Centre for Sustainable Chemical Technologies

Scientists and engineers working together for a sustainable future

Farnborough air show trip

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📥  Prizes & awards

Jess in the cockpit of an Airbus A400M

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.


Partner profile (industrial): EADS Innovation Works


📥  Partner profiles

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.


October 2011 Symposium: "Photovoltaics— the future is bright"

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📥  Seminars & Conferences

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.


Research update: Responsive nanocapsules

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📥  Research updates

Responsive nanocapsules for detection and treatment of infection

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.


Research update: Biodiesel production in fixed bed catalytic reactors

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📥  Research updates

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

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.

Further reading

KNOTHE, G., VAN GERPEN, J. & KRAHL, J. 2005. The biodiesel handbook, Urbana, Ill., AOCS Press.