Monday, 18 September 2017

Marvellous Brewery visit in Mechelen

The first event of our 2017-2018 programme took place on Saturday 16 September with an informative and entertaining guided tour around the Het Anker Brewery in Mechelen. Some 22 members and friends enjoyed the tour, which was completed with a tasting of the final product and 18 of the group stayed on for a hearty lunch featuring locally sourced products including the famous Mechelen 'cuckoo'.

The brewery is a family run business that started in the Grand Beguinage in Mechelen five generations ago. It has since developed into an internationally renowned brewery and is home to the famous Gouden Carolus dubbel beer (a recent World Champion beer) and a range of other brews including a Belgian whiskey. In fact it is believed that brewing has featured on the site since at least 1471 as documentary evidence shows that the Nuns of the Beguinage wear brewing at that time.

The tour of the brewery started at 12 noon and lasted around 90 minutes and took us through the full brewing process and the ingredients used, the history of the family business and the recent diversification into spirits.

The history of the Beguinage site begins in the 15th century, although the brewery was bought and modernised by the Van Breedam family in 1872. The family run company continued to grow and in 2010 the 17th century family farm (at Blaasveld) was transformed into a whiskey distillery, the whiskey launched three years later has already won several international awards. In fact before acquiring the brewery the Van Breedam family had been renowned gin distillers.

It was agreed by all that the visit was a great success and highly enjoyable. Cheers!

Tuesday, 4 July 2017

Dr Ian G Carson 1943 - 2017

RSC Belgium members and friends will be saddened to learn of the death of one of our most active and energetic committee members and an excellent professional chemical scientist: Dr Ian Carson.

Ian died peacefully on 27 June 2017 at his home in Chaumont-Gistoux with his family around him. A memorial service was held for him at the Champ de Court crematorium near Court Saint Etienne on 4 July 2017. Ian served on the RSC Belgium section committee from 2004 until the end of last year and was section secretary in 2010-2011 and also membership secretary for many years.

At the service RSC Belgium chairman Tim Reynolds gave the following tribute to Ian on behalf of the section:

"For me, Dr Ian Carson was the epitome of a professional chemical scientist: he knew his subject inside out and he was a lifelong enthusiast for chemistry – and polymer chemistry in particular. He was diligent and thorough, but also creative.
Ian’s chemical career started with a first class honours degree in chemistry from Strathclyde University in Glasgow in 1965, swiftly followed by a Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) studying applied and polymer chemistry in 1968.
After a year as a Royal Society Postdoctoral Research Fellow with the Institute of Industrial Chemistry at the University of Genova, Italy from 1969 Ian embarked on a 32 year career with petrochemical giant - Shell - working in initially in the UK, then in Holland, and finally from the early 1990’s in Belgium.
He worked on a wide range of topics from scaling up catalyst systems to providing technical advice to business units and investigating marketing applications for polymers.
In his final ten years with Shell Research Ian was based at Louvain La Neuve, where he was Manager Polyesters responsible for research and technical service provision including work on, the now ubiquitous, PET plastic bottle and various polymers for use with textiles. 
It is worth considering that it is highly likely that all of us today will wear or, certainly, will touch an object that is made from a material that Ian was intimately involved in refining or creating. That was Ian’s chemistry.
Ian retired from Shell at the end of 2001 and became a Polymer Consultant continuing to use his knowledge and skills for the benefit of a portfolio of companies and society.
And, fortunately for us, he also found time to bring the benefit of his experience and enthusiasm for chemistry to the Royal Society of Chemistry’s Belgium section. Ian had been a member of the RSC since 1967 – eventually clocking up over 50 years as a member of the society, and from 2004 he joined our executive committee.
Ian was as diligent and creative for RSC Belgium as he had been for Shell. Researching event ideas, contacting potential speakers and – most importantly – making things happen!
His contributions to RSC Belgium were wide ranging, but in particular I remember his shepherding of our demonstration lecturers in their tours of schools around Brussels and beyond, his language skills enthusing younger people from different communities about chemistry in our work with the Greenlight4Girls initiative and our own Top of the Bench competitions, and his organising work for our annual Café Chimique events.
But Ian was a very unassuming person – not one to blow his own trumpet as we might say – so it was particularly pleasing that we were able to recognise Ian’s contributions to RSC Belgium in 2015 with a Long Service Award – recognising his 10 years’ service to the section – and as a special mark it was presented in person to Ian at a dinner in Brussels by the Society’s CEO Dr Robert Parker (see photo above). Ian truly deserved the award.
We thank Ian for his contributions to chemistry. We will miss him. We already do."
If you wish to give a donation in Ian's memory, please donate to the 'Fondation St. Luc'. Their bank account number is BE41 1910 3677 7110 and please mention Ian's name on the transfer.

Tuesday, 27 June 2017

RSC fund raises for Norman Lloyd studentships at BSB Proms Night

RSC committee volunteers, Rita Woodward, William Darnley (pictured below) and Tim Reynolds were behind the bar at the RSC's stall at the 2017 British School of Brussels Summer Concert on 16 June. Selling a range of alcoholic and soft drinks they helped quench the thirst of the prom audience and also raised funds for our Norman Lloyd studentship initiative and BSB charitable causes.

The Sun was shining on BSB on this Friday evening, burgers were cooking and the various singers, bands and dancers were limbering up. Our contribution to this year's BSB Summer concert was a bar selling a range of beers and soft drinks - all ice cool.... or at least they were at the start of the evening!

The excellent weather certainly helped sales with best sellers being Jupiler beer, Orangina and - surprisingly Canada Dry Ginger Ale. In all sales totalled over EUR 600! The actual surplus still needs to be calculated but we anticipate a healthy and very useful boost for our charitable causes.

Well done to all involved - and it was fun too!

Thursday, 18 May 2017

Mariemont by Torchlight!

Our Spring social event this year was a guided tour around the Musée Royal de Mariemont on the morning of Saturday 13 May. The Mariemont describes itself as a dialogue between art, culture, and nature, with unique collections evoking the Orient and the Occident, the past and present, fauna and flora. And our two hour anglophone guided tour around the museum had an added quirk: it was conducted by torchlight!

RSC Belgium members and friends gathered at the entrance to the entrance to the Mariemont Park at 10 sharp and then proceeded to the Museum itself to meet our delightful guide for the morning: Aline Peremans - seen describing some Pompeian villa frescoes to our group below.

Since the end of April, a temporary exhibition called the “Invisible collections” has been open and highlights some of the objects held in the museum’s vast (and unseen) collection. During this exhibition, that runs until 26 November 2017 the museum’s main galleries are plunged into darkness to ensure the delicate exhibits are not damaged through a rare exposure to daylight!

Dark galleries
Within the darkened galleries the new artifacts are under the spotlight and the rest of the collections are in the shadow, victors are given torches to explore the rooms – and for us Aline wielded the light source! A very unusual and extraordinary way to discover the Museum!

The museum collections were gathered by Raoul Waroqué, a local fabulously wealthy industrialist, and are currently housed in a modern building inaugurated in 1975 and built by the Belgian architect Roger Bastin.

Raoul Waroqué devoted most of his fortune to acquire works of art works from the classical antiquity. He was also interested by ceramics and Eastern philosophies and brought back a huge number of Chinese and Japanese works. A favourite object for many RSC visitors was an incredibly intricate ivory object consisting of a dozen or more nested spheres (see below).

Our two hour trip around the Museum was both very informative and entertaining and – if you couldn’t join us on the day – a visit to the Mariemont and its very fine park is highly recommended.
After the visit many of the RSC Belgium party had a relaxing lunch at the Museum’s brasserie.
Our thanks to Ian Carson for the initial idea to visit this museum and to Rita Woodward who put in the main work to actually organise the event.

More about Mariemont
Mariemont includes a 45 hectare park in the style of an English landscape garden; an arboretum; the ruins of Charles of Lorraine’s palace; the museum; major art collections; the most complete collection of Chinese antiquities in Belgium; a tea house and numerous collections from Japan, Korea, and Vietnam; archaeological and historical collections covering everything about the region; rare manuscripts; and many other treasures. For more information, please visit the museum’s website.

The Musée Royal de Mariemont is situated at Chaussée de Mariemont 100, 7140 Morlanwelz

Top tip: On the first Sunday of every month, access to the permanent collections and any temporary exhibitions is free!

Thursday, 4 May 2017

Redox active Polymers: The Future for Batteries?

On 27 April 2017 RSC Belgium members and friends gathered at the British School of Brussels to hear Prof Jean-François Gohy from the Université catholique de Louvain (UCLouvain) give a very informative talk on 'Redox active polymers: the future for batteries?' Jean-Francois' presentation focused on modern battery technologies and advances that may be possible through research in polymer science.

The presentation described the development of novel energy storage systems with enhanced performances using original, organic, electro-active, material chemistry and engineering approaches. Jean-Francois' primary target is to decipher the fundamental flaws in current technologies and build better organic batteries.

His long-term goal is to develop sustainable all-carbon-based batteries. The research aims to design and develop novel electro-active organic materials and architectures in order to develop faster, safer, and longer-lasting organic batteries, capacitors, and their hybrids.

Jean-François Gohy is Professeur Ordinaire at UCLouvain within the Institute for Condensed Matter and Nanosciences and Bio and Soft Matter. His research interests include the synthesis of polymers including: “living” and “controlled” polymerisation techniques; ionic polymers; liquid crystals; surfactants; supramolecular chemistry; self-associating polymers, stimuli-responsive materials, nanomaterials; adsorption of polymers on substrates; nano patterned surfaces; lithium-polymer batteries; and sustainable and green processes for battery materials.

Jean-François was awarded his Master degree in Chemistry from the University of Liège and continued his studies at Liege under Prof. Robert Jérôme obtaining his PhD in 1999. Then following postdoc positions with the Belgian FNRS (Fonds National de la Recherche Scientifique) and at Eindhoven University of Technology he moved to the UCL in 2002.

He is first author or coauthor of more than 40 papers in international journals. He is member of the "Research Centre in Micro and Nanoscopic Materials and Electronic Devices" (CERMIN) and member of the Steering Committee of the European Science Foundation SUPERNET programme (Experimental and Theoretical Investigation of Complex Polymer Structures).

March for Science Belgium - We were there!

On Saturday 22 April there were Marches for Science organised all around the world. In fact over 600 places around the globe saw scientists and members of the public gathering together to stand up for science. Of course Brussels and Belgium were no exception and RSC Belgium chairman Tim Reynolds was involved with the organisation of the March for Science Brussels.

The event in Brussels took place from 2pm on Saturday April 22 at Place de l'Albertine close to Gare Centrale and the Mont des Arts in central Brussels. Our compere for the event was Flemish science comedian and TV star Lieven Scheire (pictured below with the European Commission's Director General for DG Research Robert-Jan Smits.

Our speakers included climate scientist Prof Jean-Pascal van Ypersele (below).

Sofie Vanthournout of Sense about Science (below),

Satu Lipponen emeritus president of EUSJA (the European Science Journalists Association)

and RSC Belgium member Cesar Alejandro Urbina Blanco (pictured left below)from Ghent University.

Some 600 people turned up to show their support for facts and that science-based evidence should be the basis for policy-making.

You can find more information and photos from the day on the March's Facebook page:

RSC Belgium 2017 AGM report

The section's Annual General Meeting (AGM) took place on Friday 10 February 2017 at Les Amis Dinent Restaurant in Wezembeek-Oppem at 19h30 and was followed by the section's Annual Dinner from 20h00. The meeting opened at 19:30 with nine members present but a further ten members, who were unable to attend the AGM in person, had asked the Chairman to act as their proxy for the meeting if a vote was required thus achieving our quorum.

Following recording of apologies received, the minutes of our previous AGM of 15 January 2016 were approved with no corrections.  The section secretary, Becki Scott, then gave the Committee Report on the Section’s 2016 Activities. During the year the section organised seven public events, one Saturday social excursions, two schools events and the Chemistry Challenge. Total section membership stood at 133 – a net increase of one over the year.

Among highlights of the year, reported by Becki, were the Café Chimique on the changing public perceptions of chemistry, Andrew Hanson’s series of colourful demonstration lectures for schools and the public in March, a lively stand-up comedy science show by Dr Jack Heal, and a guided tour of Namur led by Sarah Strange. The Chemistry Challenge competition attracted good levels of participation with prizes given out at Jack Heal’s event in October. Feedback had been received from Cardiff University that Mr Rhodri Evans (the second recipient of the Norman Lloyd scholarship) had performed well in his first year. The 2016-2017 recipient had just been named as Jessica Powell. The report was unanimously approved.

Section Finances
Outgoing section treasurer Rita Woodward presented the 2016 financial report and accounts. On the 1st January 2016, the net assets of the RSC Belgium Section were €6350 approx. The Annual Grant from RSC UK for 2016 had been €6200, less than the requested amount. Expenditure for the year was significant, but less than the previous year. With careful management the deficit for the year was only €440 approx. The committee aims to keep our account balances at around €7000, due to Belgian regulations where the section officers are responsible for any deficit. A grant for 2017 activities of €7000 will be requested from HQ. The section wished to thank immediate past president Prof Dominic Tildesley who covered many of his own expenses during his visit to the section. The accounts had been audited by the auditor Ralph Palim. The meeting unanimously adopted the audited accounts and the Treasurer’s Report.

The Treasurer expressed her gratitude to Ralph Palim and announced that he had agreed to be appointed as auditor for the section accounts for 2017.

Chairman’s Remarks
Section chairman Tim Reynolds thanked the committee for their hard work and support during a rather difficult year. The section had hosted an interesting programme and survived financially despite a lower grant than requested. With the visit of immediate past president, Prof Dominic Tildesley, the section maintained its tradition of hosting the RSC presidents.

The chairman thanked the three committee members who were stepping down and acknowledged their many years of service on the committee: Brian Sutcliffe (4 years), Ian Carson (11 years), David Terrell (27 years). It is hoped that David can be co-opted on to the committee for the coming year. Thanks weer also given to Rita Woodward who is stepping down as Treasurer. The Chairman also extended a welcome to the newly elected committee members and the incoming Treasurer and looked forward to a varied and interesting programme for the coming year.

Committee elections
Following elections the RSC Belgium Executive Committee for 2017 has the following membership: 

Elected members
Mr. Tim Reynolds (Chair)
Ms. Julie Tuppeny (Treasurer)
Dr. Becki Scott (Secretary)
Prof. Bob Crichton
Mr. William Darnley
Mr. John Swift
Mrs. Rita Woodward

Co-opted members
Ms. Jane Downing
Dr. David Terrell

The co-opted members were confirmed at the first meeting of the executive committee on 7 March 2017.

Closing remarks
Bob Crichton noted that the new structure of taking the demo lectures to the respective schools appeared to work better than the previous structure whereby a single location was found for the demo lectures and the students were transported to the venue. It was agreed that this approach will be continued as far as possible.

Special thanks were made to Dr Ian Carson for the enormous amount of work he has done for the section during his years of service. He was especially thanked for his help in arranging the very successful travelling demo lectures to schools.

There being no other business, the meeting closed at 19h55 and was followed by the 2017 Annual Dinner of the RSC Belgium section.