Celebrating chemical engineering achievement in sustainability #ichemeawards

15th December 2016

In our modern world projects that deliver a sustainability benefit are usually successful. In fact, all our winners this year have demonstrated some kind of sustainable element in their work. Whether it's taking on large projects, developing products for poor communities, or innovating to change lives.

But these winners have put sustainability at the heart of what they do. Pushing the limits to find the most environmentally-friendly way of doing things, some of them are also very young companies - and ones to watch in the future.

So please take a look at the following three winners videos, and as always thanks to Morgan Sindall for helping us to produce them.

Aqua Metals make smelting a thing of the past

Aqua Metals, based in California, USA, has only been established for three years but is changing the way we recycle batteries. Lead acid batteries (LAB's) account for 96% of the world's batteries and are recycled mostly for their lead content, which can be re-used to make more batteries and alloy metals such as solder.

The industry standard for recycling LAB's is smelting. The method has been around for centuries, but leaves behind hazardous materials and produces carbon monoxide and other gases.

Aqua Metals new process for recycling LAB's, called AquaRefining, is water-based. Through a closed-loop process no hazardous materials are left behind, and the result is a material as pure as mined lead.

So how does chemical engineering matter to Aqua Metals? CEO Steve Cotton says:

"Our group of employees have a significant amount of chemical engineering and chemistry background which have allowed us to do what the world didn't think was possible."

Watch his interview at the plant below:

Find out more about this young company and their innovative technology here. 

Spin-out company ALUSID grow sustainable products portfolio in less than two years

Chemical engineers from the University of Central Lancashire started ALUSID in February 2015. Their major product is SilicaStone, an architectural material made from recycled materials that looks like natural stone. Literally everything used to make the product is from materials that would otherwise go to landfill, you can't get much more sustainable than that!

The team also applies an environmentally-friendly process to recycle and make product, ensuring a minimal amount of energy is used and no waste is left behind. The product is also UV, chemical and frost resistant thanks to the no binder process, so is ideal for use on exterior walls.

So what does winning an IChemE Global Award mean for ALUSID? Creative Director, David Binns says:

"In every way it is just fantastic to receive this, and I'm sure it will help us to develop as a start-up business."

Watch them win Best Business Start-Up 2016 below:

Find out more about ALUSID and SilicaStone here.

Cleaner, greener vegetable oil from the UK, Germany and Malaysia

It's always great to see collaborative teams win an IChemE Global Award, but particularly when they are from different countries. Queen's University Belfast spin-out Green Lizard Technologies, Felda Global Ventures Applied Technologies (FGV) from Malaysia, and Germany's Evonik Industries showed real international teamwork as they came together to develop a cleaner, more sustainable vegetable oil.

Thee project started with FGV, who had been working to develop a purified palm oil, one of Malaysia's biggest exports. With help from the researchers at Green Lizard Technologies and using a vitamin additive developed by Evonik, the team were able to remove fatty acids and impurities from vegetable and palm oil in a one-step process.

So how do the team feel about a win? Green Lizard's Jim Swindall says:

"To win an IChemE Award is the pinnacle. To get that is really fantastic."

Watch their full interview video below:

You can find out more about the development of the new process here.

It's the final installment of our IChemE Awards blog series tomorrow, and we're shining a light on the research stars. Don't miss it.

Thinking about attending, sponsoring, or entering the IChemE Global Awards 2017? Register your interest here and we’ll keep you posted with all the latest news and developments.