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Building a Centre for Sustainable Chemistry

Watch this video to hear views about the role chemistry can play in developing a sustainable future.
I’m here with two of my colleagues from the school of chemistry, Jonathan and David. Chemistry is often seen as very demanding in terms of energy, natural resources, and also on the impact on the environment. So in your opinion, what role can chemistry play in terms of creating and developing a sustainable future? Well, chemistry is hugely beneficial in terms of what it generates for people to use and industry to use. I think the challenges are to generate these products more efficiently using less resources, generating less waste and less pollution. So in this context, what is the school of chemistry doing to address some of these issues?
Well, the school has been very active over a number of years in the area of sustainable chemistry. And at the moment, we’ve got a lot going on. Construction starts on a 22 million pound carbon-neutral laboratory funded by a partnership with GlaxoSmithKline. We’ve got two new professorial appointments with support from GSK and from the funding research council, EPSRC. And, of course, sustainable chemistry in the future really lies in the hands of our undergraduates and post-graduates. And this year we’re going to be welcoming the first cohort of students onto our new one-year taught MSE in green and sustainable chemistry. David, Jonathan just mentioned about this new centre that we’re going to be building very soon. Where is it going to be located?
Well, the building itself is going to be located on the Jubilee campus, which, in itself, is an example in Brownfield restoration of building, which was industrial land prior to us taking it over. An important feature of the building is that the infrastructure has very green credentials. And it has a very sustainable approach to the build when they’re on there. So the lake itself has heating and cooling systems. There’s a biomass boiler installed in most buildings. There’s solar panels on most of the buildings that are there. So you can see the CNL building actually fits in quite well with that. So it has been said that, actually, these buildings are going to be carbon neutral.
It is in the title of the building itself. How is this going to be achieved? Well, the building itself will be carbon neutral within 25 years of its lifetime. And the way it’s going to achieve that is the fact that it’s going to create its own energy from solar panels and biomass heating and cooling power unit. And the heat from that is going to be exported from the building into surrounding buildings. And the excess energy is going to go onto the national grid. So, basically, we’re buying energy credits for the building. So it will be carbon neutral. It’s carbon footprint will be offset in 25 years.
In terms of the research labs that are going to be in this new centre, how will they compare to the research labs that we have in our building now? Well, the current research labs are very energy inefficient. So there’s one fan per fume cupboard. And they can cost, per fume cupboard, 1600 pounds per year to run in energy. And we use a lot of raw water for cooling, which goes straight from being cleaned up straight down the drain. And we use a lot of electricity which we don’t generate ourselves. So the new building, we will actually be using less fume cupboards and lower energy requiring ventilated enclosures. And we’ll be using recirculating water rather than raw water. Fantastic.
Thank you very much for popping in and having this chat. Perhaps we can go now and grab a coffee. Excellent.

In this video, filmed in September 2013, Rossana Wright talks to colleagues from the School of Chemistry about the role that Chemistry can play in developing a sustainable future, and about the plans for a new Centre for Sustainable Chemistry with a carbon neutral laboratory. Those of you in China can also view this video on our Tudou channel.

In September 2014, shortly after this course finished its second run, the building was destroyed by a devastating fire. Fortunately no-one was hurt and within months the debris had been cleared and construction began again. The building is now due to open in summer 2016. Look here to find out more about our carbon neutral laboratory.

While Chemistry is often viewed as demanding in its need for energy and natural resources, there is much research going on to ensure that Chemistry is safe, efficient and, above all, sustainable – Chemistry that is benign by design.

If you are able to access YouTube, you may find these additional videos by the University of Nottingham’s Professor Sir Martyn Poliakoff interesting:

Think about: What do you think should be the priority areas in sustainable chemistry research? Where would you put the money? See if you agree with the priorities of your fellow learners.

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