06 February 2017

Manchester chemical engineers are three-time champions

Macnab-Lacey winners 2017

A team from University of Manchester, UK have been awarded the 2016 Macnab-Lacey prize for the third time since its 2011 launch. The award is presented annually by the Institution of Chemical Engineers (IChemE), to a group of final year chemical engineering students that submit the best sustainable design project.

Manchester’s team of seven, Charmaine Chee, Luke Dryden, Luke Glynn, Hendrick Hendrick, Andrew Shannon and Hui Ling Tan, designed a plant that would produce 1,4 butanediol in a sustainable way. Butanediol is a solvent used to produce a range of plastics such as spandex, and its global demand is expected to increase by 8% year-on-year.

The Macnab-Lacey prize winner is selected by IChemE’s Sustainability Special Interest Group, on the basis of which project best shows how chemical engineering practice can contribute to a more sustainable world. Manchester’s project was chosen for the top spot following a unanimous vote from the judges. The team demonstrated that they had tested and applied sustainability principles to their design, and had analysed and accommodated for environmental, economic and social impacts.

IChemE’s Chair of the Sustainability Special Interest Group, Malcolm Wilkinson, said:

“All the submissions we received for the Macnab-Lacey prize were presented well, with a good use of metrics to judge the sustainability of their designs.

"The entry from the winning team of chemical engineering students from the University of Manchester stood out for being particularly strong in the quantitative analysis of alternative process schemes using sustainability criteria. This was continued through the choices made in the detailed design, using metrics to analyse and justify the overall sustainability of the operation. The team considered environmental, economic and social impacts in their report and I am delighted to present the team with their cheques and certificates."

The team were mentored by Lecturer and Royal Academy of Engineering Research Fellow, Dr Thomas Vetter (pictured, middle).

Professor Colin Webb, former Head of Manchester’s School for Chemical Engineering and Analytical Science said:

“Several decades ago, our awareness of hazards led us to the philosophy of inherently safer design. We are now embedding sustainability into the design of chemical processes.

“Our winning team have made the process for the production of butanediol adaptable to changing feedstocks, which is really excellent. They worked tirelessly on this project for three months and can be justly proud of their achievement.

“This is the third time in six years that a team from University of Manchester has won the award, and we are, of course, very pleased and proud.”

The highly-commended mention went to a team at Monash University, Australia, and their project, L-Glutamic Acid Production Facility. The six strong team; Nathan Brosnahan, Mitchell Fly, April Jinnette, Sean McKellar, Steven Prokopiwskyi, and Kim Sho, were presented with their certificate in Melbourne, Australia in December. Teams from Monash University have previously won the 2013 and 2014 MacNab-Lacey Prize.

A team from Imperial College London were also highly-commended. They will be presented with their certificate at the IChemE Sustainability Special Interest Group AGM in March.

The winners of the Macnab-Lacey prize will receive £750, partly funded from the Lacey Fund and partly by the Sustainability Subject Group who manage the award process. This year was the sixth year the competition has run. Invitations to enter and detailed entry criteria were sent to all IChemE accredited universities worldwide in 2016.

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