Circular economy, Natural materials, Future food, Artifical intelligence and Climate change as main of great variety of themes
To celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Finnish Chemical Society the main speakers in two seminars were three winners of the Nobel Prize in Chemistry.
Ada E. Yonath is an Israeli professor, biochemist and crystallographic researcher at the Weissmann Institute in Israel. Professor Yonath is best known for determining the structure of ribosomes using X-ray crystallography. He was awarded the 2009 Nobel, together with Venkatraman Ramakrishnan and Thomas A. Steitz, for his work on the structure and function of ribosomes. Originally Scottish, Professor Sir J. Fraser Stoddart of the University of Northwestern, USA has focused on supramolecular chemistry and nanotechnology, and known for designing and studying the properties of the syntheses of rotachans and catenans. He received the Nobel Prize for Chemistry in 2016, together with Jean-Pierre Sauvage and Bernard Feringa, for the synthesis and design of molecular machines and engines.
K. Barry Sharpless is an American chemist, professor at the Scripps Research Institute, California. He is especially known for his stereoselective oxidation reactions, of which Sharpless was awarded half the 2001 Nobel Prize. The other half divided by William S. Knowles and Ryoji Noyori. The oxidation reactions developed by Sharpless carry its name in the chemistry circles: the epoxidation of Sharpless, the asymmetric dihydroxylation of Sharples and the oxidation of Sharpless.
Nobel Seminar
In the seminar Yonath was describing the chemistry how certain antimicrobiotics interact in ribosomes to become changed and thus inactivated. These results can be used in further develop on more sustainable antimicrobiotics. Stoddart was presenting his pioneering research on a new field in organic chemistry by using mechanical bonds for molecular recognition, self-assembly processes for template-directed mechanically interlocked syntheses, molecular switches, and motor-molecules. Using rotaxanes and catenases these advances have formed the basis of the fields of nanoelectronic devices, nanoelectromechanical systems, and molecular machines. These interlocked molecules have potential uses as molecular sensors, actuators, amplifiers, and molecular switches, and can be controlled chemically, electrically, and optically. Sharpless began developing methods for using catalysts with such properties during oxidation reactions – reactions in which electrons are emitted. Among other things, this has enabled production of various types of medication with the Nobel team by transition metals to make chiral catalysts for an important type of reaction called hydrogenation e.g. in tDOPA drug which is used in the treatment of Parkinson’s disease.
The Laureates have opened a completely new field of research in which it is possible to synthesise molecules and material with new properties. Today the results of their basic research are being used in number of industrial syntheses of pharmaceutical products such as antibiotics, anti-inflammatory drugs and heart medicines.
In the panel discussion the role of science in society was underlined in facing the main global challenges: environment, energy, materials, food and health.  It was stated, that nothing original is intentionally discovered by scientists who cannot tolerate a high degree of uncertainty, group membership does not guarantee results. It has been shown, that a certain basic freedom under designated area of science guarantees the results, which often are generating new ideas. Because of the nature of the research, however, group members preselect themselves and possess a remarkably high degree of independence of thought as well as scientific motives tilted toward discovery, not reward. As a group, they hold superior standards for judging the significance of research sharing with all them of the glory of achievement, e.g. a Nobel Prize.
Circular economy
The seminar Chemistry in the circular economy presented that resources are kept at their highest utility and value for as long as possible. The development of a more circular economy requires systemic changes, and renews production, consumption, business models and regulation.
This seminar highlights the importance of chemistry and chemical companies in this development. Several case-examples are presented, especially in the areas of circular plastics and circular water. As in a circular economy, the systems of material streams differ from those in a linear economy, new challenges are faced in the chemical regulation, occupational safety and product labelling.
Lena Smuk, RISE-Research Institutes presented a Swedish approach to making polymer flows circular. Polymers and their multiple applications are showing a high importance in everyday use and pollution of marine environments. The presentation concentrated on the share of green plastics made from cellulose/sugar, castor oil or wood based. Among the renewable plastics polyethylene, polypropylene, PVC, polyurethane and polyamide are durable biobased plastics. Starch, cellophane, PLA and PHA are renewable and biodegradable.
Other examples of Circular Economy were tall oil, water, and the demands of chemical regulation on the quality of secondary raw materials.
Thermoanalytics and combustion engines
The symposium on “Thermanalytical aspects” showcased thermoanalytical and calorimetric studies on materials found in nature, both of natural and artificial origin. The natural materials discussed in the symposium are various biomasses, polyphenols and hackmanite. The presentations also deal with the studies of the organic matters in the soils and microplastics where thermoanalytical and calorimetric methods can be very helpful.
Combustion and internal combustion (IC) engines are and will be crucial to world and Finnish economy for many years to come, however limited on future use caused by carbon dioxide production. Finland, exits significant ongoing research efforts and business opportunities to produce renewable fuels, also in large scale, with purpose to use these fuels both in the current fleet and in future IC-engines. At the same time, according to the current knowledge, efficiencies of IC-engines of vehicles can still be improved significantly and, consequently, much efforts have been devoted to accomplish this target. In addition to these objectives, there exist, for example, significant interest to use inexpensive natural gas (mainly methane) in IC-engines of ships. However, combustion process with natural gas is more demanding to handle than with conventional fuels.
The plenary speaker in the seminar, Henry Curran, Galway, Ireland explained detailed chemical kinetic mechanisms for fuel combustion and species measurements of the particulate matter reducing additive tri–propylene glycol monomethyl ether. The importance of endothermic pyrolysis reactions in the understanding of diesel spray combustion is crucial for the whole understanding. Curran has studied also a chemical kinetic interpretation of the octane appetite of modern gasoline and the combustion kinetics of the lignocellulosic biofuel, ethyl levulinate. Controlling and optimizing Fuel – Combustion Chemistry – IC-engine – entity is challenging and requires know-how from several different areas.The Future Food seminar
The Future Food seminar contained presentations on Novel technologies and sustainable food systems, By Dr. Tuomisto/Helsinki University, Future food designed and produced in cell factories, Dr Emilia Nordlund, VTT and Food security and the role of Finland in future food production by Dr Kaisa Karttunen. Dr. Tuomisto has been studied food systems and livestock production. They are major contributors to environmental stressors, such as climate change, land use change, loss of biodiversity, nutrient enrichment of waterways and water depletion. Due to global population growth and increased consumption of animal source foods, the environmental impacts have been predicted to dramatically exceed the safe planetary boundaries unless serious mitigation actions will be implemented. The possibilities to reduce the environmental impacts of conventional livestock production are limited, and therefore, more radical changes in the food production technologies are required. Due to the closed and controlled production conditions, cellular agriculture could have potential to produce food with drastically lower environmental burden than conventional agriculture.