Centre for Sustainable Chemical Technologies

Scientists and engineers working together for a sustainable future

Tagged: Engineering

A Chemical Engineer on a Project Management internship at Wessex Water

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📥  Internships & visits

PhD student, Jon Chouler, went on a three-month internship with Wessex Water in Bath. We asked him how he got on.

First of all, how did you find this internship?
One word: Persistence! In the process of finding a placement, I made sure to leave no stone unturned and everyone that I knew for advice and leads. For example, asking my supervisors, colleagues, and approaching individuals at events and meetings I attended. In the end, my co-supervisor suggested I contact an individual at Wessex Water regarding a project they were soon to be starting. One email, one meeting and two weeks later I was on placement!

What was your role?
My job was essentially project management. Wessex Water, along with some other key partners, wanted to run a project looking to deliver green and social prescriptions in order to reduce pharmaceutical use and their eventual presence in wastewater. My role was to take this project from an idea into a coherent project plan with an anticipated budget, and present this to all key stakeholders in this project. This involved collaborating and communicating between a wide range of groups including health professionals, nature trusts, university researchers and more.

What did a typical day look like?
Typical day? There was no such thing! Every day brought new challenges, new developments and new tasks. Working between so many different groups and people meant that every day was massively varied: one day I would have to understand sewage networks and flows (involving lifting manholes), the next I would be visiting providers of green prescription activities, and the day after talking to professionals at a local GP practice.

So what's next for the project and Wessex Water?
It's great to say that Wessex Water and other organisations warmed well to the project and details within, and it was subsequently presented to their board of directors and approved for funding to go ahead for the next 4 years!

How will this benefit your future?
The internship was a great chance to build upon essential skills that I will need for my future career in Chemical Engineering: collaboration, time management, budgeting, communication and project management.

It was also a great experience in terms of refining the kinds of jobs that I would like in the future. To be more specific, the internship made me realise that I would like to pursue jobs that bring big benefits to society and the environment at the same time.

What would be your one tip to someone who's thinking of an internship?
Enjoy it! It’s a chance to do something completely different and fully immerse yourself in it. Bring the enthusiasm and energy that a company looks for, and you can not only get a lot done (and feel really proud of yourself), but also create some incredibly useful connections and job prospects afterwards!

Jon is in his third year of PhD 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 research group.

We live in a world of waste.

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📥  Comment, Events

Our third year CSCT student, Chris Davey took part in the Three Minute Thesis (3MT®) competition held at University of Bath. The competition challenges doctoral candidates to present a compelling spoken presentation on their research topic and its significance to a non-specialist audience in just three minutes." Here is how Chris presented his thesis titled 'Lower energy recovery of dilute organics from fermentation broths'.

We live in a world of waste. Single use, disposable, chuck it on landfill.

This is not sustainable.

We need to be able to upcycle this waste, converting it into something of worth, or of increased environmental value.

And no, I’m not talking about making art from yogurt pots. How do we achieve this upcycling on an industrial scale?

For my PhD I am looking at the process of taking carbon monoxide, from waste flue gases, such as in the global steel mill industry, and fermenting it with bacteria to produce various bulk chemicals. These bulk chemicals can then be used to make things like fuel for your car, PVA glue or rubber.

This process is great as it takes a waste product and turns it into something of worth. It also has no effect on the food chain; can use very low cost, dirty flue gases; and can be performed locally on site, limiting the need to transport the waste.

However this process has a drawback, these chemicals are of a very dilute concentration within the fermentation broth. An example of a similar fermentation broth is beer, and a chemical we may want to get from this ethanol, with a concentration of around 5 %.  A process called distillation is generally used to recover these desired bulk chemicals. This essentially involves heating the whole broth up and separating the parts due to different boiling points. A huge amount of energy is therefore required to separate out the different chemical products due to the large volumes of broth required for a small amount of chemical. The cost of separating out these chemicals from the broth can attribute to > 50 % of their price. As they need to be cost comparable to crude oil based products low energy recovery technologies can play a huge part in reducing production cost.

This is where my PhD comes in.

Chirs Davey 3MT SlideI am looking at an alternative low energy technology for the recovery of these fermentation products called membrane separation.

These are materials generally made of polymers or ceramics that can separate the components of a solution by allowing permeation of a desired species and rejection of another.

Take the angry birds as our fermentation broth for example, we can selectively remove the red bird, our desired product, whilst retaining the blue yellow and green ones by applying a pressure difference across the membrane.

Separation can be based on the size, charge, or other chemical property of the desired species. The great thing about this process is the low amount of energy it requires compared to distillation.

My PhD is focused on finding suitable materials to achieve these types of separations, as well as understanding the fundamental interactions that govern the separation processes within these materials.

Chris is working towards his PhD in the CSCT and is supervised by Dr Darrell Patterson in Chemical Engineering and Professor David Leak in Biology and Biochemistry.


Conference Report: Green Chemistry and Engineering

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📥  Seminars & Conferences

On 18–20 June 2013, 4th year PhD student Julia Griffen attended the 17th Annual Green Chemistry and Engineering Conference in North Bethesda, Maryland, USA.

PhD student Julia Griffen in Maryland for the ACS GC&E conferenceI would like to thank the ACS Green Chemistry Institute for awarding me the Joseph Breen Memorial Prize. Without it I would have been unable to attend this year’s Green Chemistry and Engineering Conference.  Since starting my PhD I have always wanted to attend a conference in the US as I consider it a hub of academic science, innovation and industry. With green chemistry being central to my research, this conference was a natural choice as it offered excellent variety of keynote presentations, technical talks and poster presentations.

My key learnings from attending this event were vast and varied. At the student workshop I was able to meet, engage and debate with many students from different institutions and stages of their scientific careers.  The workshop, excellently delivered by Constable and Williams, presented a general overview of the 12 principles of green chemistry. Additionally the outreach activity organized by beyondbenign was incredibly engaging interactive and simply fun.

Keynote addresses included that from Milton Hearn of Monash University, who eloquently introduced and emphasised why we need green chemistry and his current research efforts in Australia. Michael Pcolinski of BASF Corporation gave an insight to the business aims, tools and methods used to analyse and implement green chemistry into company strategy. Finally James Hutchison of the University of Oregon described ‘Greener Nanoscience’ work on nanomaterials, which I am not as familiar with, in the synthesis and collaborative toxicology studies involving the use of zebra fish.

Through the technical sessions I learnt of the difficulties from implementing green chemistry  from Lynn Ledger of Alcereco, and strategies for encouraging the next generation of green chemists, the emphasis being the need for better training and education. I was fascinated by the number of commercial tools and databases available for companies to access the toxicology and ‘green score’ of a chemical process, which I was previously unaware off, especially that presented by George Thompson  of a web-based for alternative assessment of a chemical process.  I especially enjoyed the Panel Session of ‘Going Global: International perspectives on green chemistry’ enabling me to engage and draw on my experience of implementing a green chemistry course at the University of Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. This discussion time, facilitated by Kira Matus from the London School of Economics, enabled in-depth discussion of the success stories and barriers to implementing green chemistry globally.

Key benefits to me personally and professionally came though the numerous networking opportunities. I especially enjoyed the poster sessions where I was able to meet and converse with students, academics and industry over my work, green chemistry and generally science. Additionally the poster sessions allowed me to see other’s work that I was not able to see due to clashing of parallel sessions.

I feel that attending this conference has significantly broadened my subject knowledge of green chemistry especially business tools and strategy, toxicology testing and design, education and engagement. I hope this will benefit my future career choice within the chemical industry to enable me to become a conscientious and considerate scientist whom puts the principles of green chemistry into practice.