergraduate lecture material on green chemistry. However I was also invited to give a departmental seminar to staff and postgraduates, and in my final week I attended the RSC Pan African Chemistry Network (PACN) conference on Agricultural Productivity Waste and Water.

While at the University, I was able to meet many staff and students, and to see different departments, laboratories, equipment and teaching facilities. From this experience I was able to gain an appreciation of how difficult it is to do chemistry (as we know it) in a developing country, with lack of resources, technical parts, and technical expertise. However these hindrances do not hamper their enthusiasm and passion for their dedicated fields.

Some of the benefits from this internship arose from preparing a lecture course which brought me up-to-date on current teaching methods, materials and current research in the area of green chemistry. I have kept the material for future use. Presenting the departmental seminar to an international audience, predominantly Ethiopian graduate students, gave me experience in this lecturing style. Finally the PACN conference gave me the opportunity to meet many individuals from across Africa, whom I was able to converse over science, sustainability and issues facing scientific development in Africa.

Overall it was an excellent experience, which I would recommend.


UK-China workshop on the chemistry and physics of functional materials

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📥  Seminars & Conferences

On Monday 28 and Tuesday 29 January 2013, our student Ibbi Ahmet attended a Theo Murphy international scientific meeting held by The Royal Society, which "intended to be pivotal events of lasting significance."

This report comes from second-year DTC student Ibbi Ahmet.

TheoMurphy-1The UK-China workshop was excellent and showcased cutting edge knowledge, which brought together researchers from both China and the UK to present new and interesting concepts on a range of functional materials, addressing both the organic and inorganic fields.

The conference was held at the beautiful location of Chicheley Hall close to Milton Keynes. There were a range of speakers and audience members that had eminent status in their field of research and impressive career successes.

I especially enjoyed the talk by Professor Clare Grey from the University of Cambridge, who presented some excellent concepts that used in-situ solid state NMR to characterise local structural changes in lithium ion batteries, specifically investigating the process of intercalating ions in silicon anodes and lithium air cathodes. The time-lapsed examination of in-situ rather than ex-situ charging of materials in the solid state presented interesting evidence of a multi-step intercalation processes, which can help develop and improve novel battery design as well as our understanding of cathode and anode materials.

TheoMurphy-2Professor Sir Richard Friend, from the University of Cambridge, presented an interesting mode towards high efficiency solar cells. He showed that using materials that had a triplet exciton energy less than one half of the singlet exciton energy will favour the fission of a singlet exciton to a pair of triple excitons (a “two for one offer!!”). This can result in an enhanced solar conversion efficiency beyond the theoretical single junction Shockley-Quessier limit (33.7% to c.a. 48%). He also demonstrated how this phenomenon occurs in a pentacene/leadselenide hybrid low band gap solar cell device.

Professor Richard Catlow, from UCL, showed how computational techniques can be used to understand defect and electron processes in doped semiconducting materials. One fascinating topic of discussion was around p-type ZnO semiconducting materials: It was shown, by calculating the energetics of producing an oxygen vacancy or electron hole within a ZnO lattice, that an oxygen vacancy will be more favourable. This provides evidence for why it is difficult to produce good ZnO p-type semiconductors. He went on to explain why research will need to look towards producing ZnO materials that stabilise the electron hole process and destabilise the process of forming oxygen vacancies.

TheoMurphy-3Another talk, presented by Professor Yunqi Liu, was titled ‘Controllable synthesis of graphene by chemical vapour deposition method and studies on its electronic properties’. There were many techniques shown to be valuable for my research, such as growing high quality graphene onto a range of substrates including ruthenium crystals. It was then shown that graphene can undergo an interesting annealing process resulting in the intercalation of different materials between graphene sheets.

Overall I felt that the conference was very educational and presented interesting experiments and research concepts that can be used to investigate a number of important functional materials in which the properties are not yet well known.