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A new tool to help fight global warming


A revolutionary software system which could help manufacturers reduce CFC emissions is being developed thanks to an £80,000 investment from NESTA (the National Endowment for Science, Technology and the Arts), the organization which invests in UK creativity.

London-based Quantemol receives this investment to develop the world’s most powerful tool to predict how molecules and electrons interact on a quantum subatomic level.

Offering a more precise and comprehensive understanding than previously possible, Quantemol is expected to have a far-reaching impact on a number of processes, beginning with the etching of silicone chips, where better information should help manufacturers to minimize dangerous CFC emissions. “Evaluation of electron-molecule collision is of considerable environmental importance. Get the calculation wrong, and you could produce noxious, toxic chemicals, with very damaging consequences. Quantemol offers a straight forward and cost-effective breakthrough,” says co-inventor Daniel Brown.

Serial entrepreneur Daniel founded his first software company at the age of just 13. For five years he combined his school work with running the successful computer games business. Later he co-founded APR SmartLogik, a business which he built to 50 people and revenues of £4 million a year, winning the Times Innovation Award in 2001 and the NLB Visionary Design Award in 2003. As Entrepreneur in Residence at University College London, he joined with Professor Jonathan Tennyson, Professor of Physics and a world expert on atomic and molecular physics, to create Quantemol.

The world is defined by quantum mechanics, the way things work at a very granular level. As such, electron-molecule interactions underpin a range of processes. Yet despite their importance, not all the physics and chemistry underpinning electron-driven processes are well-understood. Any knowledge has traditionally been achieved through time-consuming and expensive experiments. With Quantemol, researchers should be able to acquire data that would otherwise have been beyond their intellectual and financial grasp.

Daniel said: “During the etching of silicone chips, ‘greenhouse’ gases are only partially consumed, so waste gases are emitted into the atmosphere. They have an extremely high global warming potential - up to four orders of magnitude higher than CO2. “The Kyoto protocol requires the phasing out of the use of certain gases by 2010. Quantemol, offers cost effective and accurate calculations for reducing emissions.” Initially the software is being aimed at academia, where there is already interest from significant organizations, including Oxford, Tokyo and the Open universities. Daniel says: “The whole point about quantum mechanics is that nothing is ever certain. Quantemol offers a way of predicting probability with ease and accuracy.”

NESTA’s support is enabling them to build a prototype so they can move towards clinching the first sale. Daniel added: “Ultimately the software has a range of uses – from electron microscopy to creating new techniques for quantum computing.” Mark White, NESTA’s Invention and Innovation Director, said: “NESTA is delighted to be investing in a venture which hopes to shed new light on complex calculations at the heart of so many industrial processes.”

NESTA was set up with an endowment from the national lottery, and it invests the interest from this in UK innovation. To mark 10 years of The National Lottery, the first National Lottery Day will be held on 6th November 2004. Many Lottery funded projects will be holding special events and promotions in the weeks running up to, and on, National Lottery Day.

Joseph Meaney | alfa
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