Friday, 10 December 2010

Cold plasma is a hot topic

The final RSC Belgium lecture event of 2010 was held on Thursday November 18 at the British School of Brussels with Dr. Laurent Denis from the University of Mons. Dr. Denis presented a comprehensive overview of the use of cold plasma technologies - in particular for the application of thin films.

Plasma is a state of matter that makes up in excess of 90% of all matter in the universe. Plasma is essentially a fully ionised gas: the Sun is a ball of plasma. Cold plasma technology has a vast number of applications and is the basis of a multi-billion euro materials industry in Europe.

Dr. Denis (pictured above with section Chairman Prof Bob Crichton) described how cold plasma processes have been developed specifically and purposefully based on their non equilibrium properties and their capabilities to initiate chemical reactions in the gaseous phase at relatively low temperatures (i.e. at room temperature). Although these applications are widespread and involve in many application fields, the main part of Dr. Denis' talk focused on the deposition of thin films where the thickness of the films are between a few micrometres down to a few nanometres.

The majority of the methods described led to material coating applications and the use and performance of these films were illustrated by concrete examples such as self-cleaning windows. Other plasma applications were briefly reviewed ranging from surface functionalisation and etching to sterilisation and medicinal uses.

Examples given by Dr. Denis included coating of orthopaedic prostheses, low-emissivity glass, silicon coating of plastics and a method to enhance dispersion of carbon nanotubes in polymer matrices. The lecture inspired a lively discussion with the audience of over twenty members and friends. The lecture took place in the Swoosh Lounge at BSB and was followed by further discussions over drinks and nibbles.

Current research
Dr. Denis current research is on the study of plasma-enhanced chemical vapour deposition processes to improve the barrier properties of commercial food packaging to oxygen and water at the University of Mons.

He received his PhD from Mons in 2009 with a thesis entitled the 'Influence of the Precursor on the Synthesis Mechanisms of Primary Amine-based Plasma Polymers: From Plasma Diagnostic to Film Chemistry and Applications'. He has also published seven scientific papers as primary author and made twelve contributions to international conferences.

Wednesday, 8 December 2010

Rita gets her reward

On 12 November RSC Belgium member Rita Woodward received a Royal Society of Chemistry Award for Service, which recognises outstanding non-academic service to the work of the RSC.

Rita was presented with her award by RSC President Prof David Phillips (see above) at a glittering dinner event during the RSC's General Assembly in Birmingham on November 12 2010. She was nominated for the award by our section Chairman Prof Bob Crichton who was there to help her celebrate the achievement. The award comprises a certificate and a fine glass trophy (see below).

Rita has been a long serving and active member of the RSC Belgium executive committee since the very beginning of the section. She has also held the posts of section chairperson and treasurer. But her lasting and most obvious contribution to the section has been her devotion and dedication to the section's outreach and activity with schools and younger people.

As well as inspiring generations of chemists as Head of Science at the British School of Brussels (BSB), Rita has been the mainspring behind the section's Top of the Bench efforts, school essays and poster competitions. In fact despite retiring in 2005, she has become even more active in this area recently. Her latest brainchild was the 'Chemistry Olympiad' competition that was piloted this year in a number of schools and has been a great success. And she was a main driver for the RSC Belgium contribution to the Greenlight for Girls event earlier in November.

Congratulations to Rita!

Monday, 22 November 2010

Girls get greenlight for chemistry!

RSC Belgium got cooking with chemistry for over 200 girls at the Greenlight4Girls event at the International School of Brussels on 20 November. This all-day Saturday event brought together young women aged 11 - 16 from all the language communities in Belgium to get a taste of science, engineering, ICT and above all fun.

The RSC Belgium team held four Culinary Chemistry workshops. Each workshop took around 45 minutes and involved some hands-on experiments incorporating elements of the RSC Culinary Chemistry Resource pack and some 'cheese-based' ideas from the ACS's 'Get Cooking with Chemistry' booklet.

The experiments were described, developed and tested by RSC members Rita Woodward and Carolyn Ribes. Every participant took home their own workbook, RSC stickers and pens plus some tasty recipes for cheesy treats to try out at home. Two workshops were delivered in English, one in French and the fourth in Dutch. In total over 50 girls got cooking with chemistry.

Chemistry is magic
As well as cooking with chemistry, Profs Bob Crichton and Bobbie Ward gave a couple of workshops that combined top magical illusions with some chemical tricks to demonstrate molecular magic featuring liquid nitrogen and solid carbon dioxide.

Chemistry was also well represented in the workshops with contributions from the Belgian Chemical Industry organisation Essenscia and Belgian pharmaceutical giant Janssen Pharmaceutica amongst others. GSK Biologicals provided all the girls (and workshop leaders) with their own labcoats that the girls decorated during the event and took home with a bag full of other goodies at the end of the day.

The full RSC team at Greenlight4Girls were (left to right, below) Rita Woodward, Bobbie Ward, Elodie Sureau, Carolyn Ribes, Bob Crichton, Ian Carson and Amourie Prentice with Tim Reynolds holding the camera.

Greenlight4Girls is an international organisation and social initiative dedicated to promoting science, engineering and all things 'geeky' to girls and young women. Its mission is to encourage young girls of all ages to consider a future in maths, science, engineering and technology by introducing them to the world of science in fun and exciting ways. More events in Belgium (and elsewhere) are on the drawing board and RSC Belgium is planning to remain involved and support this exciting initiative.

Thursday, 11 November 2010

Students get reward at BioRef event

A substantial audience turned out for the lecture on 'Concepts for Future Biorefineries' with Prof. Franck Dumeignil from the Université de Lille at the end of October in the Brel Theatre, British School of Brussels (BSB). The event also saw some of the winners of our Chemistry Challenge competition get their prizes.

Prof Dumeignil is project coordinator for the large EuroBioRef Project which is supported by €23 million funding from the EU's 7th Framework Programme. This project, which was launched earlier in 2010, involves 28 partners from 14 countries and intends to develop a new highly integrated concept, moving from the current single feedstock, single product biofuel production to a refinery using multiple, non-edible, feedstocks, multiple processes and making multiple products, such as aviation fuel and chemicals.

The main challenges and approaches to this field of research were outlined by Prof Dumeignil and some specific aspects of the EuroBioRef project, which is part of a matrix of EU-funded projects that are covering pretty much all aspects of the integrated biorefinery concept. The talk inspired a lively debate over drinks and nibbles afterwards.

Student prizes
Prior to the lecture some of the winners of our first Chemistry Challenge/ Olympiad received their prizes. Pictured below (from left to right) are winner Sagar Shah (from BSB), competition organiser Rita Woodward, RSC Belgium Chairman Prof. Bob Crichton, student winners Luca Schopen (from St John’s International School) and Shonit Shah (from BSB).

The Chemistry Challenge was a big hit with a wide range of schools. As it is based around problem-solving involving both chemical knowledge and mental agility it has more potential to easily translate across the language communities in Belgium, unlike, for example an essay competition. Feedback from teachers and students was very positive and we hope to make this an annual event.

Plasma Tech
Don't forget our next lecture with Dr. Laurent Denis from the University of Mons on: Materials for Today - Thin Film Applications of Plasma Technology. The lecture takes place on Thursday, November 18th in the Swoosh Lounge at BSB (19:45 for 20:00 kick-off) with informal discussion with the speaker over drinks and nibbles afterwards.

If you want to come to any RSC Belgium events don't forget to register in advance by emailing the section so we can quantify the drinks and nibbles required.

IYC 2011
Plans are advancing to kick-off our International Year of Chemistry programme with a Café Chimique Climate Change debate in the Espace 53 pod at the Autoworld Museum at the Brussels Cinquantenaire on Thursday January 27th 2011. This will be a very special venue with very special speakers. Doors will open 19:15 and prebooking will be essential. Full details will be circulated early in the New Year.

Friday, 1 October 2010

Dispersants attract

Our first lecture event of the Autum 2010 season attracted a very good crowd to the Swoosh Lounge at the British School of Brussels on the evening of 28 September.

Dr David Ross of Huntsman, based in Everberg, gave a fascinating talk on dispersants: what they are, how and why we use them, and how skilled chemists design them for specific purposes.

In particular he focused on their use in a variety of applications - in particular the incredibly detailed formulations required to give modern DIY consumers paints and coatings with properties, in terms of coverage and useability for example, that were undreamt of only ten years ago.

Major challenge
One of the major challenges facing chemists working with dispersant design is the move to formulate with applications where the solvent is water. Water is seen as environmentally sound solvent, but to provide water based products that replicate the effects and properties of previous organic solvent-based formulations is not a trivial problem.

In an extended question and answer session the audience were able to ask some pertinent questions and recieved some interesting views - in particular on the efficacy (or otherwise) of the recent widescale use of dispersants in the recent BP oil crisis in the Gulf of Mexico.

Next meeting - Biorefineries
'Concepts for Future Biofuels Refineries' will be the topic of our next presentation by Prof. Franck Dumeignil from the Université de Lille. This takes place on Wednesday, October 27 in the Brel Theatre, British School of Brussels.

Prof Dumeignil is project coordinator for the EuroBioRef Project which is supported by €23 million funding from the EU's 7th Framework Programme. This project, which was launched on 1 March 2010, involves 28 partners from 14 countries and intends to develop a new highly integrated concept, moving from the current single feedstock, single product biofuel production to a refinery using multiple, non-edible, feedstocks, multiple processes and making multiple products, such as aviation fuel and chemicals.

With many years experience of the catalytic processes used to achieve some of these transformations, Prof. Dumeignil is well placed to discuss the matter. His lecture will review some aspects of the current know-how on biofuel production and describe some of the opportunities and approaches which will be used to drive the project forwards.

IMechE Fusion
Our colleagues in the IMechE are organising a visit to the Fusion Expo organised by ITER-Belgium and the Association “EURATOM-Belgian State” at 14:00 on Saturday 30 October.

The Fusion Expo is an exhibition on nuclear fusion and its potential as a possible sustainable future energy source. In view of the multitude of technologies required to build and operate the device, the ITER fusion device, currently under construction in the south of France, is probably the most ambitious scientific project ever initiated.

The exhibition is at the Palais des Academies in Brussels from October 25 until November 15. The IMechE has reserved a guided tour of this exhibition in ENGLISH. The tour should take about 90 minutes and is free of charge.

IMechE has extended an invitation to RSC members to join them at this event. If you wish to join the tour on 30 October, please reserve your place in advance by emailing Paul Bennington, the IMechE Benelux chairman, to confirm your participation.

Greenlight 4 Girls!

Greenlight 4 Girls (G4G) is a fantastic initiative that is aiming to boost the number of girls who continue in science, maths and ICT subjects as they progress through the educational system. The first Belgian G4G event takes place on Saturday 20 November at the International School of Brussels (ISB) and RSC Belgium will be involved.

The event is a one-day happening to show girls the fun in maths, science, engineering and technology. The main activity is a series of hands-on workshops conducted in English, French and Dutch. RSC Belgium will be providing one of the workshops - our topic: 'Culinary Chemistry'.

The fun takes place from 08h30 to 16h00 on Saturday 20 November at the International School of Brussels (ISB), Kattenberg 19, 1170 Brussels.

The day is designed for girls aged 11-15 years from Brussels and the surrounding areas. To take part pre registration is required via the G4G website. If you know any girls who will want to be take part, please tell them about the event soon and make sure they don't delay in registering as the maximum capacity for the event is 300 participants.

Once a student has registered, she will receive a confirmation e-mail and will be contacted again by 1 November to allow her to choose the workshops she wishes to attend. A final confirmation of each attendee's schedule will be sent out just before the event itself takes place.

Free and fun
The greenlight for girls - Science Day is a free event, hosted at ISB. The event is the first of its kind organised by the new Brussels social initiative greenlight for girls and aims to encourage 11-15 year old girls to take up careers in science, technology, engineering and math, by emphasising the link between science and fun.

The day unfolds in workshop form covering a wide variety of topics from digital music to DNA research. A special guest from the cabinet of EU Commissioner for the Digital Agenda Neelie Kroes will open the event, and the Belgian Applied Physics & Photonics scientist, Irina Veretennicoff, will give a closing speech. There will also be a "fun experiment lab" with activities and entertainment all day long. And a free lunch will also be available.

Please feel free to forward this information to any interested individuals. Also, let G4G know if you are interested to participate as a volunteer or sponsor.

More Information on the event and the G4G organization can be found via their own website and on the (A)Way Magazine website, or via popular social media such as LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter.

For questions about the greenlight for girls organization or events, or to discuss speaking or sponsorship opportunities at greenlight for girls Science Day, please contact G4G directly.

Tuesday, 21 September 2010

Marvelous Margritte

To kick off the RSC Belgium 2010 Autumn programme some 20 RSC members and friends enjoyed a sunny Saturday morning visit to the exceptional new Magritte Museum in Brussels on 18 September.

After gathering in Place Royale in the morning sunshine, the group enjoyed a guided tour of a selection of Magritte’s masterpieces. Our excellent guide was particularly engaging and described the works and Magritte’s ethos in the context of the cultural and political environment of the time. Following the tour members had some time to explore the galleries on their own.

The museum reveals the breadth of Magritte’s work and is well worth a visit for those who could not make it on the 18th. I certainly will be paying a return visit.

Top floor dining
Following the visit to the Magritte Museum, we moved over the Rue Montagne de la Cour to the Musical Instrument Museum (MIM) where we enjoyed lunch at the restaurant. Situated on the top floor of the old ‘Olde England’ building, the MIM’s restaurant offers panoramic views across Brussels.

The group was joined for lunch by Catherine Feore (right) who has appointed as Policy Development Manager for the European Association for Chemical and Molecular Sciences (EuCheMS).

Saturday, 31 July 2010

Congratulations to Laura and Geoffrey!

Our best wishes to RSC Belgium executive committee member Laura Yonge who became Mme Geoffrey Degré on Friday 30 July. A number of RSC Belgium members were able to join in the celebrations.

The ceremony took place at St. Andrews Church in Awre, a small village on the north bank of the river Severn in Gloucestershire, UK with the reception at the historic Speech House Hotel in the heart of the Forest of Dean.

Thursday, 24 June 2010

Autumn Programme Shaping Up

Our programme of events and lectures for the later half of 2010 is coming together very nicely mainly due to the efforts of our secretary Ian Carson.

Magritte and Music
We kick off our programme with a guided tour in English of the new Magritte Museum in central Brussels on the morning of Saturday September 18th. This will be followed by a short stroll over the road to lunch at the very fine restaurant at the top of the Musical Instrument Museum. The restaurant enjoys magnificent views over Brussels.

On the evening of Tuesday September 28th our 2010-11 lecture programme is initiated by Dr. David Ross of Huntsman Chemicals based in Everberg on the old ICI site. He will talk about polymeric dispersants and surfactants in the excellent Swoosh Lounge at BSB.

Our attention turns to biotechnology, biofuels and beyond on the evening of Wednesday 27th October when we will welcome Prof Franck Dumeignil of the University of Lille. Prof. Dumeignil is the main coordinator for a major new €37 million European Commission FP7 research project on the ‘biorefinery’ concept: EUBIOREF. This event will be held in the Brel theatre at BSB.

The idea of a biorefinery is to mimic a conventional oil refinery in terms of the use of a number of biomass feedstocks to produce a spectrum of useful fuel and chemical products. But a biorefinery will use highly efficient processes producing minimal environmental impact and, of course, only consuming renewable raw materials.

Plasma tech
In mid November Dr Laurent Denis from the University of Mons will be talking to us about plasma technologies and thin film fabrication and characterisation. Details of this event are close to final confirmation and we anticipate the event being held in the Swoosh Lounge at BSB.

IYC 2011
Don’t forget 2011 is International Year of Chemistry (IYC2011). We hope our first IYC event will be a Café Chimique on Climate Change. Our Café Chimique will mimic the Café Scientifique format and we hope to stimulate a debate amongst the audience and the speakers. We will be inviting speakers with differing views on the topic who will present and then debate the issue with interventions welcome from the ‘floor’. The probable venue for this first RSC Belgium Café Chimique will be the Swoosh Lounge at BSB.

More details on all these events to follow during the summer.

Tuesday, 15 June 2010

Gas kinetics at Leuven

The RSC's Gas Kinetics Discussion Group (in cooperation with the Reaction Kinetics Group of Katholieke Universiteit Leuven) is organising the 21st International Symposium on Gas Kinetics (GK2010) in Leuven from 18 to 23 July, 2010.

This symposium is bi-annual and acts as a stimulating forum for scientists around the world to present and discuss the latest advances in experimental, computational and theoretical research related to fundamental gas-phase chemistry, photo-chemistry and heterogeneous processes occurring in gaseous media.

Topics covered in the symposium sessions include the fields of atmospheric chemistry, combustion chemistry, the chemistry of interstellar regions and outer-planetary atmospheres. A specific session in 2010 will cover the latest advances in tropospheric ozone chemistry.

For more information, please consult the website above or contact the symposium organisers.

Wednesday, 9 June 2010

Two Engineering Events

Details of two events organised by sister engineering organisations have just been forwarded to us. If you are interested in attending either event please email the person named as contact for the event directly - not RSC Belgium. Thanks.

Intelligent Transportation for Dynamic Environment

When: Thursday 10 June 2010 at 19h00

Where: Stadscampus, Universiteit Antwerpen, Prinsstraat 13, B-2000 Antwerpen.

Mr. Rochdi Merzouiki, University of Science and Technology of Lille (USTL-Lagis) will discuss the Intelligent Transportation for Dynamic Environment project (InTraDE) that is developing a framework and methodology for the implementation of an Intelligent Automatic Vehicle (IAV) into the ports of North West Europe. The implementation of the IAV will bring about an improvement in productivity and competitiveness through optimisation of loading and discharging of containers using IAV's. The key tasks of this project are the development of a dynamic virtual simulator of the port operational environment and the development of the IAV prototype.

The event is organised by Institute of Marine Engineering, Science, & Technology (IMarEST), contact person John Riordan.

BP Louisiana Oil Spill and environmental disaster in USA. Causes, consequences, solutions.

When: Tuesday, June 15th at 19h00

Where: The Medieval Trinitatis Kapel, Vriesestraat 20\22, 3311 NR, Dordrecht, The Netherlands.

This discussion meeting invites upstream, environmental or other experts to present their ideas and expertise to consider how to solve the situation in the Gulf of Mexico.

The event is organised by the Energy Institute (EI), contact person: Arend van Campen, Chairman EI Netherlands.

Monday, 7 June 2010

Beautiful BayKomm

The RSC Belgium weekend in Germany was successfully concluded with a visit on Sunday 6 June to the BayKomm Centre in Leverkeusen just north of Cologne.

The BayKomm facility is in the heart of the huge Bayer Chemical Park at Leverkeusen and features eight exhibition rooms with over 300 exhibits, videos and information panels covering the full range of Bayer developments and chemical advances since its foundation in 1863.

Our guide, Tim, took us through a series of informative presentations – including a polyurethane preparation (see right) – before lunch in the bistro that is part of the centre.

Following lunch there was just enough time for a stroll around the impressive 15 000 square metre Japanese gardens (see below) that surround BayKomm before the return journey to Belgium.

The 2010 weekend in Cologne was a great success and our thanks go to Ian Carson for organising the details.

Saturday, 5 June 2010

Sunny day at Augustusburg

The RSC Belgium Summer expedition to Germany got off to great start with a meal in Cologne on Friday evening next to the river Rhine.

On Saturday the group of members and friends visited the Schlosser Augustusburg (see above) and Falkenlust in Bruhl. It was a fantastic sunny day and after lunch at a small restaurant that is adjacent to the Falkenlust some of our party went to the Max Ernst Museum in Bruhl, while others drove down to the Rhine below Bonn and crossed by ferry to visit Konigswinter.
Everyone joined up again in the evening for an 'al fresco' meal at our hotel - the Clostermanns Hof.

Wednesday, 2 June 2010

Latest (last?) Section Newsletter published

The May 2010 issue of the RSC Belgium Section Newsletter has just been published. This 12th edition of 'La Chimie' can be downloaded by clicking on the link above.

The newsletter reviews recent activities of the section and looks forward to future events. The function of the newsletter is now being largely replaced by this newsblog, but if you have any comments or news you wish to transmit to the section membership please don't hesitate to contact the section's newsletter/ blog editor Tim Reynolds.

Saturday, 1 May 2010

The Magic of Nanotechnology

On April 29 a large number of members and friends were treated to an entertaining combination of nanotechnology and magic from Prof. David Leigh, FRS of Edinburgh University (pictured above).

Prof Leigh is one of Europe's leading organic synthetic chemists and has been investigating the synthesis of molecular machines since his serendipitous discovery of a one-step synthesis of a class of interlinked ring molecules called catenanes in the mid 1990s. As well as being a first-class chemist Prof. Leigh is also a full member of the Edinburgh Magic Circle and illustrated his chemistry with a number of 'top tricks'.

The event took place in the very swish 'Swoosh Lounge' at the British School of Brussels and was followed by light refreshments and an extended discussion.

Tuesday, 20 April 2010

Catalysis and culture in Leuven

Saturday 17 April saw RSC Belgium members taking part in an interesting and informative trip to Leuven.

We gathered under clear and sunny skies (thanks to that Icelandic ash cloud) in the car park at Kasteel Arenberg for a visit to the Centre for Surface Science and Catalysis (COK) at the Katholieke Universiteit Leuven (KUL).

The work of the laboratory was explained by Prof. Dirk De Vos. COK has its origins, somewhat surprisingly, in soil chemistry as early studies at KUL on layered clays led to work on zeolite catalysis. Today the lab has well over 100 people working on a wide variety of aspects of heterogeneous and homogeneous catalysis and is now one of Europe's leading centres for studies in these fields. COK has participated in a number of FP6 and FP7 pan-European research projects and has numerous research contracts with industry.

The extent of the work undertaken at COK was clearly illustrated during a tour of the laboratories. The catalyst preparation and testing facilities were impressive both in their quantity and quality and the analytical support available to the department was also notable.

Following the lab visit an excellent lunch was enjoyed at the Brasserie Waaiberg at Tervuursevest 60, Leuven before we started a two-hour guided tour of Leuven. The tour started at the Groot Begijnhof and then proceeded through a number of the university’s college building to finish at Ladeuzeplein in front of the magnificent university library (see below). Some of the group finished the day with a quick drink (and some monumental ice creams!) at the Domus taverne and brewery.

Our thanks to Robert Schoonheydt and the rest of his team at KUL for organising a very enjoyable day out.

The new Leuven Museum was also noted as a possibility for a future section visit.