Monday, 16 August 2021

Sun shines on our 2021 Norman Lloyd Scholarship fundraiser

On the afternoon of Saturday 14 August the section held a very successful fundraising social event for our Norman Lloyd Scholarships at Cardiff University. The venue was Casa Setsuko Lloyd in Lasne, where we were hosted by Norman's wife Setsuko and the family. A very sunny afternoon was enjoyed by all and a total of €860 was raised for the fund.

The event had a Spanish theme, courtesy of chief chef Chalks Corriette, and further culinary delights included Timm's Pimms.

As well as delicious food and drink this was a first opportunity for many participants to catch up with friends and colleagues following the various Covid restrictions in Belgium - so there was much to talk about.

And of course a tombola was organised to boost funds.

All in all, a very fine time was had by everyone - and the money raised, when added to the existing fund, will guarantee the continuation of the scholarships for at least two further academic years.

About the Scholarships

The Dr Norman C Lloyd Scholarships were set up by the section and Norman's family and friends in cooperation with Cardiff University to provide an annual scholarship of £1 000 to an undergraduate student, usually in their first year of study and from a disadvantaged background, in the Cardiff School of Chemistry.

To date seven students have benefitted from the fund. 

If you would like to support the Norman Lloyd Scholarships, but were unable to attend the event, please do not hesitate to contact the section secretary directly or make a bank transfer to the RSC Belgium bank account (ING IBAN BE91 3630 8144 4876) with the message ‘Norman Lloyd Scholarship Fund’. Many thanks. 

Thursday, 22 July 2021

RSC’s Chemists’ Community Fund

RSC members across Belgium should have received an email from Anna Dearden, the Chemists’ Community Fund Manager at the society. On behalf of the RSC, she extended thoughts and sympathy for everyone affected by the recent extreme weather and flooding across the country and reminded members of the support available from the Chemists’ Community Fund, the benevolent fund for RSC members. 

If you or your family have suffered a negative financial impact due to recent flooding in Belgium, then please consider contacting the service. Although the RSC may only be able to offer limited immediate practical support, the CCF may be able to offer financial assistance to RSC members.

To contact the fund, you can call on +44 (0)1223 853549 or email The RSC’s specialist caseworkers can talk you through the application process and may also be able to direct you to additional avenues of support. And any discussions, of course, are completely confidential.

Help and advice

The RSC’s CCF offers impartial guidance, helpful connections and support you can count on. It is part of the benefits of Royal Society of Chemistry membership and allows members to access advice, information and financial assistance whenever the unexpected occurs.

When life feels uncertain, the RSC CCF’s knowledgeable team and network of member volunteers can help guide you, offering confidential help that is as unique as the situation you face.

The service covers pretty much all areas of life including money and advice (Financial assistance, accessing state benefits, budgeting and debt, and confidential legal advice); wellbeing and family (Care and carer support, your mental health, autism support at home, and health and wellbeing resources) and employment and study issues (Job hunting and career advice, supporting work and study, and financial help and grants).

The fund is there to support those members impacted by unexpected life events. The fund is currently looking at what the longer term impact of the COVID pandemic may be on individuals and how it can better offer support not just now but into the future.

You can learn more about the RSC’s Chemists’ Community Fund in this video.

Wednesday, 30 June 2021

How does chemistry come alive?

On Thursday 27 May 2021 RSC Belgium members and friends were able to explore 'How does chemistry come alive?' in a fascinating webinar with Professor Nick Lane of University College London. Nick described how the continuous reaction of hydrogen and carbon dioxide in the structured environment of hydrothermal vents could have driven the beginnings of metabolism and genetics in protocells at the origin of life on our Earth. 

You can access our video of the webinar either below or via the new RSC Belgium Youtube channel.  

Nick previously talked to us about his fascinating work on bioenergetics, evolution and the origin of life in 2014. He is an evolutionary biochemist and writer in the Department of Genetics, Evolution and Environment at UCLondon. He was awarded the inaugural UCL Provost's Venture Research Prize for his research on evolutionary biochemistry and bioenergetics and his current work focuses on the origin of life, and the origin and evolution of eukaryotes. He was a founding member of the UCL Consortium for Mitochondrial Research, and leads the UCL Research Frontiers Origins of Life programme.

Thursday, 29 April 2021

Edible Oils and Fats

On Thursday 22 April 2021 RSC Belgium section members and friends enjoyed a fascinating webinar with Dr. Albert J. Dijkstra on the topic of ‘Edible oils and fats: Origin, chemistry, production, health’. Dr Dijkstra has had a long and varied career in this area and the presentation highlighted his expertise in particular during the question and answer session.   

Because edible oils and fats contain fatty acids that the human body needs but cannot synthesize, they form an essential part of the human diet. Fortunately, nature provides a wide choice of edible oils and fats. Albert’s presentation discussed what oils and fats people used in distant times, how their supply has changed, and described current production figures and methods. The talk will outlined and explained the various processes used to refine the crude oils and to modify them to meet demand for particular properties in specific products. The final topic of the presentation was the various health claims that have been made at different times for various edible oil products: many based more in the minds of the marketing department than any clear nutritional or health benefits.

Dr Dijkstra (pictured during the transmission, above right, with RSC Belgium chairman Bob Crichton) obtained his PhD in gas kinetics from Leiden University in the mid-Sixties and subsequently enjoyed a decade working for ICI in the UK, the Netherlands and eventually as a Senior R&D Project Leader in ICI Europa. He then worked as a freelancer in chemical market research for Charles H Kline before being appointed as R&D Director of the Vandemoortele Group in Belgium from 1978 to 1997. Since then, Albert has been active as a scientific consultant, author, editor, lecturer, and reviewer in the field of edible oil processing.

You can access Albert's presentation as a pdf file here and a video of the webinar is available on the RSC Belgium Youtube channel here and is embedded below.  

Monday, 22 March 2021

Plasma-based CO2 conversion

On Thursday 18 March 2021, the RSC Belgium section of the Royal Society of Chemistry was treated to a fascinating talk from Professor Annemie Bogaerts of the University of Antwerp on plasma-based catalysis and processes. In this second of our online talks of 2021 Annemie described the work of her Research group PLASMANT and in particular 'Plasma-based CO2 conversion' - an area that is gaining increasing interest

CO2 conversion into value-added chemicals and fuels is one of the great challenges of the 21st century. However, due to the limitations of traditional thermal approaches, several novel technologies are being developed. One promising approach is plasma technology that has promises mild operating conditions, easy upscaling, and gas activation by energetic electrons instead of heat.

But what are the key advantages to using plasma technology over other novel approaches? Can plasma technology be successful on its own, or can synergies be achieved by combining it with other technologies? And what are the potentials and limitations of plasma technology in general? 

Annemie first provided a brief introduction to plasma science and catalysis in general: highlighting how plasma is formed and what are its major applications. Subsequently she focused on the application of CO2 conversion by plasma and plasma catalysis. Annemie gave an overview of the state-of-the-art in plasma-based CO2 (and CH4) conversion, describing the different types of plasma reactors used and discussing the differences (and potential benefits) compared to other emerging technologies for CO2 conversion.

In the last part of the talk she presented some of the results she and her group have obtained in Antwerp including experiments and modeling to obtain a better understanding of the underlying mechanisms and to improve process performance and yield.

Annemie's talk was very well received and provoked a lively discussion!

You can watch the lecture again below or on our dedicated YouTube channel

Friday, 19 February 2021

RSC Belgium 2021 AGM goes online

On the evening of 29 January 2021 the RSC Belgium section held its Annual General Meeting (AGM) as a webinar event via Microsoft Teams. The meeting commenced at 19:35 with nine section members present: Bob Crichton, David Terrell, Hendrik Emons, Julie Tuppeny, Fabio Lucaccioni, Rita Blakeborough Woodward, Susan Schamp, Tim Reynolds and Tracy Ehiwe. Also in attendance was co-opted Committee member: Bo Dahlqvist. And in addition, we were pleased to welcome our guests RSC President Professor Tom Welton and RSC interim CEO Dr Helen Pain.

Eleven section members who were unable to attend the AGM had asked the Chair to act as their proxy for the meeting if a vote was required. These members were: Prof. Dr Arthur Van Aerschot, Brian Sutcliffe, Christopher K. Kariuki, Eveline Volcke, Giacomo Canciani, James Franklin, Joshua Holloway, Richard Green, Steven De Feyter, Thomas Vranken, William Darnley and Marie-Beatrice Madec.

You can watch the AGM proceedings below or via our dedicated YouTube channel and the draft minutes of the meeting are pasted below. The full formal draft minutes can be downloaded here and will be presented to the AGM of the Royal Society of Chemistry’s Belgium Section in 2022 for approval. 

1. Welcome and introductory remarks from RSC President Professor Tom Welton and RSC interim Chief Executive Dr Helen Pain

Section Chair Bob Crichton opened the AGM and welcomed Tom and Helen to the meeting.

Tom (below) said it was a great pleasure to join the AGM and described the RSC as still, despite recent political developments, very much a European Chemical society.

He said that his presidency had been quite different to his expectations due to the restrictions of COVID. He hoped the portfolio of vaccines that have been developed would herald at least the end of this phase of the pandemic. He noted how we have all adapted to this new normal and how we have all learned new ways of working virtually. He thought that the use of virtual connections would likely continue when normality, or near normality, was restored.

His president’s themes for 2021 focused on sustainability – he has been a professor of sustainable chemistry for over 15 years – and this was especially important to him both in terms of how we do chemistry and for society as well. 2021 will see the COP26 meeting in Glasgow and the RSC was determined to take an active role in it. This was the right moment to be laying out the RSC’s plans for strategy in this area, which will be presented to members over the next few months.

Helen Pain (right) also thanked the section for the invite to the AGM. During 2020 she and Tom had attended nine regional meetings in the UK, and it was important to continue to meet and talk to members, especially in these difficult times. The RSC is thinking how it can connect better with its members and be more inclusive. The RSC wants to hear more from its members to ensure that the society remains relevant. It must retain its vision and ambition and work to make a difference in the world.  Helen looked forward to continuing cooperation and collaboration around the world and especially in Europe with its involvement with EUChems and IUPAC. In that context she noted the appointment of previous CEO Robert Parker as RSC Ambassador to Europe and the Commonwealth – he would be the RSC’s voice in Europe.

Both Tom and Helen wished the section well and looked forward to returning to be able to work in Burlington House as soon as possible. Tom noted he had yet to touch the Presidents medal!

Bob Crichton thanked Tom and Helen for their contributions and hoped to be able to welcome them both to Belgium once COVID has been vanquished.

2. Apologies for absence

There were no further apologies were noted.

3. Approval of Minutes of 2020 AGM

No corrections were suggested, and the meeting moved (David Terrell), seconded (Bo Dahlqvist) and hence unanimously adopted the minutes.

4. Committee Report on the Section’s 2020 Activities (Tim Reynolds – Secretary)

The Secretary presented the 2020 report.

As with most other aspects of our lives, the COVID crisis in 2020 had a major impact on RSC Belgium’s programme of activities. Yet despite the challenges raised by the various lockdowns, travel bans and social distancing restrictions, during 2020, RSC Belgium managed to organise three public lectures (one physical and two virtual), held its AGM and a fund raising social, and our two annual school outreach events - the Chemistry Challenge and the Top of the Bench ‘European Eliminator’ – were successfully undertaken. We also welcomed our seventh Norman Lloyd scholar at Cardiff University.

Following our 2020 AGM and Annual Dinner on 17 January, we kicked the year off with a lecture from Prof Joris Proost from the Universite Catholique de Louvain on the evening of 11 February entitled 'Towards the Hydrogen Economy: Challenges and Pitfalls'.

Our next planned event would have been with Prof James Durrant of Imperial College on 31 March talking about ‘Solar driven synthesis of sustainable fuels: photochemistry meets catalysis’, but the first pandemic lockdown intervened. We hope to rearrange this event, either physically or virtually, in February 2021.

Despite the lockdown we managed to organise our 2020 Chemistry Challenge competition for senior high school students over the summer term.

On Saturday 12 September, with COVID restrictions eased momentarily in Belgium we were able to hold an appropriately socially-distanced fundraising event for our Norman Lloyd Scholarships at our section treasurer Julie Tuppeny’s abode that raised some EUR 870 raised for the fund.

Later in the year we welcomed our seventh recipient of a Norman Lloyd scholarship at Cardiff University: Cara Watkins. Cara is in the 1st year of her chemistry degree at Cardiff.

September also saw our first attempt at a virtual evening lecture event. On the evening of 24 September Professor David Cole-Hamilton, Past President of the European Chemical Society and Irvine Professor of Chemistry at the University of St. Andrews talked about ‘Elements in Danger’ from his home in St. Andrews. The webinar was also the occasion for the announcement of our prize winners in our 2020 Chemistry Challenge including this year’s overall winner and recipient of the coveted Keith Price Award.

Our final lecture event of the year was on 12 November when Dr Brigitte van Tiggelen gave a virtual talk to the section on 'Women in Science' and in particular their contribution to the chemical sciences and the periodic table.

Our Top of the Bench regional heat was also a virtual affair taking place in late November and early December. Due to the various restrictions only four teams from two schools (St Georges in Luxembourg and ISF Waterloo) were able to take part in the written and practice exercises set, as ever, by Rita Woodward. But, also as ever, all the teams performed well with the overall winner being Team Phosphorus from St. Georges school who will be representing Belgium section at the virtual TOTB finals in March 2021.

We hope to be organising more events in 2021 – either virtual or physical depending on the situation – and look forward to seeing many members and friends on screen or face-to-face during the year. Details of forthcoming events can always be found on the RSC Belgium blog but our first two events will be on 11 February with Prof James Durrant of Imperial College on Solar Fuels and 18 March with Prof Annemie Bogaerts of Antwerp University on plasma chemistry for CO2 conversion.

There were no questions on the report, and it was unanimously approved.

5. Financial Report of 2020 (Julie Tuppeny – Treasurer)

The treasurer presented the 2020 financial report and accounts.

Like previous years 2020 was planned to be another busy year, until restrictions due to the COVID-19 pandemic saw cancellations and lectures moved online for the Section and its committee.

The main highlights of the year were our two online lectures from Brigitte van Tiggelen and David Cole-Hamilton and a live lecture from Joris Proost. Our two annual competitions for schools were organised to comply with COVID restrictions. Our Chemistry Challenge Competition  was well attended and was performed online, and the Top of the Bench (TOTB) Eliminator Round was organised in schools with four teams from two Schools taking part.

On 1 January 2020, the net assets of RSC Belgium Section were €5 929.46. The Annual Grant for 2020 received in June 2020 from RSC UK was € 6 589.00 which was less than the € 10 307.50 that was asked for.

The major item of expenditure for the year was € 865 to organise the Chemistry Challenge, of which €675 was prize money.

For the Year ending 31 December 2020, the net assets of RSC Belgium Section amount to €10,709.91.

Bearing in mind that under Belgian Law, the status of the RSC Belgium Section holds the three Officers personally liable for debts arising from the activities of the Belgium Section, a grant request of € 2 000 will be requested from RSC UK to cover all the activities planned for 2021.

The meeting unanimously adopted the Treasurer’s report.

6. Chairman’s Remarks (Bob Crichton)

The Chairman thanked all members of the committee for their hard work and support during a difficult year. It had been satisfying to have organised several events despite the COVID situation.

He hoped that all section members were managing well under the lockdown regime and looked forward to a more active year in 2021 with a fuller programme – either virtual or physical or a bit of both.

7. Election of committee members and section officers

The following nominations had been received:

Section Chair:             Robert Crichton

Section Treasurer:       Julie Tuppeny

Section Secretary:       Tim Reynolds

Ordinary members of the committee: Fabio Lucaccioni, Susan Schamp, Rita Woodward

Election to the committee is for a two-year term.

There being no further nominations and the number of nominations being less than the number of vacancies (A maximum of five ordinary members are allowed and David Terrell is mid-way through his current term as an ordinary member of the committee) the nominees were duly elected to the committee for 2021.

At the first committee meeting of 2021 Bo Dahlqvist will be co-opted onto the committee.

8. Auditing arrangements for 2021

Having reviewed the section rules (which state the section auditor could be any member of the section who was not a current member of the committee) and the financial audit requirements for the section reports to RSC HQ (no formal audit required) at the first committee meeting in 2020 it had been decided to approach a section member (Lance Smallshaw) to review/ audit the section accounts, rather than seek to continue an external audit by an accountant.

9. Any Other Business

It was noted that the first event of the 2021 programme will be on Thursday 11 February 2021 via Teams with Prof. James Durrant of Imperial College talking about Solar Fuels.

The meeting Adjourned at 19:55. The first meeting of the 2021 committee will take place on Tuesday 16 March 2021 via Teams from 19h15.

Sustainable Solar Fuels

On the evening of Thursday 11 February 2021 Prof. James Durrant, of Imperial College London gave the section an online talk on 'The solar driven synthesis of sustainable fuels: photochemistry meets catalysis'.

In the webinar Prof Durrant talked about the increasing interest in the development of artificial photosynthetic systems for solar driven fuel synthesis. He started by discussing the challenge of the solar driven synthesis of sustainable fuels and chemistry, and its potential role in reducing our dependence on fossil fuels. He then went on to review approaches to artificial photosynthesis, and the lessons which can be learnt from biological photosynthesis. 

Prof Durrant introduced his own particular research interest, the role of charge carrier dynamics in determining the efficiency of such systems, focusing on photocatalysts and photoelectrodes for water oxidation and reduction. His talk primarily focused on metal oxide materials, although he also covered organic polymer photocatalysts and hybrid molecular / inorganic systems for solar driven proton and CO2 reduction. Experimentally, these studies are based around transient absorption spectroscopy on timescales from femtoseconds to seconds, which are correlated with the results of photoelectrochemical analyses of device efficiency. These studies address the dynamics of charge separation and recombination, as well as the kinetics of water oxidation / reduction at semiconductor / liquid interfaces.

During the talk Prof Durrant addressed issues including the underlying photochemistry of oxides, the role of the space charge layers at electrochemical junctions in spatially separating charges, and the role of heterojunctions and catalysts layers in enhancing system efficiency. Particular consideration was placed on the mechanism of water oxidation / reduction, and the extent oxide surfaces function as heterogeneous catalysts for this reaction.

The presentation given by Prof Durrant can be accessed here and you can relive the entire event above or via our dedicated YouTube channel! Enjoy!