Jemma Rowlandson - South West & South Wales

Jemma graduated from the University of Southampton in 2013 with a MChem in Chemistry. She then completed a Masters in Sustainable Chemical Technologies at the University of Bath. Jemma is now a final year PhD student at the University of Bristol. Her research under Dr Valeska Ting and Professor Karen Edler (University of Bath) focuses on the preparation of activated carbon materials from waste feedstocks. She aims to produce activated carbons with a tuneable pore size, so they are applicable to a variety of sustainable applications from the removal of waste water contaminants to the storage of hydrogen.

Jemma has a keen interest in public engagement and is an active STEM ambassador. She was the Chair of the Women in Engineering Student Group (WESBath) and co-ordinated their school outreach activities. Jemma won the University of Bath's Vice-Chancellor's Postgraduate Prize for Public Engagement in 2016 and was invited to give a public lecture at the Royal Society of Chemistry on nanoporous materials. She has also participated in Science Show Off, FameLab, and Three Minute Thesis events.

Saving the world with Leerdammer cheese: Engineering activated carbons for clean water

Activated carbon is a surprisingly ancient material, which happens to have a lot in common with Leerdammer cheese. Carbons may not be bright yellow, nor are they really edible, they are however full of holes. In fact, it is their thousands of nano-scale sized pores (a nanometre is one millionth of a millimetre), which makes them potentially world-saving! Activated carbons are able to remove toxins from our water supply by a process known as adsorption. The molecules simply stick to the surface of the carbon, where we can destroy them with heat.

One of the key parameters for carbons to remove water toxins effectively is their porosity; the shape and size of their nano-scale holes. This research aims to trap trickier to remove toxins by controlling the porosity of the carbon. We start with a natural polymer called lignin, which is found in all plants, and is a major by-product of the paper industry. We determined the structure of the polymer and how it varies between different plants. Using this information we have managed to control the type of carbon we make, simply by changing the plant our lignin comes from. Controlling the carbon structure like this is the first step to targeting water toxins. Our future research focuses on further controlling the pore sizes, and testing these materials against the difficult to remove pesticide mataldhyde.

 

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