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.

Wednesday, 8 March 2017

Third Norman Lloyd Scholar announced

RSC Belgium is proud to announce that the third recipient of the Dr Norman C. Lloyd Scholarship at Cardiff University has been selected and is enjoying their first year at the university. Jessica Powell hails from Llandovery and started her MCheM degree in Chemistry at the end of September.

Pictured below in one of Cardiff’s chemistry laboratories Jessica Powell, who originally comes from Llandovery, is enjoying living and studying in the Welsh capital. The scholarship is given to new students to the Cardiff School of Chemistry who are of high academic standing and a resident of Wales.

Upon receiving this award, Jessica said: “I would like to take this opportunity to pass my sincere thanks to the family of Dr Lloyd, the Royal Society of Chemistry in Belgium and the staff of the University on the panel for awarding me the 2017 Scholarship."

"Having read Dr Lloyd’s biography on the Royal Society in Belgium website, I am proud to be associated in a small way with keeping his memory alive – he was indeed a very special chemist," she continued. "Coming from Llandovery, a small town in West Wales it has been a big change coming to Cardiff however I am enjoying the challenges of Chemistry at Cardiff University and can’t believe how fast the first year is passing.  I have already identified further reading for next year and it is my intention to put the scholarship money towards new books and equipment."

We all wish Jessica every success in her studies at Cardiff.

The scholarship
The Norman Lloyd scholarship was set up by RSC Belgium in collaboration with Norman’s family and Cardiff University in memory of our old friend and supporter Norman Lloyd. Norman was himself a student at an institution that is now part of the university. The funds raised provide an annual scholarship of £1,000 for an undergraduate student, usually in their first year of study, at the Cardiff School of Chemistry.

If you would like to donate to the Norman Lloyd scholarship fund, please contact the RSC Belgium secretary.

Tuesday, 21 February 2017

Copernicus: the EU's Earth Observation Success Story

RSC Belgium members and friends were treated to an excellent overview of the European Union's Copernicus programme on Valentine’s Day at the British School of Brussels. On the evening of Tuesday 14 February Dr Peter Breger talked to an enthusiastic crowd about Europe's Earth Observation system and its Sentinel satellites. The talk was fascinating and illustrated with many impressive images of the Earth.

Few people are aware of the wealth of data and insights provided by Earth observation satellites. Fewer still know how successful Europe has been in realising the most ambitious Earth observation programme yet: Copernicus.

In a personal view, Dr. Peter Breger (above) presented the progress made over the last decade, gave a brief overview of the satellites flying, what they measure and what information they already make available to all of us on a daily basis, for free.

Public services
Peter gave examples of the various public services Copernicus provide covering will be shown. Supporting emergency response during natural catastrophes has been one of the early success stories. The programme also tracks land use and its changes, which aids better management of our environment. Together with its forecasts of air quality and ocean dynamics it can inform us of impending pollution events, and support marine and maritime applications. He also briefly alluded to the non-public defence and security role of Copernicus.

Copernicus' latest addition - a climate change service - compiles projections of climate change and their impacts on environment and thus on economic activities. For an example consider the map below that shows the potential for wine making in the UK in 20250!

Peter certainly showed how the service provides  a mass of authoritative data, of particular significance and importance in this current era that seems to be beset by 'post truth' and 'alternative facts'.

Wealth of links
If you want to know more about the Copernicus programme and how to access its wealth of data see the links below that Peter has provided. And you can download Peter's presentation here (7.2 MB file).

The main website is at and you can follow the programme on Twitter:    @CopernicusEU and Facebook Copernicus EU too

All the Copernicus services links can be found here:
or individually at:
The European Union's Space Strategy for Europe (2016)

The Committee on Earth Observation Satellites (CEOS) database of satellites:

Ocean modelling and satellite observations by EUMETSAT

Other links of interest
Baltic Algal bloom and nutrient circulation

Air quality forecasts

Climate change service – proof of concept tools for exploring ideas

Wednesday, 1 February 2017

Collaborative research: what next for the EU and the UK?

RSC Belgium's first event of 2017 was a Café Chimique entitled “The Future for Collaborative Research and Innovation in Europe”. Our three speakers addressed this issue in general terms and also in the specific context of the UK's likely exit from the EU, before taking questions from the audience. The event took place on the evening of Tuesday 24 January in the relaxed atmosphere of the Auderghem Cultural Centre.

Following the Brexit referendum in June 2016, attitudes have been divided over the impact this may have on scientific research both in the UK and Europe. While the British government has promised to guarantee funding for existing EU projects, potential future collaborations with EU scientists still hang in the balance.

The introductory presentations focused on the role and opportunities for chemical sciences in the Commission’s Horizon 2020 successor that has the working title FP9 and addressed the range of research fields and schemes that the European Commission and European nations currently organise. The speakers also gave their views on where the UK fits into this in a (presumably) post-Brexit future.

Our first speaker was Prof David Cole-Hamilton (second left above) who is President of the European Association for Chemical and Molecular Sciences (EuCheMS) and Irvine Professor of Chemistry at the University of St. Andrews. His presentation can be accessed here.

The RSC line was then put by Dr Mindy Dulai (second right above), Senior Programme Manager (with responsibility for Brexit issues) at the Royal Society of Chemistry HQ in Cambridge, UK. Mindy has worked in many areas of the RSC and was been a Programme Manager in Environmental Sciences and also Physical Sciences, before her current role. The RSC response and priorities for Brexit are outlined here.

Finally Dr Peter Chisnall, Business Process and Risk Management Coordinator at the EUREKA Secretariat in Brussels (standing right above) gave his view of the situation from the point of view of a independent pan-European research network. Peter's presentation can be accessed here.

The event was moderated by Tim Reynolds, Chair of RSC Belgium.

The floor was then open to the audience and an extensive question and answer ensued that lasted for over an hour. Questions which were explored included: 'How can we improve EU collaborative research in this field in the next FP?', 'How can UK chemical scientists remain involved and contributing post-Brexit?' and 'What new forms of collaborative structures are required? '

As with our previous debates the audience was seated in a café-style format (small tables with 6 seats) and a bar and light refreshments/nibbles were available throughout the event and afterwards.