Past Seminars 2016 - 2017

The List of Departmental Seminars, and other important events for the academic year of 2016/2017

For a list of events for the current academic year, visit our events page.

28 September 14:00

Lab Introduction

29 September 12:00

Level 4 Safety Lecture

12 October 16:00

Speaker: Prof. John Richard

Contact: Prof. Nick Williams

Departmental Seminar:
Enzyme Activation through Ligand Binding

19 October 14:00

Speaker: Dr Elizabeth Eaves

Contact: Dr Joe Gaunt

CDT Industrial Seminar:
More than just lab work – negotiating the aspects of the chemicals industry that you can’t learn at University.

Dr Elizabeth Eaves started her scientific career with an MSci(Hons) degree in Chemistry from the University of Nottingham. Following a placement year working with AkzoNobel Decorative Coatings she moved to the University of Manchester to do a PhD in Polymer Science and Engineering under the supervision of Prof. Peter Lovell, studying the structure-property relationships of polymer nano-composites produced by emulsion polymerisation. After completing her PhD in June 2015 she started work as a Senior Synthesis Chemist at Nuplex Resins in east London, a challenging role that entailed more than just scientific research. In this talk, Elizabeth will describe the challenges that she has faced in her first full year working in the chemicals industry which include learning how to manage a portfolio of projects ranging from minor product adjustments to high level innovation, how to communicate effectively with customers, and negotiating the often tricky cultural differences involved in working within a multinational industry.

20 October 12:00

Speaker: Prof. Neil Champness
University of Nottingham

Contact: Prof. Patrick Fowler

Departmental Seminar:
Molecular Organisation: Working with Molecules on the Nanoscale

The talk will highlight advances in transferring the protocols of supramolecular organisation to two dimensional surface-based self-assembly including studies that demonstrate unprecedented control of supramolecular topology and the first direct observation of a molecular-scale glass.

3 November 12:00

Speaker: Dr Jeremy Sloan
University of Warwick

Contact: Prof. Jim Thomas

Departmental Seminar:
Extreme Nanowires: The Smallest Crystals in the Smallest Nanotubes

A logical extension to fabrication of monolayer 2D materials such as graphene is creation of 'Extreme Nanowires', down to a single atom column in width. In this limit, crystals have fundamentally different physical characteristics and properties. We have created atomically regulated nanowires by confining them within the smallest diameter carbon nanotubes, and are investigating their structural and electronic properties.

10 November 12:00

Speaker: Dr Sarah Staniland
University of Sheffield

Departmental Seminar:
Understanding and exploitation of bio-mineralisation to produce next-generation magnetic nanoparticles via biomimetic syntheses

This lecture describes the work for which Dr Staniland was awarded the Royal Society of Chemistry Harrison-Meldola Memorial Prize 2016.

16 November 17:00

Speaker: Rev. Ron Lancaster
Kimbolton Fireworks


ChemSoc Seminar:
Fireworks Lecture: Practices and Principles

17 November 12:00

Speaker: Prof. Polly Arnold
University of Edinburgh

Contact: Prof. Mike Ward

Departmental Seminar:
Dinuclear f-block architectures for multiple electron reductive activation chemistry

This talk will discuss synthetic organometallic chemistry to explore and extend our knowledge of bonding and reactivity in this poorly understood area of the periodic table, with long-term relevance to the science of nuclear waste legacy management.

19 - 27 November

Contact: Dr Julie Hyde

Chemistry Week November 2016

This is a celebration of scientific research through engagement with the public and younger generation of students with demonstrations and fun lectures.

24 November 12:00

Speaker: Prof. Harry Anderson
Oxford University

Contact: Prof. Patrick Fowler

Departmental Seminar:
Flow of Energy and Charge in Porphyrin Nanostructures

This talk will discuss recent advances in the synthesis of macrocycles consisting of up to 50 covalently linked metalloporphyrin units, and ring-in-ring assemblies. Results from a variety of techniques will be presented to provide insights into the flow and delocalization of charge and electronic excitation in these synthetic nanostructures.

1 December 17:00

Speaker: Prof. Brad Gibson


ChemSoc Seminar:
Searching for Extraterrestrials

Covering the psychological desire for us to find evidence, what the evidence is, and speculate as to where we should be looking in our Galaxy to find the conditions which might be conducive to the formation of complex biological life.

There will be tea, coffee and biscuits available beforehand, and the talk will also be followed by a drinks and nibbles reception in G12. All are welcome to attend.

6 December 18:00

Krebs Lecture 2016

Speaker: Prof. Tomas Lindahl

Venue: Richard Roberts Auditorium, Brook Hill

Krebs Lecture:
DNA Instability and the role of TREX1

The covalent structure of DNA is less stable under physiological conditions than has been generally believed. For this reason endogenous damage to DNA is continuously repaired under in vivo conditions. We have characterized several of the enzymes that account for this essential process. DNA exonucleases of cell nuclei, in particular TREX1 and FEN1, are key factors in mammalian cells. TREX1 removes unwanted single stranded DNA fragments, and counteracts autoimmunity. FEN1 is a DNA replication component.

8 December 12:00

Speaker: Prof. Emma Raven
University of Leicester

Contact: Prof. Graham Leggett

Departmental Seminar:
The role of heme in biology: from catalysis to regulation

The talk will take a broad look at the role of heme iron in biology, including oxygen activation, and how the application of a range of methodologies - kinetics, numerous spectroscopies (including single crystal spectroscopy), and X-ray and neutron crystallography - can be brought to bear on various catalytic heme enzyme systems.

8 December 17:00

Speaker: Dr Sarah Staniland
University of Sheffield


ChemSoc Presidential Lecture:
Nature's Materials: Journey to the Nanoscale

There will be tea, coffee and biscuits available beforehand, and the talk will also be followed by a drinks and nibbles reception in G12. All are welcome to attend.

15 December 12:00

Speaker: Prof. Mike Hill
University of Bath

Contact: Dr Mike Morris

Departmental Seminar:
Chalk dust to catalysis

16 December 15:00

Speaker: Prof. Anne-Kathrin Duhme-Klaire
University of Bath

Contact: Daniel Jenkinson

Venue: LT-A Hicks Building

Departmental Seminar:
Bacterial Iron Scavengers and how to exploit them

This year, our guest speaker is Anne-Kathrin Duhme-Klair from the Department of Chemistry, University of York, who studies the role of metal ions in biological systems. There is plenty of potential to use the understanding of these biological systems to create new antimicrobials and sensors.

The lecture will be followed by a wine reception.

10 January 10:00 - 17:30

Prof. Lutz Ackermann
Dr Al Dossetter
Prof. Chris Hunter
Prof T. Ritter
Prof. Charles Stirling
Prof Marcey Waters

Venue: Richard Roberts Building Auditorium

50th Annual Meeting on 'Modern Aspects of Stereochemistry'

Sheffield Stereochemistry is one of the longest running annual one-day Chemistry meetings in the UK, and the conference in January will be the 50th in the series. The day consists of five invited lectures from pre-eminent chemists in the general area of stereochemistry, which we traditionally interpret very broadly. The aim is to enthuse and educate the audience, which is largely made up of younger chemists, so that they can appreciate the breadth and impact of contemporary organic chemistry.

18 January 14:00

Speaker: Dr Alan Fernyhough,
Ashland Speciality Ingredients

Venue: Dainton Building LT01

CDT Industrial Seminar:
A Career journey from Liverpool to New Zealand to Bradford

Alan Fernyhough (Head R&D, Ashland Specialty Ingredients, UK) will present a review of his career that took him from Liverpool to London and then two family moves to Japan and New Zealand. The latter was intended as a permanent family emigration to New Zealand. However, after 12 years there he and his family returned to UK – to Bradford. Alan will describe how, after studying Chemistry, and then Polymer Science, in Liverpool, his career took him to roles at BP, Kobe Steel (Kobelco), New Zealand Forest Research Institute (now known as Scion) and, since 2014, Ashland in Bradford. His roles have spanned diverse sectors including oil, steel, plastics and composites, adhesives and coatings, forestry products, green (renewable) technologies and, now, specialty chemicals for hair, skin and home care and for pharmaceuticals delivery. His roles have included Lab Start-Ups, having led several major recruitment drives for scientists, and Site Closures, where support for those facing redundancy has been a key aspect. He has been involved in numerous joint developments with companies such as IBM and Apple among others, and maintained strong links to supporting University research throughout each role. Examples of his research and associated product innovations from the above will be described and will include projects such as: BiospifeTM, making plastic parts from fruit waste, ZealafoamTM , a renewable and compostable alternative to polystyrene foam, and others. Such a diversity of industry sectors, cultures, and science areas has formed an exciting journey. Learnings from this journey will be shared with a view to helping those thinking about their careers beyond University life, and/or those who may be considering mid-career changes, or, thinking: What Next?

8 February 14:00

Speaker: Dr John Bower
University of Bristol

Contact: Prof. Iain Coldham

Departmental Seminar:
Catalytic Chirality Generation: New Strategies for N-Heterocyclic Chemistry

Our group focuses on the development of catalysis platforms for the generation of stereochemically complex N-heterocyclic ring systems. Two of our key themes are (1) the development of aza-Heck cyclizations and (2) cycloadditions triggered by directed C-C activation of cyclopropanes. Recent progress in both areas will be outlined.

9 February 12:00

Speaker: Prof. Richard Hooley
University of California

Contact: Prof. Mike Ward

Departmental Seminar:
Functionalized self-assembled systems: biomimicry, stereocontrol and reactivity

The focus of our research is towards novel multicomponent self-assembly and molecular recognition processes. This research centres on controlling the interior space of self-assembled metal ligand complexes in order to mimic the behaviour of enzyme active sites in a purely synthetic environment. Appending functional groups to the cage interiors allows control of self-assembly processes including stereocontrol at metal centres, ligand self-sorting and selective metal binding.

In addition, the presence of reactive functional groups allows post-synthetic modification of sensitive cage structures. In addition, we have shown that water-soluble deep cavitands (small molecules capable of selective aqueous molecular recognition) can be incorporated into membrane bilayers assembled onto a nano-glassified surface. The receptors retain their selective host properties, and real-time analysis via surface plasmon resonance and fluorescence microscopy is possible. These receptors have applications in bio-recognition processes of proteins and living cells, as well as the ability to direct nanoscale synthesis at the bilayer:water interface. The receptors display all the properties of natural proteins - selective molecular recognition, a defined cavity and the ability to function in both water and cellular environments.

9 February 17:30

Speaker: Dr Stuart Archer
University of Sheffield


ChemSoc Seminar:
MasterChef's own Stuart Archer

Stuart Archer will be giving a talk about his experiences with chemistry and cooking. He will then demonstrate making ice cream using liquid nitrogen - with free samples for everyone to try!

15 February 13:00

Speaker: Prof. Mike Ward

Charles Stirling Lecture series

Prof. Ward will share with the department his current ambitions and successes in the research he is undertaking - it's not just what he talks about in lectures!

15 February 14:00

Speaker: Dr Sarah Adams

Contact: Joe Gaunt

CDT Industrial Seminar:
There and Back Again

Dr Sarah Adams will discuss her professional career and what it has taken to get her to where she is today. Sarah started her scientific career as a polymer scientist in the wonderful academic institutions of Yorkshire, gaining both her undergraduate and postgraduate degrees from the University of Leeds before taking on a postdoc position at Sheffield. In 2000 she took the decision to leave academia and pursue a career with one of the leading fast moving consumer goods companies, Unilever. She will discuss her motivations and share with you her experiences of the journey she has taken over the course of her 16 years within Unilever. A journey that has seen her traverse the terrains of such strange lands as sensory and consumer science and even the murky world of microbiology before coming back again to the world of polymer science, older and maybe even a bit wiser. She will share some of her career highlights and some insights into what it is like to work within such a large global organisation as well as some of the best careers advice she has picked up along the way.

16 February 12:00

Speaker: Prof. David Smith
University of York

Contact: Prof. Nick Williams

Departmental Seminar:
Hard Facts about Soft Matter - Self-Assembled Materials for High-Tech Applications

Self-assembly using molecular-scale building blocks offers a powerful strategy by which we can program and control the nanoworld, from the molecular-level up. We will discuss the self-assembly of soft, gel-phase nanomaterials, and learn how molecular structure is translated into nanoscale architectures through non-covalent supramolecular interactions with a high degree of control. Directed self-assembly can occur within complex mixtures to yield multi-component materials with multiple functions – indeed, we can create ‘multi-domain’ gel systems which have one gel-phase material assembled in the presence of another, with both spatial and temporal control. We will discuss this with regard to novel hydrogels based on industrially-relevant 1,3:2,4-dibenzylidenesorbitol (DBS), and explore potential applications ranging from pharmaceutical formulation and pollution control to nanoscale electronics and tissue engineering.

16 February 17:00

Venue: The Octagon Centre

SURE 2016 Showcase

The SURE Showcase is a celebration of the research projects undertaken by the last cohort of SURE Students who all produce a dissemination piece to present on the night. It provides an opportunity for students and staff to see the wide range research that was undertaken in 2016.

1 March 13:00

Speaker: Dr Seb Spain
University of Sheffield

Charles Stirling Lecture series
Beyond Plastic Bags

Plastic bag charges. The plastic island. Plastic microbeads from cosmetics being eaten by fish. The word plastic has become synonymous with pollution and environmental disaster but are they all bad? In this talk I will describe some of our research into the use of multifunctional polymers for the development of more effective and selective therapeutics and diagnostics.

2 March 12:00

Speaker: Prof. Dek Woolfson
University of Bristol

Contact: Dr Barbara Ciani

Departmental Seminar:
Understanding protein structures by building them

Dek Woolfson works at the interface between chemistry and biochemistry. His research focuses on the rational de novo design of protein structures and assemblies. Where possible, his group applies its designs in synthetic biology and medicine. He was awarded the RSC Interdisciplinary Prize for 2016.

2 March 17:30

Speaker: Dr Bill Sanderson


ChemSoc Seminar:
Guest Lecture - Biological Warfare Cleanup 9/11

This is a story about the anthrax attacks in the US just a few days after 9/11, then goes on to biological warfare agents and decontamination methods - particularly for buildings, also looking about fogging and gaseous fumigant systems.

There will be tea, coffee and biscuits available beforehand, and the talk will also be followed by a drinks and nibbles reception in G12. All are welcome to attend.

7 March 18:00

Speaker: Dr Tom Anderson
The University of Sheffield

Contact: Dr Tom Anderson

Venue: Lecture Theatre 1, Dainton Building

Outreach Seminar:
Journey to the Centre of the Atom

Picture the iconic image of an atom with subatomic particles circling a central core. But how did we get to that picture of the atom? Join Dr Tom Anderson for this talk with practical demonstrations showing that when it comes to our journey into the atom, there is always another secret to uncover. Featuring: changing colours, stopping an artillery shell with a piece of tissue paper, plum puddings and the Music of the Spheres.

Booking is required to attend.

14 March 15:15-17:00

Venue: The Charlesworth Suite, Dainton Building G11-G14

Poster Session with Prof. Sir Fraser Stoddart

14 March 18:00

Speaker: Prof. Sir Fraser Stoddart
Northwestern University

Venue: Lecture Theatre 1, Diamond Building

Krebs Lecture:
The Rise of the Mechanical Bond: From Molecules to Machines

The hurly-burly life of a scientific nomad will be traced through thick and thin from the Athens of the North to the Windy City beside a Big Lake with brief, and not so brief, interludes on the Edge of the Canadian Shield, in the Socialist Republic of South Yorkshire, on the Plains of Cheshire beside the Wirral, in the Midlands within the Heartland of Albion, and in the City of Angels beside the Peaceful Sea.

Booking is required to attend.

15 March 13:00

Speaker: Prof. Joe Harrity
The University of Sheffield

Charles Stirling Lecture:
New Strategies for the Synthesis of Boronic Acid Derivatives

Aromatic and heteroaromatic boronic acid derivatives are one of the most valuable classes of intermediates in synthetic chemistry. Their value lies in their unique combination of high stability, coupled with a rich reactivity, allowing them to participate in a wide range of functionalization reactions. Traditional approaches to these compounds have relied on elaboration of pre-formed aromatic/heteroaromatic scaffolds through C-X or C-H borylation. While these methods are now well established, they are often restricted to relatively simple compounds and can have potential functional group compatibility issues (eg the commonly employed aryl lithiation strategy requires reactive main group organometallic reagents).

We have developed a programme of research that aims to establish an alternative approach to aromatic/heteroaromatic boronic acid derivatives. Specifically, our objective is to perform benzannulation reactions of simple fragments that contain a pre-existing boronic ester moiety. The general advantages of this strategy are i) benzannulation reactions build the aromatic products from simple, commercial substrates allowing functionality to be introduced in a convergent manner; ii) this approach offers a short (usually one-step) method for building highly substitutes/functionalised products that are not available from commercial pre-formed aromatic substrates. Among the approaches developed within our labs to-date, we have exploited cycloaddition, cyclisation and cyclo-condensation reactions. The lecture will feature recent developments in the development of these methods.

15 March 14:00

Speaker: Dr Elizabeth Wigley

Contact: Joe Gaunt

CDT Industrial Seminar:
Career Path of Dr Elizabeth Wigley - R&D Development Manager for Blast Furnace Taphole Clay at Vesuvius

Dr Elizabeth Wigley is a Sheffield University alumna, graduating in 2008 with a PhD in polymer chemistry from Prof. Steve Armes’s group, sponsored by Unilever. Prior to this, Elizabeth completed a BSc in Chemistry at the University of Sussex followed by a gap year in Australia. The latter included two short research assistant posts at the University of Melbourne with Prof. Frank Caruso and the University of Newcastle with Dr. Erica Wanless. Following Sheffield, Elizabeth then made the leap into industry starting a role as a Research Chemist at Dow Chemical Company, specialising in the development of polyurethane products. After two years in this role, Elizabeth made an even bigger jump into the non-polymer industry of refractories at Vesuvius (the company not the volcano). During the past five years, Elizabeth has held varied managerial R&D roles at Vesuvius based on technology, chemical analysis and product development. This talk will introduce Vesuvius as a global company, Vesuvius’s role in the steel industry and how a polymer chemist can have an impact. Additionally, critical decisions that have been made leading to this career path will be shared.

16 March 12:00

Speaker: Prof. Polly Arnold
Edinburgh University

Contact: Dr Peter Portius

Departmental Seminar:
Dinuclear f-block architectures for multiple electron reductive activation chemistry

This talk will discuss synthetic organometallic chemistry to explore and extend our knowledge of bonding and reactivity in this poorly understood area of the periodic table, with long-term relevance to the science of nuclear waste legacy management.

23 March 12:00

Speaker: Dr Elizabeth Gibson
Newcastle University

Contact: Dr Natalia Martsinovich

Departmental Seminar:
Tandem dye sensitized solar cells for energy conversion and storage

Efficient dye-sensitized photocathodes offer new opportunities for converting sunlight into storable energy cheaply and sustainably. We are developing dye-sensitized NiO cathodes for the photo-reduction of carbon dioxide or water to high energy products (solar fuels) using the lessons we have learnt from solar cells. Despite the infancy and complexity of this research area, we have brought about a number of exciting developments which have improved our understanding of the system. We are tackling the main limitations to p-type dye-sensitized solar cells, by improving the quality of the NiO electrodes and engineering new dyes specifically for the p-type system, to increase the quantum efficiency of the device. The electron-transfer dynamics are key to the performance and a major challenge is slowing down charge recombination between the photo-reduced dye and the oxidised NiO so that chemistry can take place. Highlights from recent work examining charge-transfer at the interface between NiO and new porphyrin and bodipy-based photosensitizers using transient absorption spectroscopy, time-resolved infrared spectroscopy will be presented.

29 March 13:00

Speaker: Prof. Jane Grasby
The University of Sheffield

Charles Stirling Lecture:
Getting in a Flap with DNA

Flap endonuclease 1 (FEN1) is an essential enzyme during DNA replication and repair. During replication of a single human cell FEN1 catalyses more than 10 million hydrolyses of phosphate diester bonds. FEN1 acts upon a particular DNA structure known as flapped DNA, which is has to recognise without regard to sequence. Moreover, FEN1 catalyses phosphate diester hydrolysis at a precise site in this flapped DNA. We have been trying to understand how FEN1 recognises its substrate DNA and carries out precise hydrolysis and how it discriminates against other DNA structures.

30 March 12:00

Speaker:Dr Louise Natrajan
University of Manchester

Contact: Prof. Julia Weinstein

Departmental Seminar:
3D Optical Imaging of Uranium in the Natural Environment: From First Principles to Applications

The world currently holds a substantial nuclear legacy arising from fission activities, with a large proportion of high activity wastes that pose a radiological threat to natural and engineered environments. The decision to dispose of these high level wastes (following separation) in a suitable geological disposal facility (GDF) has provided some of the most demanding technical, and environmental challenges facing the world in the coming century. In order to address these issues, we have begun a programme of work to establish a comprehensive understanding of the electronic properties and physical and chemical properties of the radioactive actinide metals using state of the art emission spectroscopic techniques in order to probe actinide speciation at sub-micron resolution over a given time period. I will discuss the potential to use the inherent fluorescent properties of the uranyl cation to study redox speciation in uranium-containing environmental samples by one and two-photon confocal fluorescence and phosphorescence microscopy and lifetime image mapping. Previous studies carried out on crystalline samples have shown that uranyl species are capable of experiencing two-photon excitation. Here we study uranyl species in solution at room temperature and report fundamental properties such as quantum yield, two-photon excitation and emission spectra and two-photon cross sections. These capabilities are then applied to confocal fluorescence microscopy of uranyl in a range of bacterial and mineral samples, to study and map potentially useful process in (bio)remediation strategies including incorporation, biosorption and the in situ enzymatic reduction of uranyl.

19 April

Speaker: Dr Ben Ryan

Contact: Joe Gaunt

CDT Industrial Seminar

Having just celebrated completing 8 years as a production chemist working for a major integrated oil and gas company this seminar will discuss some of the many challenges I’ve faced along the way. I started working in the North of Netherlands managing the chemical aspects of the collection of challenges the industry faces in optimising production from depleting assets. I then moved into a position as a wellsite drilling engineer where I spent a wintery Christmas on a rig drilling for oil on the Dutch/German border working with the complicated rheology of drilling muds and high pressure cement pumping. My most recent position has been with a central “Projects and Technology” group working with global assets on trouble shooting and technology deployment. This role has seen me travelling to work in a variety of weird and wonderful locations including the jungles of Gabon, the world’s largest “Gas to Liquids” plant in Qatar and a lengthy spell in Egypt’s western desert. This session will discuss some of the chemistry used to help the production operations of the oil and gas industry along with the non-technical challenges of trying to forge a career as a chemist in the energy industry.

26 April

Venue: The Octagon

Postgraduate Poster session

The first Faculty wide Poster Day for second year postgraduate researchers to present posters on their research. This is a great opportunity to talk to your fellow postgraduate students from different disciplines and find out about the breadth of the Faculty of Science's research. The event will also provide an opportunity for you to engage with exhibitors from University of Sheffield research support teams.

27 April

Speaker: Prof. Ifor Samuel
St Andrews University

Contact: Dr Ahmed Iraqi

Departmental Seminar:
Organic Semiconductor Optoelectronics: From Time-resolved Spectroscopy to Skin Cancer Treatment

Organic semiconductors are a remarkable class of materials because they combine novel semiconducting optoelectronic properties with simple fabrication and the scope for tuning properties by changing their chemical structure. Their properties are very different from, and complementary to, their inorganic counterparts. For example they can be deposited from solution to make working electronic and optoelectronic devices. Advances in materials have enabled a wide range of advances in devices, and in the domain of optoelectronics, organic light-emitting diodes (OLEDs), solar cells and (optically pumped) lasers have been demonstrated. After an introduction to these materials, I will show how time-resolved spectroscopy can guide the development of such materials and devices, and describe emerging areas of application. In particular organic semiconductors are showing promise as colour conversion materials for visible light communication (Li-Fi) and as light sources for the treatment of non melanoma skin cancer by photodynamic therapy.

3 May

Speaker: Dr Anthony Meijer
The University of Sheffield

Charles Stirling Lecture:
Molecules in space

Molecules are ubiquitous on Earth are and are essential to human life and civilization. However, perhaps surprisingly, molecules are also abundant in the Universe as a whole and turn out to be crucial on that large scale as well. In this talk I will discuss how molecules form in Space, how we detect them and what their role is in the evolution of the Universe.

17 May

Speaker: Prof. Anthony Ryan ,OBE
University of Sheffield
Director of The Grantham Centre for Sustainable Futures.

Contact: Dr Seb Spain

Special Departmental Seminar:
What does “sustainable” mean in the context of polymers?

The United Nations defines sustainability as “meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs.” A definition that has stood the test of time and comes from the 1987 Brundt Report. IUPAC has a more recent definition of Green Chemistry “the invention, design and application of chemical products and processes to reduce or eliminate the use and the production of harmful substances,” and sees it as a basic element of the UNs’ recent Sustainable Development Goals, in particular SDG 9 “Build resilient infrastructure, promote inclusive & sustainable industrialization, and foster innovation” and SDG 12 “Ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns”.

The 2016 COP21 Paris Agreement (United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) dealing with greenhouse gas emissions, mitigation and adaptation) commits us to reducing our carbon emissions across a whole range of technologies. Chemistry as a whole needs to facilitate the transition from fossil-based energy and feedstocks to renewable energy and feedstocks that are fundamentally based on the use of sunshine in real-time (solar and wind) and in particular to develop scalable means to store that energy.

Polymer production accounts for < 3% of crude-oil consumption and < 1% of the global energy budget and overall has a beneficial (i.e. net negative) effect on global emissions due to light-weight vehicles improving fuel consumption, thermal insulation reducing the need for heating/air-conditioning and sensible food packaging reducing food waste, to give but three examples. Polymers have an important role to play in energy capture (photo-voltaics and wind turbines) and storage (batteries and water splitting). So what we need to do straight away is stop burning the fossil resource and maximize its beneficial use – in making plastics and other petrochemicals.

Life cycle analysis shows that an “eco-bag” made from hessian has to be used 140 times to be less energy intensive per use than taking a new PE bag each time, and if you reuse the PE bag then the effect is compounded. Yet self-identifying green consumers prefer hessian and paper to “nasty” plastics even when the evidence tells them otherwise. Does polymer science suffer from the same problem in the current emphasis on “sustainable”, i.e. renewable, polymers? The feedstocks for sustainable polymers could come from renewable resources, but their production should use less water and energy than the petrochemicals they replace. Currently, commercial “sustainable polymers” are made from plant starch or oils, or more preferably from agricultural waste streams that do not compete with food production. But why use a renewable feedstock to make a plastic if it results in much greater GHG emissions because of all of the processes involved? A full life cycle analysis is needed to make the decisions about whether polymers are sustainable or not – focusing on whether the feedstock is renewable isn’t enough – and it should be done before the laboratory research is underway. And then making polymers from CO2 and putting them into landfill might actually be a great way to sequester carbon!

This lecture will conclude by looking at how crystallization of polyolefins can be manipulated to get the most in terms of their properties. How the most abundant source of biomass (cellulose) could be modified to make engineering materials processed from water. How polymer photovoltaics can produce far more energy from the sun than was need to manufacture them. And how polyurethane foam and polythene films can combine with solar desalination to make deserts fertile and take CO2 out of the atmosphere by using photosynthesis to grow food.

There is enough fossilized carbon to enable all these technologies and more. As long as we stop burning it! And this is the issue polymer scientists should unite behind

2 June

Speaker: Prof Laura Gagliardi
University of Minnesota
2016 RSC Bourke Award winner

Gas Separation and Catalysis in Metal-Organic Frameworks

Metal-organic frameworks (MOFs) are attracting the attention of many scientists because of their high selectivity in gas separations, catalytic activity, and magnetic properties. Many of these properties are linked to the presence of open-site transition metal ions, which may have open shells depending on their dn configuration and their coordination environments inside the framework. Among this newly popular class of materials, the M2(dobdc) (M = transition metal, dobdc4- = 2,5-dioxido-1,4-benzenedicarboxylate) systems are particularly noteworthy. They exhibit very high performance for various gas separations and promising catalytic properties.

Prof Gagliardi will present several examples of the interplay between experiment and theory in order to address some of the challenging chemistry that occurs in these materials, including her group's latest results on the M2(dobdc) (M= Mg, Fe, Ni, Co) class of materials, obtained using quantum chemical calculations in combination with classical simulations. These studies are aimed at understanding the interaction of various guests, including CO2, and NO with various MOFs. She will also discuss their recent computational studies of the post-synthetic functionalization of the Zr6-based NU1000 metal-organic frameworks to imbue it with catalytic properties.

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For a list of previous seminars from the 2015/2016 academic year, click here.