Dr Lionel Parks CChem FIMMM (Profile)

Fellows' Lounge
16 Aug 2010

Dr Lionel Parks CChem FIMMM began his working life
in 1957 sampling and analysing ores and minerals for Murex Ltd, a metallurgical Company who encouraged and
supported him in obtaining a chemistry degree by part-time study. This led to a year working for Anglo
American mining company in Zambia.

On return to the UK, he joined Cape Asbestos in
customer technical service throughout Europe and developing safer uses for
asbestos in reinforced plastics and refractory products. His increasing interest in materials technology led to a
three-year part-time Masters Degree at Brunel University.


Work in Kuwait

The escalating health concerns over asbestos prompted his
next move in 1977 to the Arabian Gulf, as materials scientist at the Kuwait
Institute for Scientific Research. Lionel set up facilities to test  building materials to international
standards and helped local manufacturers improve the quality
of their products.

With the State’s concern over the demand for
electricity for air conditioning during the intense summer heat, a major
research project was initiated to investigate the practicalities and economic
benefits of thermal insulation in Kuwait buildings, in which Lionel played a
key role. He also organised the first International Symposium on
Thermal Insulation in the Gulf States, in the days when overseas
communication had to be done laboriously by Telex.

In parallel, he initiated a major research project to
investigate the use of local clays for possible production of lightweight
aggregates for use in concrete. This original research occupied more and more of his time
and eventually was accepted by Brunel for the award of a PhD.


Reusing coal waste

After nearly five memorable years full of fascinating
experiences, in which he also acquired a working
knowledge of Arabic, he returned to the UK to join Thermal Conversions. This newly
formed company was looking into the technical and commercial potential of
producing lightweight aggregate from coal waste, the disposal of which was
becoming a major problem in the Welsh coal fields. Energy Grants
and Venture Capital was obtained to finance a demonstration plant at Abernant

Unfortunately the National coal strike led to the Colliery
shutting, and the plant mothballed for a year. Eventually the business was sold off and at the age of 47,
Lionel was made redundant.


Fire protection materials

The opportunity came up to work part-time for a small local
company, Sanders Fire Systems Ltd, involved in fire protection materials. This
led to a full-time post as technical director and eventually Managing Director.
Lionel used his materials expertise to develop products, including
a range of unique fire stop mortars. He has been responsible
for fire testing to BS, European and ASTM tests in the USA.

Lionel has for many years been closely with London South
Bank University, as a visiting lecturer in passive fire
protection and in developing joint projects with final year students in
structural and civil engineering. Jointly with the University, he presented a paper on
structural testing of fire stop mortars at the Annual ASTM Conference in
Washington in 2004.

Now approaching his 70th birthday, yet still
enjoying working, he has built a successful business selling his
company’s products throughout the world, both under the Sandersfire name and
private label agreements for international corporations.

When Lionel looks back, he thanks those employers who
encouraged and supported him early in his career, in obtaining qualifications, especially in materials
science, that opened up such interesting and fulfilling opportunities.