Centre for Sustainable Chemical Technologies

Scientists and engineers working together for a sustainable future

Hoʻohuihui lāʻau in Honolulu (Chemistry in Honolulu)

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📥  Seminars & Conferences

This post is contributed by Caroline Jones.


In December 2015 four members of the CSCT travelled to the Hawaiian island of O’ahu to attend the 7th Pacifichem conference. Emma Lampard, Rob Chapman, Bill Cunningham and I joined around 15,000 other chemists in Honolulu for the five day conference which is held once every five years.

Views of Waikiki beach and Honolulu from Diamond Head Crater.

Views of Waikiki beach and Honolulu from Diamond Head Crater.

Parallel sessions were held across seven venues throughout the week which meant that though it could sometimes be difficult to decide between sessions, there was always something interesting to see.

A talk which stood out to the group was from John Hartwig who delivered an engaging presentation on multistep and multicatalytic transformations. Impressive tandem reactions were shown which involved initial catalytic C-H functionalisation steps, followed by a second catalytic transformation – allowing for the rapid synthesis of a wide array of industrially important molecules.

Also of note was Phil Baran who works in collaboration with industrial partners in the synthesis of complex natural product and drug molecules on multigram scales. He described elegant and scalable synthetic methodologies developed for key steps in their group’s synthetic routes. Another group highlight was from John Gordon’s research group at Los Alamos National Laboratory. This presentation detailed the catalytic conversion of biomass-derived molecules towards linear alkanes for use as fuels; a talk which highlighted the power of synthetic chemistry in wider applications.

Presenting our work at Pacifichem.

Presenting our work at Pacifichem.

Presenting my poster at the Green Techniques in Medicinal Chemistry session was a rewarding experience as I was able to meet researchers from around the world with whom my work was well received. After plenty of discussion at this session I also came away from it with new ideas to try in my future research. Bill, Emma and Rob also delivered excellent talks throughout the conference in varied sessions on catalysis for the upgrading of biomass-derived molecules, applications in organoboron synthesis and materials and tactics for complex molecule synthesis respectively.

Making the most of Pacifichem’s location we also managed to explore the area for a few days on either side of the conference. Highlights included a sweaty climb up the Diamond Head crater, a snorkelling trip to hunt for the Humuhumunukunukapua’a (the Hawaiian state fish) and a group skydive – a truly memorable experience! We are grateful for the funding from the CSCT and the RSC Organic Division Travel Grant Scheme which allowed us to attend this conference.

Our Hawaiian skydive!

Our Hawaiian skydive!

Caroline is working towards her PhD on "Sustainable catalytic methodology for functional group manipulation" with Professor Jonathan Williams, Dr Pawel Plucinski and Dr Steven Bull.

Fuel Cell Technology & Applications Conference, Naples, Italy.

  

📥  Research updates, Seminars & Conferences

CSCT student, Jon Chouler attended and gave a talk at the 6th European Fuel Cell Technology & Applications Piero Lunghi Conference (EFC), in Napoli, Italy. As well as being located in a beautiful city beside the Mediterranean Sea and the Vesuzio mountain, the conference focussed on a breadth of Fuel Cell research - such as hydrogen fuel cells, alternative fuel cells, and fuel cell modelling research, but his key interest was on a 2-day side event focussed on Microbial Fuel Cell technologies. Here is Jon's account on his trip:

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Jon presenting his research at the conference.

My PhD research is based on the development of Microbial Fuel Cells (MFCs) to be used as a biosensor for monitoring water quality. I aim to develop miniature MFCs to be used to assess water quality in a simple, inexpensive, rapid and onsite way. In particular I am interested in the effect that toxic compounds, such as organic compounds and pesticides, have on the performance of these MFC sensors, and hence the suitability of this technology for detecting such compounds.

There was a range of topics discussed for MFC technologies at the conference, such as MFCs used for energy generation from wastewater, winery wastewater, solid waste and other novel sources. A series of interesting talks were delivered by the team from Bristol BioEnergy Centre at the University of West England, who primarily use human urine as a feedstock for their MFCs. Their work aims to develop MFCs to generate energy from urine for use in remote and developing regions, and therefore their technology needs to be cost-effective and simple to use. Seeing their approaches to this challenge, such as using cheap materials and effective stacking configurations, allowed me to reflect on my own work and discuss ideas with them afterwards. We even discussed opportunities to hold Public Engagement events together in the future to showcase MFC technology to schools in the west of England.

A fascinating talk I attended was given by Dr Abraham Núñez from IMDEA Water in Spain, who discussed his work around desalination MFCs - in particular the use of MFCs to treat wastewater for energy generation and for freshwater production. As part of his work he discussed the use of in-field, real-time MFC biosensors that his team was using to detect organic contaminant concentrations at a sewage treatment works. This was fascinating to see and discuss, especially because in-field tests of my MFC devices is something that I would like to accomplish in my PhD. Fortunately, I managed to discuss this research with Abraham Núñez afterwards and there is a promising potential for cross collaboration between our research groups.

Fortunately, and for the very first time, I had the opportunity to present my research in detail during an oral presentation that I gave to attendees of the MFC side event. Although rather nerve-racking, this gave me a great chance to showcase all the work I have been doing in my PhD and discuss it in detail with experts in the field - not only through questions afterwards but also in conversations throughout the conference. As a results of this and networking with others, I had an opportunity to assess my work critically and also develop new ideas with others which will inevitably be helpful throughout my PhD.

As a final note I would strongly recommend others doing their PhD to attend an international conference strongly focussed on their research, and if possible give an oral presentation. This experience provided me with an invaluable opportunity to network, develop and share ideas, and create new collaborations that will help me in the future.

Jon is in his third year of his degree in the CSCT and is working with Dr Mirella di Lorenzo, Dr Petra Cameron and Dr Barbara Kasprzyk-Horden. See more information about Jon's work.

 

6th European Kesterite Workshop

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📥  Seminars & Conferences

This post is contributed by Mako Ng.

A trio of CSCT students (Adam Jackson, Suzy Wallace and I) attended the 6th European Kesterite Workshop at Northumbria University, Newcastle.

A little bit of background about us; all three of us are working with an earth-abundant, non-toxic photovoltaic material called kesterite, which is made from copper, zinc, tin and sulphur. Adam also attended the workshop two years ago in Berlin.

There was a student workshop the day before the actual conference, where more experienced students in this field, including Adam, gave talks on their work. They also offered help and gave feedback on experimental results other students brought, which I found very useful.

Adam sharing his experience on CZTS

Adam sharing his experience on CZTS

The first day of the conference was packed with talks, from device performance and material properties, to structural properties, defects, ordering-disordering phenomena, and finally device architecture and interfaces. Since all the talks were about kesterite and very relevant to all, the concentration required resulted into coffee running out very quickly during breaks. The majority of speakers were from IREC and HZB, who hosted the workshop in 2011 and 2013 respectively. They are also the key players in this field in Europe.

There was a poster session before the conference dinner. Suzy's poster, which was about using computational chemistry to calculate disorder and inhomogneity in kesterite solar cell, had attracted a lot of attention.

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Poster session

The second day started with a technical problem (something that happens in a lot of conferences!). The good thing about that was, the organiser then combined two parallel discussion groups together. Being in the discussion group was like watching season 5 of a TV series before watching the previous seasons! VOC deficit is still a major issue of this material, and unfortunately, no one is able to solve this problem just yet. We also pointed out the band gap varies with different measuring techniques, which made direct comparison between different devices impossible.

Before I could head back to my lab to try out all those new ideas from this conference, I went to another conference in the United States. Watch this space for another blog from me soon!

Mako is working towards his PhD on "Solution-processed solar cells from earth-abundant elements" with Professor Mark Weller, Dr Aron Walsh and Dr Philip Shields.

 

WildWise Residential: teepee tents, deer skinning, Predator and Mafia.

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📥  Internships & visits

As a team-building activity each year, the first year CSCT students go on a residential course that challenges their understanding of the natural world, and the nature of the balance that humans have with it. This year, cohort ’15 spent a few days exploring these ideas with WildWise in Dartmoor.

It was Sunday, the 22nd of November and all through the University was still. Not a person was stirring, not even the freshers, and yet, in East Car park there was a hive of activity.

Cohort’ 15 were rushing around, stuffing ourselves (and overfilled bags) into cars for our long journey south; with one final check that we hadn’t forgotten anything, or anyone, we set off! Once in the depths of Devonshire countryside, we stopped off for a slap-up carvery.

One final look over the directions before we drove in convey through the wild lanes of Dartmoor with only a single A4 sheet of directions to help. By the time we found Chris and his Wildwise truck we were well and truly disorientated! Chris led us to the muddy field “car park” next to a pine wood forest, and we pulled up, ready to start our time in the wilderness!

“Follow the track past the forest, turn right over the bridge, and then up the hill” - our instructions once we’d unloaded the cars. Ambiguous though they may have been, we quickly found ourselves approaching our home for the next few days:

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Our home.

Five teepee tents!

As the sun started to fall, we set up our tents ready to immerse ourselves in the wilderness – airbeds, hot water bottles and all – and made our way over to the warm fire.

After a hot meal, we fully welcomed story time around the camp fire, and the news that the temperature would drop to -2 °C (271 K) overnight…. It quickly turned competitive, to see who could wear the most layers.

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Frost!

A cold frosty morning greeted us the next day, with many happily surprised they didn’t have frost bite, but all was solved by the prospects of fire toasted crumpets and butter!

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Camp

In the light of the morning we were introduced to our camp, the luxurious compost toilet, and our team: Chris, Del, Devon, Mark and the beautiful, the wonderful, the incredibly cute Dexter.

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The incredibly cute, Dexter.

First day:

Off into the woods we went for a morning of “heightened awareness” where we had to spot the various “predators” that the team had hidden throughout the tangle of wood. Something our hunter gatherer ancestors would have been very successful at (we were not).

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Can you spot anything unusual?

Afterwards, we learnt how to light fires successfully, where the secret is picking the right sticks. Considering the brilliant minds we all must have to be in the CDT, apparently the idea of using small, dry sticks was beyond all of us, and none of our six  fires actually worked (maybe selection criteria for the next cohort?)

No fear though! Chris showed us the way and soon we were all toasting our marshmallows around our little burning fires.

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We did it!

With the fires dying down, half of the group went to help prepare our dinner (by skinning the deer which the Wildwise team had purchased) while the rest of us cleared away the embers so as not to leave a trace of our activity.

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Venison stew

As evening approached we settled down to a gentle evening by the fire after our delicious venison stew when Chris offered us the option to play a game...

PREDATOR.

We hesistantly accepted.

Into the pine woods we went as two teams, one team at each end of the woods. Our task was simple: reach a coloured light on the opposite side of the woods, without being caught by the predator - Chris, armed with a water gun.

We prepared ourselves. The whistle blew, and we crept, silently, forwards….

Well that was the plan, but a forest in autumn is covered with dead twigs/fallen trees/badge holes, so we all started crashing around. But soon our night eyes kicked it and we were doing our best to merge into nature. Alas, six of our group (three from each team) were lost to the beast in our first game, but obviously we had learned much and only one of us was caught the second time.  A massive adrenline rush all round!

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Curling up with Dexter after Predator.

Thoroughly worn out by the excitement, we retreated to the fire to play Mafia (a more advanced version of wink murder)! The game involves murder, witch trials and lyching and a poker face made of steal – team building at its best. Despite a number of us believing Felix to always be guilty we were continually surprised by his innoncence; instead the seemingly innocent and mild manner Dan was always one of the Mafia ring!

Second day:

We awoke refreshed after a cosy nights sleep because the temperature was actually above zero! Luxury!

Ahead of us was a day of tracking skills, beginning with us trying to spy objects through the trees that Chris had hidden. Maya and Felix were the clear natural trackers spotting 22/27 things! Next we sat alone in the surronding woodland so as to aquaint ourselves with the sounds of nature. After 20 mins of silence, it's amazing what you can hear!

Fun fact: Did you know that listening to the birds can tell you whether a predator is approaching from above or below depending on the call it makes?

A spot of lunch and then we began the real training – spotting each other's footprints in soft ground (suffice to say none of us were that natural at it - disappointed ancestors).

We spilt into two teams, each was assigned an instructor to track. After giving them an eight minute head start, both teams set off eagerly!

After 40 minutes of tracking, Team 1 had found the walking stick! They were close! Up the hill a few steps and there, in the tree…the wrong instructor, Chris. Back they went along the trail but which were Devon’s and which were Chris’?! Another 40 minutes found Team 1 back at camp consoling themselves with tea and biscuits.

Team 2 on the otherhand followed their trail closely, tracking their quarry well. Ah hah! A plastic bag! There, in the hollow… Devon, the wrong instructor. Drat. Both teams had failed to find the right instructor. With the light fading and both teams following the wrong trail, everyone returned to the camp for coffee, tea and warm spot by the fire.

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A tearful final meal....

For the last night, we celebrated our attempt at tracking with a hearty warming vegetable curry and for desert, Bananas with chocolate cooked on the fire! (Highly recommend this one).

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Bananas with chocolate.

The dedication of the cooks was evident in the tears shed over it though this was most likely due to the significant levels of smoke blinding everyone near the fire.

Our parting gift from Chris was one final campfire story and our returning gift was to include him in Mafia – where he may have been killed off as an innocent quite quickly (sorry!). To toast a fairwell to the residental we feasted on a giant family bag of marshmallows! (Thanks Dan).

Third day:

Our final morning dawned bright and early as we packed away our things and the tents. We said a solemn farewell to the team and the site, and set off again through the narrow roads of Dartmoor back to our lives in the modern world with showers and wifi…. Even if it does take 40 minutes to work out to find the main road because the sat navs don’t work. Excellent!

Thank you Wildwise for a great few days!

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(And if you ever need a dogsitter for Dexter, Cait is willing to offer her services!)

 

Photos: Winter Graduation 2015 and Celebrations

  

📥  Comment, Events

A big congratulations to our MRes graduates and PhD students (Rebecca Bamford, Anyela Ramirez Canon and Duygu Celebi). Following the Graduation Ceremony at the Bath Assembly Rooms on 9 December 2015, our newest cohort 2015 threw a celebratory party for all. I'll let the photos tell the story:

MRes Graduates of the CSCT

CSCT MRes Graduates 2015

See all photos from the Graduation Ceremony and the after-party.

 

Reflections of our MRes year

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📥  Case Studies, Comment

CSCT cohort 2014 graduated with flying colours on 9 December 2015 at the Assembly Rooms in Bath. Out of the 16 students, 6 graduated with distinction and 9 with merit. As they move on to their first year of PhD, they reflect on their MRes year at the centre.

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Cohort 2014 at the University of Bath Graduation Ceremony in Bath.

1. What attracted you to the Integrated PhD in the Centre for Sustainable Chemical Technologies, as opposed to other PhD programmes?

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"The biggest reason for choosing the CSCT was that it has everything a PhD has plus much more. I finished my undergrad not knowing what I wanted to commit the next three years of my life in a lab researching, so I thought in the MRes year I would get to 'try before I buy' in research areas I'm interested in to test the water before leaping into a PhD. I wanted the social aspect of working in a cohort, which I felt would be very helpful to keep your morals up throughout the year. On a professional level the opportunity to take a 3 month internship in industry or abroad would be a fantastic experience and look good on the CV." - Jamie Courtenay

2. What do you feel is the biggest advantage gained by completing an MRes project within a different discipline than what was studied at undergraduate level?

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"As a chemist my other project involved tissue engineering which I was a bit apprehensive about as I have not opened a biology text book since GCSE! However, I'm so pleased I went for this project as tissue engineering is now a major part of my PhD." - Jamie Courtenay

"I've come from a Theoretical Physics/ Computational Chemistry background but after working with the Electrical Engineering department I definitely don't fear reading experimental papers now!" - Suzy Wallace

"Doing a project in a different discipline has given me an insight into research methodology and techniques that I would otherwise not have experienced, therefore, making me a more well rounded researcher" - Dominic Ferdani

3. What did you gain from completing the compulsory modules such as ‘Sustainable Development’, ‘Public Engagement’ and ‘Environmental Management’?

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"All the modules helped me become a well-rounded scientist. Learning about how your work and research relates to companies and society was eye opening. The Public Engagement activities really help to put the work done at the centre into perspective and develop communication skills which are crucial for success." - Mike Joyes

4. Away from the academic side of the course, what advantages are there from being a member of a centre full of like-minded students?

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5. Were the two MRes projects helpful in helping you to decide which area you wanted to study for your PhD?

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"Prior to joining the CSCT, I was unsure what I wanted to do for a PhD. The opportunity to do two shorter projects during my first year was incredibly helpful." - Shawn Rood

"The MRes project allowed me to try a more risky project that I wasn't sure would work before committing 3 years to it. The flexibility with the second project has also allowed me to include aspects of this in my PhD." - Andrew Hall

 

IUMRS-ICAM 2015 - Culture, Climbing and Conferences.

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📥  Seminars & Conferences

The following blog is contributed by Suzy Wallace from the 2014 Cohort.


On the 26th of October I presented my research on the potential earth abundant and non-toxic solar cell absorber material CZTS (Cu2ZnSnS4) at the IUMRS-ICAM 2015 conference for materials research on Jeju Island in South Korea. We attended three days of the conference where research was focused on a wide variety of different advanced, nanostructured and novel materials for various applications.

Wearable thermoelectric devices seemed to be quite a popular topic! A thermoelectric material is able to use a temperature difference to generate electricity, so the idea would be to use your own body heat to, for example, charge your phone! Research therefore was focused not only on making the devices more efficient and cheap but also to be flexible and durable. Conveniently, Jeju also happens to be a tourist hot-spot at the southernmost part of South Korea and a great place for hiking! So I managed to squeeze in a quick half day of hiking up Hallasan Mountain on our last day on the Island before we headed back to the mainland to visit universities in the capital city, Seoul.

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What a city Seoul is! I could write a whole blog just on Seoul alone but I’ll try to refrain.

Whilst in Seoul we visited two research groups, that of Professor Aloysius Soon at Yonsei University and that of Professor William Jo at Ewha Women’s University. Professor Soon’s group are focusing on computational research on nanomaterials and Professor Jo’s group synthesise and characterise the solar cell materials that we model computationally in my research group. Both groups made us feel incredibly welcome and all the discussions provided lots of opportunities to ask questions both about the Science and Korean history and culture. I particularly liked when one of Professor Soon’s students (John) was explaining to me how to pronounce bibimbap (a very tasty Korean rice dish that can be served in a hot or cold pot bowl with all sorts of additions such as egg, vegetables, meat, seafood, kimchi and hot sauce), he told me to say the middle syllable as ‘bim like electron beam’.

I also thought that Professor Soon’s description of Seoul summed it up pretty well  – convenient. There’s so much to see and do and everything is easy to get to using the subway, the food was great and you could get food pretty much anywhere and anytime. The people were really friendly and there was a really interesting fusion of old and new with remainders of the old city walls (referred to as the gates) dotted around the city next to big sky scrapers (the Dongdaemun gate is shown in a photo below).

Another great aspect of Seoul for me was the close proximity of yet more mountains! So I was able to go to Bukhansan National Park for rock climbing at the weekend… and as it was Halloween some fancy dress was also involved. When I was out-and-about climbing and sightseeing at the weekend, I spoke to quite a few different people and was struck by just how interested people are in scientific research, especially when it relates to the environment. I chatted to some American tourists while I was looking for a particular tourist attraction in Seoul (Namsan Tower), and it turned out that they were members of an environmental organisation back in the states. Then, when I was out with the climbers and the topic of ‘what do you do’ came up in conversation, we got to have some really interesting discussions on the way up to our climbing route (and also whilst drinking some Korean beer and soju after!). I even heard about a new energy technology for the first time from a couple of the climbers – supercapacitors – so I scurried off to google them to learn more the next day!

So I’d say you learn a lot from listening to talks at conferences and engaging in discussions there as well as during university visits, but there’s also no need to limit yourself to only talking about Science there! Even during the 12 hour flight back from Seoul I had an interesting conversation whilst queuing for the loo with someone from IBM on how Watson (the question answering computer system designed to answer questions posed in natural language) could be really useful for helping scientists to keep up to date on rapidly developing areas of research (perovskite solar cells sprung to my mind immediately!).

It’s surprising just how many people are interested in scientific research and how much you can learn in rather unusual settings!

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Suzy is working towards her PhD on 'Overcoming the efficiency bottleneck of metal sulfide solar cells' with Professor Aron Walsh, Professor Chris Bowen and Professor Mark Weller

Trip to Russia: 7th European Congress on Catalysis

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📥  Seminars & Conferences

This post is contributed by Tamsin Bell who has now moved to continue her PhD at the University of Cambridge.

At the end of August 2015, I attended the 7th European congress on catalysis, Europacat in Kazan, Russia. The conference started with a very formal opening ceremony and two plenary lectures and concluded with a welcome reception where I was able to catch up with a collaborator from the University of Glasgow.

The session I spoke in was “Energy-related catalysis” but I also attended many interesting talks in the other four sections. The research I presented makes use of cobalt as a sustainable alternative to more expensive metals to catalyse ammonia decomposition for in situ production of hydrogen for use in a fuel cell. On the final day of the conference I gave my presentation in a 600 seater ball room. It was an amazing (and slightly terrifying) experience talking about my research to such a large and knowledgeable audience.

Tour of Kazan and Tami in St Petersburg

Tour of Kazan and Tami in St Petersburg

One evening there was an excursion to visit the historical, 1000 year old city of Kazan, which notably included a visit to the impressive Kazan Kremlin. The word Kremlin means "fortress" and there are only four remaining in Russia. At the end of the week, there was a conference banquet with performances from local Russian dancers and we were able to try some Russian vodka, after which many of the academics and delegates were also showing off their dancing skills.

I had a fantastic week in Russia, I met lots of interesting people, I learnt how to say thank you in Russian, Спасибо, which is pronounced "spa-see-ba", I bought a Russian fur hat and I got lots of ideas for my research. I was even lucky enough to visit the beautiful cities of Moscow and St Petersburg on the way back home.

Sightseeing in Moscow

Sightseeing in Moscow

I am very grateful to the conference organisers for accepting me to present my work and for the travel funding I received from the Royal Society of Chemistry, Santander and the Armours & Brasiers.

 

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.

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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!

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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.