BioBullets on target at chemical engineering awards

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Cambridge University spin-out, BioBullets, clinched the top prize at last night’s Institution of Chemical Engineers (IChemE) awards dinner in London.

The annual event, which attracted over 400 industry experts, recognised just some of the innovative projects being undertaken by chemical and process engineers, all over the world.

BioBullets – winner of the Entec Medal – has found a novel solution to the problem of zebra mussels, which become attached to and block water pipes, devastating natural ecosystems. The problem, a major headache for water and power companies all over the world, costs industry millions of pounds every year.

Traditionally, these pipes have been cleaned using thousands of tonnes of chlorine, removing both the mussels and everything else in the pipe. However this expensive and environmentally harmful method could be replaced by BioBullets’ improved solution, by passing concentrated toxins through a pipe ensuring that only the mussels are targeted, significantly reducing the environmental impact. Initial success has been spectacular and further experiments and potential commercialisation are the next steps forward.

“We are delighted to be recognised with this award. We are currently looking at how our invention can be applied to control some of the world’s other major pests such as flies and sea squirts,” said Dr David Aldridge, lecturer at Cambridge University and director/co-founder of BioBullets Ltd.

BASF was another big winner on the night, clinching the AstraZeneca Award for Excellence in Green Chemistry and Engineering, for the development of a process designed to reuse the greenhouse gas, nitrous oxide, produced during production processes. The company is building a plant to come on stream in 2009 and has already attracted commercial interest.

Other winners included:

IChemE Water Award winners Anglian Water and PuriTech. The two organisations have worked together to improve the way water treatment plants reduce the nitrate content in water making it cleaner and safer for the consumer.

Johnson Matthey was awarded the ABB Engineering Services Environment Award for the work it has done to develop a smaller, cleaner vehicle exhaust soot filter, which will be required as standard on all diesel cars in the UK by 2009.

Cardiff University received the Envirowise Green Chemistry Award for research into the development of new and more sustainable ways to develop and use catalysts. Catalysts are commonly used in filters to remove carbon monoxide in submarines, fire fighters’ breathing apparatus and even spaceships. The Cardiff University research will ensure that this life saving catalyst now works more efficiently and has a less damaging effect on the environment whilst still saving lives.

The Sellafield Award for Engineering Excellence went to Shell Global Solutions and Paques BV for its work developing a real breakthrough in the removal of sulphur from natural and synthesis gas with the Shell-Paques process.

Rachel Cooke received the GSK Young Engineer of the Year 2007 for her work at Cadbury Trebor Bassett and her tireless efforts to highlight the work of chemical engineers in local schools, inspiring the next generation of school leavers to consider a career in science and technology. The recognition comes only weeks after the news that applications to study chemical engineering at UK universities courses have reached a record high.

IChemE chief executive, Dr David Brown praised the standard of the entries: “It’s been an inspiring evening, and one that clearly demonstrates the value chemical and process engineers bring to society. It’s fantastic that in 2007 – the 50th anniversary year of IChemE’s Royal Charter status – the standard and variety of entries is so strong.”

“Chemical and process engineers across a huge range of industry sectors are working hard to develop a cleaner, greener and more sustainable world for generations to come. These awards highlight some of the groundbreaking work that is going on across the globe in all types of organisations, from centres of academia, to SMEs and large global brands.”

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