Imperial College London

Climate awards and dangerous jobs: News from Imperial

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Someone underground in a mine with a torch on.

Here's a batch of fresh news and announcements from across Imperial.

From an award for one of Imperial's climate experts to analysis of lung health in small-scale miners, here is some quick-read news from across Imperial.

Climate award

Fredi Otto smiles at the camera with a grey background
Credit: David Fisher

Dr Friederike Otto from Imperial’s Grantham Institute has been jointly awarded the German Environmental Award for her contributions to climate change research. Dr Otto studies extreme weather events such as droughts, heatwaves and storms, to understand whether and to what extent these are made more likely or intense due to climate change - known by experts as 'climate change attribution.' 

Now in its 31st year, the DBU German Environmental Award is one of Europe’s most highly remunerated environmental awards. Dr Otto will receive the €500,000 award on 29 October from German Federal President Frank-Walter Steinmeier.

On both awardees, DBU Secretary General Alexander Bonde said: “With the outstanding energy they have shown in their respective fields, both award winners have demonstrated that we cannot afford to lose any more time in the fight against the climate crisis.

“They are a true inspiration and motivation for us to learn from the impacts of global warming, which are already evident today, and to continue implementing more and more environmental and resource protection measures so that our planet remains a habitable place.”

Miner damage 

A miner underground with a flash light onMiners face significant risk to their lung health, new research suggests. Researchers from the National Heart and Lung Institute (NHLI) conducted a literature review to assess lung health in small-scale miners. They found up to 37% of small-scale miners had silicosis – an incurable stiffening of the lungs – while up to 6% had tuberculosis (TB). Models revealed this was largely due to dust exposure, which was further supported by dust levels which were up to 1,790x higher than US legal limits.  

There are 44 million small-scale miners worldwide, who play an integral role in the global supply chain. Patrick Howlett, study author and Clinical Research Fellow at the National Heart & Lung Institute, said: “Given the scale of the burden, and the availability and low cost of interventions as well as the clear benefits of a healthy workforce, our study demonstrates that there can be fewer more effective areas for interventions.” 

Read the full publication in the journal Plos Global Public Health.

Bhattacharyya Award finalist 

Four academics smile at the camera
Credit: Thomas Angus.

Imperial’s Sargent Centre for Process Systems Engineering has been recognised by the Royal Academy of Engineering for its “inspiring and diverse examples” of innovative and impactful partnerships between industry and universities.
The Academy shortlisted the Sargent Centre, along with five other exceptional UK industry–academia partnerships, for this year’s Bhattacharyya Award.

The Sargent Centre is the largest multidisciplinary research centre in process systems engineering, combining a deep understanding of chemical and biochemical processes with the ability to make fundamental advances across a wide range of systems and digital technologies for the benefit of society and industry.
Collaborations between Sargent Centre researchers and industry partners are addressing challenges in the fields of manufacturing, decarbonisation, energy efficiency, optimisation, data science, multi-scale modelling, risk and uncertainty. They are also training future technical leaders and innovators who understand the value and benefits of collaboration between industry and academia.
The Bhattacharyya Award 2023 and a cash prize of £25,000 will be presented on 24 October to the team who best demonstrate how industry and universities can work together.

Professor Nilay Shah, Director of the Sargent Centre, said: “We are delighted that our sustained contribution over 30 years to industry-academia collaboration has been recognised by this award; meeting the needs of industry was at the forefront of Prof Roger Sargent’s mind when establishing the Centre in 1989.”

Regional partnerships

Packaging on shelvesNine new regional partnerships between universities and manufacturing businesses will address industry-driven challenges and develop new technologies. Professor Koon-Yang Lee from Imperial's Department of Aeronautics will partner with Mark Newman from Unilever Global alongside others to create new green packaging solutions.

 The biggest contributors to Unilever's plastic waste footprint are products contained within single-use, single-dose flexible packaging. Today, there is no formal or informal collection infrastructure for these products, leading to very high levels of littering, with the rest ending up in landfill. There are also no viable sustainable alternatives for products that require a shelf-life of more than a few days.

This Prosperity Partnership builds on early-stage collaborations between Unilever and Imperial College London, as well as the University of Leeds and the University of Manchester, to address the need for a truly sustainable packaging alternative.

Professor Lee said: Achieving a sustainable and net zero ambition for fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG) packaging is a massive industrywide challenge."

"This project aims to create truly sustainable, 100% biomass-derived flexible packaging that will be compatible with commercial high-speed product packaging line, can be recycled in current paper recycling streams and is biodegradable if leaked into the natural environment."

Startup World Cup

Sunset on the M1 MotorwayTreeva – an Imperial startup for transport systems to generate renewable energy – was crowned the winner at Venture Cup Denmark’s University Startup World Cup 2023.

The event saw students and startups from around the world come together to celebrate the best of university entrepreneurship. Treeva took home $10,000 USD and will attend the Global Finals in China in November.

Treeva makes use of readily available land and passing transport by installing roadside turbines to generate renewable energy from roadside winds. The design can be easily installed and maintained on the side of roads and railways to power infrastructure to create net-zero transport systems.

Anjali Devadasan, founder of Treeva and Materials Science and Engineering student said: “Transport companies are struggling to meet their net zero goals, while the rising electricity demands increase the risks of blackouts and brownouts.

“Recognition of our startup reflects the urgent need for reliable power generation on site.”

PRISM Prize 

Nicola smiles at the camera
Credit: Nicola Gasparini

Dr Nicola Gasparini, from the Department of Chemistry, has been awarded the 2023 PRISM prize from the National Research Council of Italy in the young researcher category, which honours him for breakthrough achievements in the field of Science of Matter in the last five years.

His interests lie in the fundamental and application-oriented research in lab-scale and large-area printed electronics, in particular organic and perovskite photovoltaics and photodetectors, and bioelectronics.

His efforts have focused on the design of highly efficient photodiodes and on their electro-optical and structural characterisation.

Dr Gasparini said: “I am honoured to be receive the PRISM 2023 Young Scientist Prize for my research on the field of Science of Matter, especially on green energy from photovoltaics and novel sensors."

To read more about the award and the shortlisted startups, please see here.

Uncaptioned image credits: Shutterstock

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Hayley Dunning

Hayley Dunning
Communications Division

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Bryony Ravate

Bryony Ravate
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