Centre for Sustainable Chemical Technologies

Scientists and engineers working together for a sustainable future

Small Molecule NMR – a SMASHing time

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📥  Seminars & Conferences

The following blog comes from Andrew Hall, who between the 20th-24th September, attended the Small Molecule NMR Conference within the beautiful setting of Lake Maggiore in Northern Italy.


SMASH NMR is not something you do when your Nuclear Magnetic Resonance spectrometer is playing up and you’ve had enough, but is in fact the international NMR conference dedicated to the study of small molecules. This year one of the underlying themes was the use of NMR for reaction monitoring to enable the study of how chemicals change during the course of a reaction.

As my first international conference, I wasn’t exactly sure what to expect, particularly since this is a field that I am relatively new to. I quickly realised that the field of NMR spectroscopy extends far beyond the conventional image of the synthetic chemist scraping their meagre offering of prized compound into a glass tube and carefully dissolving in deuterated solvent that I was used to from previous encounters with NMR.

Talks at the conference ranged from highly sophisticated, multi-dimensional studies of complex mixtures of chemicals, performed using very large magnetic fields, all the way down to cutting edge, lab-on-a-chip NMR technologies. I found these new developments in miniaturisation particularly interesting, with the potential to shrink machines the size of a room down to an instrument that can fit onto a lab bench, or even be inserted into chemical reactors or oil wells to carry out in situ analysis.

Andy + poster

Andy in situ with his poster.

With reaction monitoring as one of the key themes in the conference, as well as a focus of my own research, it was very interesting to see how different groups had approached the problem of studying samples which are continually changing. In particular I found it very interesting to hear about how different methods could be combined to give information that is not possible using any one technique alone.

Aside from the structured talks and workshops, I found that I learnt a lot simply by talking to other attendees at the conference, both at the poster sessions and informally during breaks. In particular I found it very interesting to talk to some of the other students present at the conference, and to discuss how the field is developing with the shrinking size of instruments and the introduction of new methods for reaction monitoring.

Overall I enjoyed the conference greatly and feel I learnt a lot - it has given me lots of ideas for new techniques to try in my research. I was also able to make lots of useful contacts and had many interesting discussions with other attendees - in many ways these conversations were at least as important to in furthering my understanding of the subject as the talks themselves.

And the venue? The banks of the beautiful Lake Maggiore in Northern Italy; because NMR spectroscopy is all about the relaxation!

Lake

The beautiful Lake Maggiore.

Andrew is working towards his PhD on "Biogenic Alcohols and Sugars as Sustainable Reductants: A Combined Spectroscopic and Theoretical Approach to the Development of New Homogeneous Catalysts for Dehydrogenation, Hydrogen Transfer and Reverse Water-Gas-Shift Chemistry" with Dr Ulrich Hintermair, Dr Antoine Buchard and Dr John Lowe.

 

British weather in Brazil...Challenges in Chemical Renewable Energy conference

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📥  Seminars & Conferences

This post is contributed by Joe Donnelly.

During September a trio of CSCT students (Myself, Jonathan Wagner and David Miles) attended Challenges in Chemical Renewable Energy (ISACS17), in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

Joe_Donnelly_ISACS17_01The 12 hour flight from Heathrow was a relatively pleasant affair, despite a lady sat next to me enjoying a 12 hour headphone techno marathon - something which would have been annoying if it was not so impressive. We went appropriately packed for sun, sea and sand, ready to hit Copacabana. Although Dave had forgotten his flip flops this was easily remedied owing to the many flip flop vendors in the area - however, Rio had apparently been saving all of its cloud and rain for our arrival- alas the bottom fell out of our plans (and the bag containing Dave's new flip flops). But after all, we are British and unless we were going to need a dinghy to get to the beach front bars, it was going to happen. When we were not at the conference or supporting the local beachfront economy, we found some time to go and see Christ the Redeemer and a few other local attractions.

Joe_Donnelly_ISACS17_02The conference was attended by around 100 people from a range of backgrounds/disciplines making for an interesting mix. The small size of the conference also allowed for conversation opportunities with most of the presenters. Research topics focussed on upgrading of bio-derived resources- something which I was personally attending for, and also many interesting talks on solar fuels and photovoltaics. It was interesting to see these different disciplines being discussed in the same stream as each other and led to interesting discussions about where exactly each of the technologies would fit in the future energy mix. The conference was concluded by a panel discussion on this very issue, and included representatives from industry, academia and government.

Overall the conference was a valuable experience, with the opportunity to talk to some leaders in the field without them being whisked away to prearranged meetings after their talks. It is worth noting however that there was only one stream, and due to the relatively diverse nature of topics on show, not all talks were of particular relevance to any one person.

Joe is working towards his PhD on "(Bio)catalytic synthesis of a novel transport fuel substitute from industrially produced ferementation products" with Dr Chris Chuck, Dr Marcelle McManus and Dr Chris Bannister.

We're 6 years old!

📥  Comment

EPSRC Centre for Doctoral Training (CDT) was first established in 2009. This academic year, we have turned six!

We are the only CDT to focus on developing new molecules, materials, processes and systems from the lab right through to industrial application, with an emphasis on practical sustainability.

6_years


The CDT continues to grow, providing excellent research training for scientists and engineers to work together with industry to meet the needs of current and future generations.

 

Euromembrane 2015, Germany

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📥  Seminars & Conferences

Chris Davey went to the Euromembrane conference in Aachen, Germany to give a talk on sustainable separations for Industrial Biotechnology. Here is Chris' account on his trip:

At the beginning of September I attended the conference Euromembrane in Aachen, Germany. The conference offered a wide variety of talks on every aspect of membrane science from leading European institutions as well as those from further afield.

Chris_Davey_Euromembrane2015
It was great to discover such a wide variety of topics being researched within the membrane community. Talks were given from topics on reverse osmosis to dialysis to membranes for fuel cells. With 5 parallel sessions there was always a good variety of talks to attend. With a number of talks also focused on the application of membrane technologies within different biorefinery separations, the conference was also a great chance to see the type of research being conducted within the field of my PhD.

On the final day I gave my talk entitled “Enabling more sustainable separations for Industrial Biotechnology: membrane fractionation cascades for 2,3-butanediol”. This was part of a session on nanofiltration. I received valuable advice from different members of the membrane community. Overall the conference was a great experience and a really good opportunity for making contacts within the wider membrane community.

Chris is working towards his PhD on "Lower energy recovery of dilute organics from fermentation broths" with Dr Darrell Patterson and Professor David Leak.

 

CO2 Utilisation Faraday Discussion

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📥  Prizes & awards, Seminars & Conferences

George Gregory went to the Faraday Discussion - Carbon Dioxide Utilisation in Sheffield to present a poster and won the poster prize. Here is George's account on her trip:

A conference with a difference! Held over three days at the University of Sheffield and ran by the RSC, academics who had submitted a manuscript for Faraday Discussion under the umbrella theme of CO2 utilisation were invited to briefly present their work (strictly five minutes) before the floor was opened up for discussion. Lively discussion ensued, everyone attending having received pre-printed copies of all the papers being showcased prior to the event. The whole experience was a real insight into the peer review process with all questions and subsequent answers being published alongside the article.

Evident was the broad range of different research topics that tap into the area of carbon dioxide utilisation. New catalysts and mechanistic insights into catalytic activity for the synthesis of cyclic carbonates and polycarbonates presented by Richard Heyn from SINTEF Materials and Chemistry and Charlotte Williams form Imperial College London were particularly relevant to my research.  Reactive capture of CO2 with Grignard reagents raised in George Dowson’s submission sparked a lot of discussion regarding the underlying sustainability issues to be addressed in CO2 chemistry. This was nicely complemented by Christopher Jones from the Psychology Department of the University of Sheffield reporting his findings on the public perceptions of CO2 utilisation technology. Compared to the work presented on the hydrothermal and electrocatalytic conversion of CO2, plasma-based technologies were a completely new realm for me.

All this was sandwiched between an inspiring opening by Martyn Poliakoff who simplified the aims of CO2 chemistry and complimentary closing by Michael North from the University of York. The answer to rising atmospheric CO2 levels was likened to piglets feeding suggesting that a multitude of different technologies are required.  Like any conference, discussion was broken up by poster sessions and a conference dinner, offering a great chance to network and I certainly received a lot of interest and helpful suggestions regarding my work. Faraday Discussion tradition also dictates that the loving cup ceremony be performed requiring a few words of Latin to be spoken, bowing and drinking port from a silver chalice. I was also honoured to win the £200 poster prize.

george-gregory-sheffield

George and Antoine celebrating with wine after winning the poster prize.

In conclusion, Faraday Discussions by their very nature offer a great opportunity to learn about, challenge and defend research - definitely worth attending.

George is working towards her PhD on "Cyclic carbonates from sugars and CO2: synthesis, polymerisation and biomedical applications" with Dr Antoine Buchard, Professor Matthew Davidson and Dr Ram Sharma.

 

A few words with our graduate, Duygu Celebi

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📥  Alumni, Case Studies

We interviewed Duygu Celebi, who has recently completed her PhD thesis at the CSCT and moved on to become a Senior Formulation Scientist at Unilever in Connecticut, USA.

Duygu_Celebi_alumnus

Tell us how you started your journey as a PhD student?

I came to the CSCT after completing a Masters degree at Imperial College London where I studied “Green Chemistry: Energy and Environment” but wanted to learn more about the renewable materials and sustainable technologies after I graduated. I came across the CSCT PhD studentship on a website when I was looking for jobs. Bath was one of my favourite cities in the UK and this combined with an integrated PhD in Sustainable Technologies was the perfect match for me so I applied for it. I was offered a place the morning after my interview and that was the beginning of my PhD journey.

How would you describe your time at the CSCT?

I really liked the idea of completing two projects during the first year and later deciding on one of them to take further to PhD level. I have heard some people regretting the research area they choose for their PhDs but at CSCT you are given the opportunity to choose which means you already have an idea of the research topic and get to know the potential supervisors for the project which is also a very important part of the PhD.

I had a great four years at CSCT and made some lifelong friends. We were constantly provided with the support to take us to a higher level and help us to stay in the competition. This could be by means of attending conferences, workshops related to your research, doing an internship in your preferred company and obtaining resources necessary for your knowledge growth.

What are you going to do next?

I have now moved to the US with my husband and am excited to be part of the Unilever family as a Senior Formulation Scientist. My role involves development of formulations for personal care products and optimization of the current techniques to test these products on the skin. I work on multiple projects involving cleansing, analysis and formulation.

How did CSCT have an impact on your career decision?

I did an internship at Unilever in the UK, which helped me gain an insight into research in industry which in turn, affected my career choice.

Any advice to our current and new students?

As long as you work hard and show that you are willing to learn, CSCT will provide you with all their resources and help you pursue your career.