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YorkTalks 2020 - Session Two

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Ron Cooke Hub

Campus East

University of York

York

YO10 5GE

United Kingdom

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The carbon dioxide refinery: turning the challenge of climate change into a solution - Mike North, Department of Chemistry

Our reliance on fossil fuels is not only unsustainable, it is also resulting in increasing atmospheric CO2 levels which are causing climate change. Professor Mike North shows how green chemists at York have developed a novel process for carbon capture and utilisation that converts CO2 from a waste into a valuable resource for the production of chemicals and fuels that would otherwise be made from crude oil.

In a little over a decade of dedicated research he and his team have taken an elegantly simple idea from proof of concept in the laboratory to a technology that has been licensed to a european company who are currently designing and raising the funding for the first production facility: a commercially viable carbon capture and utilisation refinery that is both environmentally and financially sustainable.

Energy down the drain: how microbial communities can aid us in turning wastewater into low carbon energy - James Chong, Department of Biology

Do you ever think about what happens to what you wash down the sink, or is it just a matter of ‘flush and forget’? The UK disposes of more than one million tonnes of solid material through its sewer systems each year. The treatment and disposal of this material has a cost that can potentially be offset by recovering precious resources. Royal Society Industry Fellow Professor James Chong is unravelling the complexities of anaerobic digestion – a biological process where organic material is broken down by a complex community of microbes in the absence of oxygen.

In collaboration with leading water industry figures, Dr Chong and his team are exploring how smart anaerobic digestion can be used to recover energy and resources from sewage and the use of cutting edge data analytical techniques are providing industry with deep insights into this process so that it becomes a commercially viable tool in combating the impact of climate change.

Extreme swimming: inside the secret world of archaea, one of the planet’s greatest survivors - Laurence Wilson, Department of Physics

Whether stood freezing on the edges of the Great Salt Lake, or peering through the darkness of the deepest mines, physicist Dr Laurence Wilson has journeyed to some of the most inhospitable environments on earth to learn more about a microbial form that was only discovered in the late 20th century. Archaea joined the ‘tree of life’ as a third distinctive domain in 1977 alongside bacteria and eukaryote. Dr Wilson works at the interdisciplinary interface between biology and physics and has made it his quest to understand how this remarkable life form thrives in extreme conditions.

Using bespoke high-speed digital holographic microscopy – developed here in York – he and his team are uncovering the mysteries behind the puzzling swimming mechanics that enable these microbial forms to find nutrients; research that has potential implications for the fight against antibacterial resistance and disease.

The mountains and people of Africa: creating a more sustainable future from the ground up - Rob Marchant, Department of Environment and Geography

The mountain regions of Africa support the majority of its population as they have the highest rainfall, biodiversity and agricultural production. But, as Professor Rob Marchant argues, they are also vulnerable to change. To meet that change Professor Marchant has pioneered a research method that draws on the wisdom and insights of those who know the landscape first-hand, developing solutions that have credibility and traction with communities and their leaders.

This talk traverses a landscape that ranges from rainforest to permanent ice. It also explores the remarkable range of African expertise here in York, as Professor Marchant explains how more than 120 researchers across all three faculties are engaged in 43 of Africa’s 56 nations. These academics have come together as the Africa Network at York to harness their research insights and efforts to the sustainability goals of African people.

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Date and Time

Location

Ron Cooke Hub

Campus East

University of York

York

YO10 5GE

United Kingdom

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