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!
The Whorrod Prize in Sustainable Chemical Technologies for the student achieving the best credit rated average in the first year (MRes) of the Integrated PhD in Sustainable Chemical Technologies was awarded to Tom Forder in the academic year 2009/10. While Tom's prize was announced at a graduation ceremony in December 2010, he has to wait until the Summer Showcase in July 2011 to actually receive his certificate and cash prize. (more…)
Bath’s annual science fair ‘Bath Taps Into Science’ was held this weekend on Friday 18 and Saturday 19 March. A concerted effort between all areas of engineering, maths and the sciences sought to engage the next generation of teachers, researchers and possible world leaders.
The 2010 cohort of the Doctoral Training Centre were in the thick of it: under their ‘Fuel for Thought’ banner they showcased some of the Centre’s very own solar cells, renewable plastics and some almost explosive biocatalytic reactions. (more…)