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DICE — leading the way in chemistry and engineering

The University of Nottingham is set to become a world leader in ‘clean’ chemistry and engineering with the opening of a new multi-million pound research initiative.

DICE — Driving Innovation in Chemistry and Engineering — will bring together experts from both disciplines in a unique collaboration that will push back the boundaries of current research and develop new sustainable technologies to meet the needs of a changing world.

They will focus on rapid innovation in environmentally friendly ways of making chemicals, more efficient use of energy, safer chemical products, renewable raw materials, ‘zero-waste’ processes and related research.

The centre will also aim to inspire young people at school and university and encourage them to consider chemistry or engineering as a career.

DICE will be officially opened by Sir Colin Campbell, the Vice-Chancellor of The University of Nottingham, on January 10, 2008, together with guests of honour, Dr Ramesh Mashelkar, FRS, President of the Institution of Chemical Engineers, and Professor Jim Feast, FRS, President of the Royal Society of Chemistry.

Professor Martyn Poliakoff, FRS, one of the project leaders from the School of Chemistry, said: “Our mission is to challenge current thinking and be adventurous — to promote and encourage research of high risk and potentially high return. By a campaign to raise awareness, DICE also aims to promote the chemical sciences and engineering as careers of choice for young people.”

In the past, chemistry and chemical engineering have been divided in universities and there has been almost no interaction between the two disciplines. But University of Nottingham experts believe that must change if the UK wants to continue competing successfully on the world stage.

Professor Nick Miles, Head of the School of Chemical and Environmental Engineering, said: “Our aim is to lay the foundations for a new generation of chemical processing, underpinning the needs of the chemistry-using community forty years hence.

“DICE will provide not only an environment to inspire creative research at Nottingham and beyond, but also an overarching context that will add value to individual research projects by combining their outcomes into a sustainable technology platform for the future.”

DICE is being funded with a total of £4.4M from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) and The University of Nottingham, as part of a long-term plan to establish the UK as a centre of excellence and international expertise at the interface between chemistry and chemical engineering.

That plan will be realised by promoting creative collaborations between chemical sciences and engineering and across the boundaries separating these two areas from other disciplines; by identifying the economic and social implications of implementing new technologies by collaborating with social sciences and psychologists; and by training chemists and engineers in the skills needed to implement these new technologies.

Another key function of the new centre will be to widen participation of young people in chemistry and engineering, celebrating the triumphs of both disciplines and improving public perception of chemistry and engineering though public engagement.

Research areas will include:

•New chemical reactions and catalysts
•New, renewable raw materials for use in chemical processes
•Safer chemical products
•Low or zero-waste processes
•New reactor concepts, including structured reactors, multi-functional reactors, across scales from micro to commercial plant
•Process analytics and control
•More efficient use of energy, eg. microwave technology and fuel cells
•More effective use of solvents, eg. alternative solvents such as supercritical fluids, ionic liquids and water.

Emma Thorne | alfa
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