Friday, 30 October 2015

What is Chemistry?

On the evening of 20 October RSC Belgium members and friend were treated to an absorbing lecture from Professor Peter Atkins entitled 'What is Chemistry?' In the Brel theatre at the British School of Brussels Peter guided us through the marvellous world of chemistry and explained took how it shapes the world around us. He imparted the nine most important things you need to know to understand and study chemistry and therefore how the world works.

Most people remember chemistry from their school days as a subject that was largely incomprehensible, fact-rich but understanding-poor, smelly, and so far removed from the real world of events and pleasures that there seemed little point, except for the most introverted, in coming to terms with its grubby concepts, spells, recipes, and rules.

Peter Atkins wants to change all that. In his What is Chemistry? book and lectures he encourages us to look at chemistry anew, through a chemist's eyes, to understand its central concepts and to see how it contributes not only towards our material comfort, but also to human culture. Atkins shows how chemistry provides the infrastructure of our world, through the chemical industry, the fuels of heating, power generation, and transport, as well as the fabrics of our clothing and furnishings.

By considering the remarkable achievements that chemistry has made, and examining its place between both physics and biology, Atkins presented a fascinating, clear, and rigorous exploration of the world of chemistry - its structure, core concepts, and exciting contributions to new cutting-edge technologies.

The evening also saw the awarding of prizes in our Chemistry Challenge 2015 competition.

Peter Atkins FRSC is emeritus Professor of Chemistry at the University of Oxford and a Fellow of Lincoln College. He left left school at fifteen taking a job at Monsanto as a laboratory assistant. He  studied for A-levels in his spare time and gained a place, following a last-minute interview, at the University of Leicester. There he studied, of course, chemistry, obtaining a BSc degree in chemistry, and subsequently a PhD degree on research into electron spin resonance spectroscopy and aspects of theoretical chemistry. He then took a postdoc at UCLA as a Harkness Fellow. He returned to the UK as a fellow and tutor of Lincoln College, Oxford, and lecturer in physical chemistry (later, professor of physical chemistry). In 1969, he won the Royal Society of Chemistry's Meldola Medal. He retired in 2007, and since then has been a full-time author.

He has honorary doctorates from the University of Utrecht, the University of Leicester (where he sits on the university Court), Mendeleev University in Moscow, and Kazan State Technological University. He was a member of the Council of the Royal Institution and the Royal Society of Chemistry. He was the founding chairman of the IUPAC Committee on Chemistry Education, and is a trustee of a variety of charities. He is a patron of the Oxford University Scientific Society.

However he most well-known as a prolific writer of popular chemistry textbooks. He has quite literally written the book in terms of undergraduate texts globally for Physical Chemistry, Inorganic Chemistry, and Molecular Quantum Mechanics. He is also the author of a number of popular science books, including Atkins' Molecules, Galileo's Finger: The Ten Great Ideas of Science and On Being. His most recent popular volumes are Reactions: The private life of atoms, Chemistry: A Very Short Introduction and 'What is Chemistry?' the subject of his presentation on 20 October.

Peter Atkins discusses the ideas behind 'What is Chemistry' in the video below.

RSC Belgium Chemistry Challenge 2015 Results

The results of the RSC Belgium Chemistry Challenge 2015 have been announced and the talented prize winners picked up their winnings at a special RSC Belgium event with Prof Peter Atkins of Oxford University on the evening of 20 October at the British School of Brussels. This year we received 119 eligible entries from several international and European schools in this testing challenge of young people's chemical knowledge and initiative.

The RSC Belgium Chemical Challenge has three sections:
  • A/ A chemistry multiple choice paper
  • B/ A structured questions on chemistry, and
  • C/ A 'Thinking Matters' paper that is not chemistry based
And the top results were as follows:

Section A: Multiple choice
First was Jozef Ceri Rees from the British School of Brussels (BSB)
Joint second were Ivet Andres Munoz also from BSB and Franziska Ihli from European School Brussels 3 at Ixelles (EEB3)
And third prize went to Yoonkwon Yi from the International School of Brussels (ISB).

The winners in this section are pictured below together with RSC Belgium chairman Tim Reynolds.

Section B: Structured Questions
First was Ivet Andres Munoz from BSB.
Joint second were Changfu Sun and Yoonkwon Yi bith from ISB
And six students tied for third place: Leyla Jackson from BSB, Benjamin Keltjens and Conor O'Flaherty from BSB, Thomas Maher from St Johns International School Waterloo (St. Johns), Willak Kamil from European School Brussels 1 at Uccle (EEB1), and Jonas Papazoglou-Hennig from EEB3

Section C: Thinking Matters
Joint first were Utkarsh Saxena of ISB and Laura Molnar from EEB1.
Three students tied for second place: Zachary Arnolds from St. Johns and Veronika Mrazek and Greta Carpenter both from EEB3.
Joint third were Sam Craig from ISB and Bilaal Ahmad from St. Johns.

Keith Price Prize
Ivet Andres Munoz from also received the Keith Price Prize for best overall score in sections A and B. First prize winners received €50, second €25 and third places €10 with the winner of the Keith Price Prize receiving an additional €100.

Well done to everyone that took part! Every student that entered the competition receives a certificate of participation. We will be running the Challenge again in 2015. And look out for our Top of the Bench International eliminator coming soon! All the students who collected their prizes at the 20 October event are pictured below.

The Challenge
The Chemistry Challenge competition was devised and compiled by RSC Belgium treasurer Rita Woodward and is open to students from any school in Belgium. The questions are set in English, but may be answered in English, French, Dutch or German.

The competition is open to school students in their penultimate year of High School (usually aged 16 – 17), and consists of a 2 hour written test held in school and designed to demonstrate the participants’ knowledge of chemistry and their ability to think logically.

Sunday, 27 September 2015

Chairman Tim elected to Chair RSC's International Steering Group

RSC Belgium Chairperson Tim Reynolds has been elected as the Chair of the RSC's International Steering Group. Tim received over 50% of the votes cast in the ballot for the position that attracted a good number of nominations from RSC's various international sections. 

Tim will be attending the RSC General Assembly in Manchester on 13 and 14 November including the Membership Networks Committee (MNC) meeting on Friday 13 November where he will be representing the interests of RSC international members. He will also be attending the International Delegates Day on 12 November.

One of the MNC's main tasks at the moment is a regional review that is working to build a more representative and responsive governance structure for the RSC.

RSC Global community 
Tim believes that it is increasingly important that the views of members of RSC international sections are heard and fully represented in RSC decision-making. As chairman of the International Steering Group he will look to canvass the views of all international sections and consult widely with international membership to ensure the diverse needs of the RSC's international global community is represented.

"Today more than one in five of RSC members live and work outside the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland: for example ‘continental’ Europe represents 7% of total RSC membership. And international membership will be the main area for growth in the future," says Tim.

"A key element of RSC strategy is to ‘bring together and empower our global chemistry community for the benefit of science and humanity’, so it is vital that the voice of international members is clearly heard by decision-makers in the Society," he continues. "As the newly elected chair of the International Steering Group I will work hard to ensure that the views of international sections are heard and fully represented. With increasing globalisation I believe that the distinction between ‘local’ (i.e. UK/ Eire-based sections) and ‘international’ sections is increasingly irrelevant: all sections should be equal."

Tim has been a RSC member since May 1993 and has served on a number of RSC committees including the Committee for Promotion of Chemistry to the Public and the International Strategy Group. He is currently a member of the RSC Government Affairs Committee.

Mud Lane, Piccadilly and the Strand

On Saturday 19 September RSC Belgium members and friends enjoyed a fascinating walking tour in one part of Belgium that will be forever part of British history and the history of warfare. Ploegsteert – or Plug Street as the World War One ‘tommies’ called it – was on the front line of the Ypres salient for most of the Great War and reminders and memorials of the conflict are everywhere.

The tour was led by local expert Claude Verhaeghe and took us to some recently excavated sites in areas where the first gas attacks of the war took place.

The RSC party met up close to Ypres railway station and took a coach to the monumental Ploegsteert memorial (see above) where we met up with Claude and then took a walking tour along Mud Lane via a series of military cemeteries to the site of the Christmas Day truce (see below).

The Ploegsteert area in in that curious part of french-speaking Wallonia that butts into Western Flanders. Clearly its mixture of francophone and Flemish place names were too much for the first wave of mainly London bred British soldiers based in the area from 1914. This led to familiar London place names replacing local ones in their military maps. Tracks through the woods were known as the Strand, Regent Street and Haymarket.

Claude described the situation of the men on the frontline, told various episodes from the war in the area, and the fascinating, individual stories of many of the men who lost their lives.

At the Prowse Point cemetery (see above) – one of the few cemeteries that are ‘open’ to receive the bodies of the soldiers that are still being discovered in the area - Claude and section secretary Becki Scott described their involvement in the discovery, scientific identification and reburial of Australian solder Alan Mather and how just a few years ago.

After the walk a brief coach tour took us past Bruce Bairnsfather’s ‘cottage’ and some of the craters formed by the huge explosive mines employed by both sides.  It was disconcerting to realise that a number untriggered or unexploded mines are still buried in the region. The last victims of World War One was in 1955 when an untriggered mine exploded. But hazards from the discovery of conventional unexploded ordnance and even gas shells are still common place in the area.

After a very pleasant lunch at the restaurant L’Auberge our party returned to Ypres via the Church crypt at Messines where Adolf Hitler had been treated for injuries during the war. We learnt that Winston Churchill had been in the same sector in 1916 when commanding a battalion of the Royal Scots Fusiliers following his resignation from government following the Gallipoli debacle. Both future leaders were enthusiastic painters and both had painted the church at Messines.

Our thanks to Becki Scott for organising the logistics of the trip and to Claude Verhaeghe for being a very informative and entertaining guide. You can find out more about Claude’s battlefield tours here.

Thursday, 13 August 2015

First Norman Lloyd Scholar's First Class First Year

The first recipient of the Dr Norman C Lloyd scholarship established by RSC Belgium at Cardiff University has now finished her first year. And she has passed the year with flying colours!

Dale Lyons (right) received the scholarship for 2014/2015 to help her in the first year of a four year Chemistry with a year in industry (MChem) degree programme. She is looking forward to her year in industry which she hopes will help her to decide which career path to take after her studies. Dale's favourite module in year one has been Solid State Chemistry.

Dales says that receiving the scholarship "has made a massive difference.  I have been able to buy textbooks rather than wait for them to be available in the library which has helped a lot with revision. Having the scholarship has motivated me throughout the year to do well and eased some of the pressure in terms of worrying about money.  Thank you so much."

Clearly the support of the scholarship has been very useful and Dale has received a first-class honours for her first year of study at Cardiff. Well done Dale!

In the Autumn a new first year student will been selected to receive the 2015/2016 scholarship.

The scholarship
The Norman Lloyd scholarship was set up by RSC Belgium in collaboration with Norman’s family and the 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.

You can find out more about the Cardiff University scholarship here including how to donate to the fund.

Thursday, 21 May 2015

Chemistry for the Future: Solvay Prize 2015

Solvay has announced the start of the search for its Chemistry of the Future prize for 2015. The prize is intended to endorse basic research and underline the essential role of chemistry, both as a science and an industry, in helping solve some of the most pressing issues the world is facing today. The Chemistry for the Future Solvay Prize rewards a major scientific discovery that could shape tomorrow’s chemistry and help human progress and celebrates the strong support for scientific research given by the founder of the Solvay GroupErnest Solvay.

The €300,000 prize is awarded every two years. In 2013, the inaugural Chemistry for the Future Solvay Prize was presented to Professor Peter G. Schultz. The next Chemistry for the Future Solvay Prize will be awarded on 18 November, 2015 at Le Palais des Académies in Brussels, Belgium.

Professor Peter G. Schultz (above), professor at the Scripps Research Institute in California, and director of the California Institute for Biomedical Research, was awarded the first Chemistry for the Future Solvay Prize in 2013 for his multiple scientific contributions at the interface between chemistry and biology. In particular the exploitation of molecular diversity and the rational expansion of the genetic code of living organisms. His ground-breaking work has made an impact in many scientific fields, including biotechnology and medicine. It also has important implications for regenerative medicine, and the treatment of infectious disease, autoimmune disease and cancer.

Selection process
The selection process for the 2015 prize is two-stage process. First, independent nominators propose candidates whose achievements in the field of chemistry, including biochemistry, material sciences, soft matter, biophysics and chemical engineering, will shape the chemistry of the future. Then the international jury selects the winner of the Chemistry for the Future Solvay Prize from amongst the list of candidates.

The jury for 2015 will be led by Håkan Wennerström, Professor of theoretical and physical chemistry at the University of Lund, Sweden. He is a former chairman of the jury for the Nobel Prize in Chemistry. He is joined by the first winner Professor Peter Schultz, Paul Chaikin, Professor of Physics at the New York University, USA, specializing in solid state physics, in particular soft matter, and Christopher Dobson, John Humphrey Plummer Professor of Chemical and Structural Biology at the University of Cambridge.

Also on the jury is Gerhard Ertl, Professor emeritus at the Department of Physical Chemistry, Fritz-Haber-Institut der Max-PlanckGesellschaft in Berlin, Germany, who won the Nobel Prize in Chemistry for his studies of chemical processes on solid surface, together with Jean-Marie Lehn, Professor at the Institut d’Etudes Avancées de l’Université de Strasbourg and Professor emeritus at the Collège de France in Paris. Lehn was an early innovator in the field of supramolecular chemistry and is a fellow winner of the Nobel Prize in Chemistry. Completing the jury are Patrick Maestro, member of the Académie des Technologies in France, Scientific Director of Solvay, and Paul Baekelmans, Science Adviser to the Solvay Group and Professor emeritus at the Université Libre de Bruxelles. He chairs the Conseil National de Chimie of the Académie des Sciences de Belgique.

Find out more at the Solvay website and a flyer for the prize can be downloaded here.

Thursday, 14 May 2015

Waterloo Walk 2015

The sun certainly shone on the section’s Spring event: a walking tour around the historic site of the Waterloo battlefield on Sunday 10 May.  At almost 200 years to the day since the historic battle 21 members and friends of the section followed in the footsteps of the Anglo-Dutch and French troops at the battle guided by historian and Project Hougoumont Co-ordinator for Historical and Archaeological Research, Alasdair White.

The walk started at 14:15 prompt outside the Wellington Café in the shadow of the famous Butte de Lion. Here Alasdair (below) explained the (still) ongoing building works happening in the area that will provide a new and a very shiny visitor centre and other facilities hopefully in time for the 200th anniversary of the battle on 18 June 2015.

We then moved on to visit the part of the battlefield occupied by the Anglo-Dutch right flank, an area that was held mainly by the Dutch and Dutch-Belgian units while being subject to French cavalry charges and later the attack of the Imperial Guard. Alasdair explained the use of infantry ‘squares’ to repulse cavalry attacks, showed us where the main action took place and told numerous anecdotes of personal actions that made an impact on the course of the battle. During his explanations we also encountered the remnants of a French cavalry charge (see below) still wandering the battle field clearly in a daze!

Alasdair then led us down to Hougoumont farm, where some of the heaviest fighting occurred. There Alasdair explained the major restoration work and archaeology that is happening around the farm and associated buildings and fields. He also described the importance of the farm to the successful outcome of the battle.

Finally we walked across the battlefield to La Belle Alliance (Napoleon’s HQ) and via La Haye Sainte farmhouse back to our starting point following the final failed attack of the Imperial Guard that signalled a general retreat of the French forces as the ‘Anglo-Dutch’ (but consisting of a majority of German troops it would seem) and the Prussians closed in.

 All-in-all the walk was a fascinating four hour tour-de-force and provided an excellent entertaining and educational afternoon. Over a beer or two at the Wellington Café tactics and strategy were further discussed and Alasdair also had copies of his two new books (described below) on the Waterloo campaign available for purchase.

June 1815 – the Belgium Campaign
With text by Alasdair White telling the tale of the 'Campaign of June 1815' and photographs by Marc Fasol taken during various recent re-enactments of the battle, this bi-lingual (English and French) publication includes 89 photographs and five maps to deliver a beautiful ‘coffee-table’ book that would grace the library of any historian or interested reader.

The book is available in hardback €25 direct from the author or from Renaissance du Livre or from Amazon.

The Road to Waterloo: A Concise History of the 1815 Campaign 
This second paperback book from Alasdair contains many new interpretations of the events of 1815 and leads to some perhaps controversial conclusions. It cuts through the accumulated inaccuracies and wishful thinking that has characterised the writings of so many historians to give the interested reader a clear, concise and remarkably unbiased understanding of what actually happened during the early summer of 1815.

This slim volume is available as a paperback (€9.00/£7.50) and e-book (€4.50) from White & Maclean or from Amazon or direct from the author.

Waterloo 200
To find out more about Waterloo and the 200 year anniversary visit the Waterloo 200 website. This is a joint project between charity Waterloo 200, the National Army Museum, and Culture 24 and is largely funded by a grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund. The site covers many famous names associated with the battle, like Wellington and Napoleon, but also less well-known figures. You can use this website to find out ‘Why Waterloo Matters’ and to uncover the stories behind the names.

Wednesday, 6 May 2015

RSC CEO Robert Parker presents ...

On the evening of 5 May a special meeting of the RSC Belgium executive committee welcomed RSC CEO Dr. Robert Parker to Brussels. Dr Parker was in the Belgian capital for a meeting at the European Parliament and stayed on to talk to the executive committee and make a special presentation to one of its long-term members: Dr Ian Carson.

Robert recalled that one of his first major public events after being appointed as interim CEO of the Royal Society of Chemistry was to speak at the European Schools Science Symposium (ESSS) in 2011. The  ESSS 2011 was held at the European school in Woluwe Brussels and RSC Belgium had initiated the invitation to Robert's predecessor Richard Pike. Robert's experience at the Symposium was a significant factor in his decision to apply to become the permanent CEO. Ian as secretary of RSC Belgium at the time had issued that invitation.

Ian (above, left) received a Long Service Award from Dr Robert Parker (above, right) in recognition of his ten-year service on the RSC Belgium committee and his tremendous efforts to organise many significant events for the section including the recent major tour of Belgian schools by Prof Averil Macdonald and our annual Cafe Chimque events.

RSC Belgium section chairman, Tim Reynolds, said: "It was really pleasing to see Ian get this long service award from Robert Parker. It was a special occasion. Ian has done so much for the section in Belgium."

Sunday, 26 April 2015

Gelato to Gun Cotton

24 March 2015 saw an exciting chemistry extravaganza at the British School of Brussels as RSC Belgium welcomed RSC Council member Prof Sir John Holman of the University of York to deliver one of his famous demonstration lectures. His absorbing lecture covered a wide range of chemical sciences from instant ice cream making to explosive gun cotton and was highly appreciated by the packed audience of over 90 people.

Lectures by Prof Sir John Holman, who is nominated to be the next RSC President, are fun and dramatic, filled with the traditional chemical bangs and flashes, but always informative and relevant. And the performance on 24 March was no different with, in addition to ice cream and explosives, Sir John burning banknotes, making jelly babies scream, producing fireflies and even turning water into wine!

Sir John was assisted throughout the lecture by students from BSB (see above) and audience participation was also encouraged - especially when there was freshly made ice cream to be tasted!

Great feedback
Feedback from the audience showed that the show was very well appreciated by chemists and non-chemists alike.

For example RSC Belgium secretary Becki Scott commented: "My four students (who are all from an archaeological, non-science, background) loved the talk! They have spent all morning asking myself and Patrick (my boss) whether we can make ice-cream in the office by liberating liquid nitrogen from the SEM. They were amazed by the colour change experiments, and the whole talk was a real eye-opener for them. John completely hit the mark with them, it was their first real interaction with main-stream chemistry (outside of high school). Although some of the theory was alien to them, John made it understandable and fun. I think they finally began to realise that you can engage and enjoy chemistry and science at any age, and that you don’t need to be a specialist. I also think his talk really encouraged them to consider further the role of science in archaeology.I totally understand why his lectures are so popular, it was a really good evening."

Clearly, the talk was a total success and after the lecture Sir John was mobbed by audience members of all ages asking questions.

The event was well organised and very well received. The whole audience thoroughly enjoyed the event: it was a very visual and entertaining method of explaining science. Our thanks go to Brian Sutcliffe, Rita Woodward, Bob Crichton, and Phil Wilson and his team at BSB for their help in organising the event.

Sir John
Sir John Holman  is Emeritus Professor of Chemistry at the University of York and Senior Education Advisor to The Wellcome Trust. He is also the chair of the Management Committee of the York Science Outreach Centre and was a founding director of the Salters Advanced Chemistry programme. He has been involved with science outreach and education for a number of years, covering a wide range of ages and abilities.  In 2006 he was appointed the first National STEM Director and in 2010 received a knighthood for services to education. He is RSC Council's nominated candidate for the next RSC President

Sunday, 15 March 2015

Fantastic Plastic! Fantastic Success!

In the last week of February RSC Belgium organised a demo lecture tour of schools and a public lecture with Prof Dr Averil Macdonald emerita professor at Reading University and her famous 'Fantastic Plastic' lecture. The tour visited five schools: the European Schools at Mol, Brussels Laeken, Brussels Woluwe and Brussels Ixelles, and the British School of Brussels -  where we also held a public lecture on the evening of 26 February.

The lectures were a fantastic success with a total audience approaching 1000 students, RSC Belgium members and friends. Feedback from teachers at all the schools venues indicated that the lecture had certainly made an impact on the audiences and moved many to think more seriously about their future options for a science career.

Prof Macdonald (below) is Professor of Science Engagement at the University of Reading and is also a leading advocate for encouraging young women to get interested in science and engineering and seek science-based careers. Amongst many other roles she is a Trustee of the London Science Museum and chairs the UK Expert Group for Women in Science.

She has recently published a report on the issues around encouraging women into science, technology and engineering (STEM) - and why the current messaging is not right. Most girls decide that jobs and careers in science are “not for people like me”. The report shows why STEM outreach and engagement activities have a limited impact on girls and other young people who are under-represented in the STEM workforce and recommends a fresh approach.

You can download the report here.

Top lecture
Prof Macdonald's lecture explores the links between Lego™ blocks, zero pollution cars, disposable nappies, liquids that flow up hill, and false legs! She also shows how this links with the perfect recipe for slime - and shows how science and innovation can be used to make you a Millionaire!

Prof Macdonald's lecture gives a brief overview of the great variety of physical properties of plastics that make them suitable for various intriguing and surprising applications. She then introduces the concept of polymers consisting of long chain molecules, their ability to exist as solid and liquids and their ability to exhibit the properties of both (as in slime).

Lively demonstrations show the effects of increasing temperature, cross linking molecules, "tangling up" the polymer chains, and dissolving them in liquids. Some examples are given to show how by controlling what happens at the molecular level, the characteristics of the final material are determined. Averil focuses as much on enterprise and business opportunities as she does on the chemistry and properties of polymer molecules with plenty of interest for both budding engineers and entrepreneurs! And our audiences clearly loved it!

Big thanks
As well as huge thanks to all the schools, RSC Belgium acknowledges the invaluable help and expertise of Fabio Lucaccioni and Istvan Marko from Univerisite Catholique de Louvain in procuring and preparing the chemicals used in the lecture tour, the staff of the chemistry department at BSB for providing glassware and other vital equipment, and a special thank-you to our own Dr Ian Carson who took on the lion's share of organising and facilitating this very successful venture.

Monday, 9 February 2015

Cafe Chimique on Climate Change 2015

27 January saw RSC Belgium's first event of 2015: a Cafe Chimique on Climate Change at the Auderghem Cultural Centre. A large and lively audience of RSC members and the general public listened to brief opening remarks from our two speakers - Prof Ted Shepherd of Reading University and Prof Istvan Marko - before we launched into an informed audience-led debate.

Climate change and its consequences are rarely out of the news and the RSC has recently issued a statement on climate change and the role for chemistry in its mitigation as part of its new ‘Global Challenges' initiative. So our Cafe Chimique debate was timely and provoked a large number of questions.

The speakers were introduced by new section Chairman Tim Reynolds (second right above). Prof Ted Shepherd (right) is the inaugural Grantham Professor of Climate Science at the Department of Meteorology at Reading University of Reading and has led scientific assessments of both climate (IPCC) and stratospheric ozone (WMO/UNEP). He has also worked in the World Climate Research Programme.

Prof Istvan Marko (left above) leads the Laboratory of Organic and Medicinal Chemistry at the Universite Catholique de Louvain and presented a sceptical view on climate change. The debate itself was moderated by Prof Bob Crichton (second left above).

The discussion ranged over many aspects of the science of climate change from extreme weather events to chaos theory. To follow the arguments outlined you can read a short summary of ideas from Ted Shepherd here and follow Istvan Marko's thoughts via an interview (in French) with La Libre from 2014 or get a copy of the climate-sceptic book 'Climat: 15 vérités qui dérangent' (also in French) which Istvan edited.

Feedback from the audience after the debate indicated, once again, that the Cafe Chimique format is a winner providing a great format for debate in an informal environment.

Thursday, 22 January 2015

Silver Jubilee AGM Report

Les Amis Dînent restaurant in Wezembeek-Oppem was once again the location for the section's Annual General Meeting (AGM) and Annual Dinner on 16 January 2015. The 2015 Committee was elected and reports on the activities of the section in 2014 and the state of the section's finances were received. Tim Reynolds was elected as the new section chairman and Becki Scott becomes the new section secretary. Outgoing chairman Bob Crichton received a vote of thanks for his excellent leadership over the past six years. And we discovered that 2015 is the section's silver jubilee year!

Following the announcement of apologies and noting of those section members who had asked the chairman to act as their proxy during the meeting, the minutes of the previous AGM held on 17 January 2014 were reviewed and approved.

Tim Reynolds then gave the 2014 secretary's report on section activities. "2014 had been another successful and busy year for the section," he said. "During year the section had organised seven public events, a Saturday social excursion and participated in a number of other activities fulfilling our charitable objectives to provide popular (chemical) science lectures for our members and the public and raise the profile of the chemical sciences  schools."

2014 Highlights
Among highlights of the year were the Café Chimique on Energyon 27 January, Dr Hal Sosabowski’s series of demonstration lectures for schools and the public at the beginning of April, our guided walk discovering a range of former famous residents of Brussels led by Sarah Strange, Nick Lane’slecture on the origins of life and our International Year of Crystallography event with Gordon Leonard of the European Synchrotron Radiation Facility. The section had run another ‘mega’ Top of the Bench qualifier in November with 12 teams from six school. And the winning team was from a new entrant: the European School Brussels IV in Laeken. This year’s Chemical Challengecompetition also attracted increased participation with prizes given out at Nick Lane’s event in October.

Tim also noted that the first Norman Lloyd scholarship atCardiff University had been awarded in November to Ms Dale Lyons.

Financial Report
Rita Woodward presented the 2014 financial report and accounts. Rita estimated that the sections activities in 2014 has been supported by 450 adults and over 500 young people. At the beginning of the year the net assets of the society had been at an all-time high (€18600 but this included over €6300 in the Norman Lloyd fund). During 2014 the section made a net deficit of €4700 leaving us with total net assets of €7564 as of 31 December 2014. An amount much more in line with our historical level of assets.

Chairman’s Remarks
The Chairman thanked Rita and Tim for their reports and all members of the executive committee during 2014 for their hard work and support during this year and the previous five years of his chairmanship. He felt that the section now was more dynamic, had much greater reach and was doing more activities with younger audiences than ever before. He highlighted the contribution of Rita and Peter Woodward in providing the drinks and nibbles for many of the events during the year that added so much to the evening meetings.

A formal vote of thanks was made to Bob for his work and inspiration as Chairman over the past six years.

The elections for the new RSC Belgium Executive Committee saw some changes as well as continuity. Mr. Tim Reynolds was elected as Chairman, Mrs. Rita Woodward was re-elected as Treasurer, and Dr Becki Scott was elected as Secretary. Elected as members of the committees were Prof Bob Crichton, Prof Brian Sutcliffe, Dr David Terrell and Mr. John Swift. Dr Ian Carson is also an elected member of the committee in the middle of his two-year term. 

The full composition of the 2015 Executive committee can be found here. The first meeting of the new Executive will be on 19 February where co-opted members for 2015 will be confirmed.

The Treasurer expressed her gratitude to our auditor, Ralph Palim, and announced that he had agreed to be appointed as auditor for the section accounts for 2015.

David Terrell moved a vote of thanks to Tim Reynolds for his work as section secretary over the past five years.

Jubilee year!
During discussion under any other business it was realised that 2015 would be the section’s Silver Jubilee year. So we will need to think if some special events to celebrate!

Following the close of the meeting at 19:43, the 2015 Annual Dinner of the RSC Belgium section (see pictures above - courtesy of Ian Backhouse - and below - courtesy of Helen Lee) took place. The draft minutes of the 2015 AGM can be found here.

Wednesday, 14 January 2015

Paper Industry shows how Innovation should be done!

Innovative Chemistry and the Paper Industry was the subject of the final RSC Belgium event of 2014 on 11 December at the Hotel Rastelli in Tervuren. Marco Mensink (pictured below), Managing Director of CEPI (the Confederation of European Paper Industries) presented the results of the CEPI “Two Team Project” competition: an initiative that has brought dynamic and innovative thinking into the sector with a potentially 'game changing' impact for European operations.

The Two Teams challenge looked to identify breakthrough technology concepts that could give the European paper industry the required dynamic for a successful sustainable future in Europe. Eight breakthrough concepts were identified including the use of deep eutectic solvents and supercritical CO2. Marco's talk provides fascinating insights into how fundamental principles of chemistry can help an industry face up to the challenges of the future and also how innovative thinking per se can make an impact.

In November 2011 CEPI launched the Forest Fibre Industry 2050 Roadmap, which looked at how the sector might reduce its fossil-based CO2 emissions by 80% while at the same time creating 50% more added value.

One of the key conclusions was that breakthrough technologies would be needed by 2030 to achieve these targets. So, in 2012, CEPI set up the “Two Team Project” to identify breakthrough technology concepts that would give the industry the required dynamic for a successful future in Europe.

The competition challenged two teams to be as creative and imaginative as possible while focusing on practical technologies and solutions that were appropriate for wide-scale use across the sector.

Eight concepts
The process resulted in eight candidate breakthrough technologies that could help to revolutionise the European paper and pulp industry with the overall winner being the use of Deep Eutectic Solvents that could open the way to the production of pulp at significantly lower temperature and atmospheric pressure resulting in major energy and emissions savings.

Marco was a very dynamic and entertaining speaker and gave a fascinating insight into how fundamental principles of chemistry can help an industry face up to the challenges of the next four decades.

You can find out more on all the eight final projects here.