Neville Prior

Good News on Ozone

Neville Prior  7 January 2018 02:46:44 PM
Image:Good News on Ozone
In one of few good news stories about our planet’s environment, scientists find the first proof that the ozone hole is shrinking. While the world’s coral reefs are suffering irreparable damage, there was some good news announced by NASA scientists who have found the first direct proof that ozone depletion is in decline as a result of a global ban on chemical chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs).

Published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters, the findings showed that the ban has resulted in about 20pc less ozone depletion during the Antarctic winter than there was in 2005. This the first year that measurements of chlorine and ozone during the Antarctic winter were made by NASA’s Aura satellite. The stratospheric ozone hole over Antarctica was first discovered in 1985, sparking fears of immeasurable damage to the Earth as a loss of the ozone layer would lead to our planet being bombarded with harmful ultraviolet radiation from the sun.

Two years after its discovery, regulations on chemicals that would contribute to ozone decline were signed by the nations of the world, with CFCs being the key target due to their prevalence in many household items, such as refrigerators and aerosols. These long-living chemical compounds eventually rise into the stratosphere, where they are broken apart by the sun’s ultraviolet radiation, releasing chlorine atoms that go on to destroy ozone molecules. Previous studies in this area used statistical analyses of changes in the hole’s size to argue that ozone depletion is decreasing. However, this study is the first to use measurements of the chemical composition inside the ozone hole to confirm that not only is ozone depletion decreasing, but that the decrease is caused by the decline in CFCs.

“We see very clearly that chlorine from CFCs is going down in the ozone hole, and that less ozone depletion is occurring because of it,” said lead author Susan Strahan.

With help from the Aura satellite and its Microwave Limb Sounder (MLS) instrument, the team was able to take measurements of depletion from 2004. Unlike other satellite instruments that require sunlight to measure atmospheric trace gases, the MLS uses microwave emissions and thus can measure trace gases over Antarctica during the key time of year, the dark southern winter, when the stratospheric weather is quiet and temperatures are low and stable.

Looking to the future, NASA scientists believe that as long as the ban of CFCs is maintained, the ozone hole should shrink gradually, but it could take decades to recover. The paper’s co-author, Anne Douglass, said: “CFCs have lifetimes from 50 to 100 years, so they linger in the atmosphere for a very long time."

“As far as the ozone hole being gone, we’re looking at 2060 or 2080. And even then, there might still be a small hole.”

Happy New Year

Neville Prior  4 January 2018 03:05:08 PM
Image:Happy New Year

New Materials for Lithium-Ion Batteries Could Double Range of Electric Vehicles

Neville Prior  4 January 2018 03:01:55 PM
Image:New Materials for Lithium-Ion Batteries Could Double Range of Electric Vehicles
Part of the Faraday Battery Challenge, announced by business secretary Greg Clark last year, the project is developing materials based on silicon to replace carbon in the anode of lithium-ion (Li-ion) batteries. Other partners in the project include University College London (UCL) and Synthomer, a polymer manufacturer and developer; these partners contribute to the project’s name: SUNRISE (Synthomer, UCL and Nexeon’s Rapid Improvement in the Storage of Energy).

The total cost of the project, according to Nexeon, is £10m, of which £7m is being provided by Innovate UK. An important aim is to overcome a current difficulty with silicon in Li-ion batteries: expansion and contraction of the anode when the cells are charged and discharged, which limits the proportion of silicon in the anode to around 10 per cent. This can be overcome, the company claims, by using an innovative form of silicon that it is developing, combined with a polymer binder being developed and optimised by Synthomer, which is also working to ensure that cohesion between binder and silicon is not compromised over the battery’s lifetime. This combination of silicon and binder also, Nexon added, will allow more silicon to be used in the anode, which increases the cell’s energy density storage potential. UCL, meanwhile, will jointly lead work on material characterisation and cell performance.

The ultimate goal of the project is to develop a drop-in replacement for graphite-based anodes that will increase the effective range of electric vehicles equipped with these batteries to 400 miles and above on a single charge. “Silicon anodes are now well established on the technology road maps of major automotive OEMs and cell makers, and Nexeon has received support from UK and global OEMs, several of whom will be involved in this project as it develops,” said CEO Scott Brown.

“We are delighted to be working on this project, which is so important for the future development of battery electric vehicles, and leverages the unique facilities at UCL in partnership with Nexeon and Synthomer to deliver real-world research impact,” said Dr Paul Shearing of UCL’s chemical engineering department, who co-leads the project for UCL with Prof Dan Brett.

Robin Harrison, global innovation director at Synthomer, said: “The challenges in developing the next generation of range-enabling EV battery technology creates new opportunities for partners in the material supply chain. Synthomer is pleased to build upon its existing experience in battery binder systems in order to realise the revolutionary potential in the SUNRISE silicon anode.”

Britain Climbs to World’s 8th Largest Industrial Nation

Neville Prior  18 September 2017 08:34:32 AM
Image:Britain Climbs to World’s 8th Largest Industrial Nation
According to facts and figures published by manufacturers’ organisation EEF and Santander, growth has returned to the British manufacturing sector despite the persisting uncertainty of Brexit. Launching the 2017 manufacturing fact card, the new data shows that Britain is now the 8th largest industrial nation with an annual output now worth $249bn, up from 9th place last year. In the post-Brexit world, manufacturing will increasingly provide Britain’s link to the world, currently generating 44% of total UK exports. The sector is also vital for the nation’s future source of income, undertaking some 70% of total R&D by Britain’s businesses. Data around employment is equally impressive, with 2.6million people working within the manufacturing sector across the country.

The largest individual sector is food and drink (16%) while the chemicals and pharmaceuticals and transport sectors both account for 14% of output each. It is these two sectors which also head up the manufacturing innovation league table, with ONS figures revealing that pharmaceuticals accounts for 34.4% of UK innovation, and transport 33%.

Manufacturing is spread across the country – the North West remaining the biggest regional powerhouse, producing over £24bn output. Manufacturing also helps power the engine of the West Midlands (£17.5bn) and East Midlands (£15.9bn), with their strength across the aerospace and automotive sectors.

A reminder of the post-Brexit challenge is ever present as EU markets still dominate for exports, accounting for 48% of manufactured exports in 2017. The UK’s largest single export destination is the United States, followed by Germany and France.

Lee Hopley, Chief Economist of EEF said: “With government facing lots of major policy decisions on everything from our future trading relationship with Europe and the rest of the world to the detail of a long-term industrial strategy it is vital that they have the right industry facts at their fingertips."

“Our latest annual fact card reveals that manufacturing’s share of the economy remains stable at 10%, but the sector makes a much larger contribution to vital exports and innovation."

“With the focus on industrial strategy, this year we highlight the varying strengths we see across manufacturing sub-sectors, from the strong R&D performance of pharmaceuticals and transport to the high export intensity of machinery and chemicals.”

Paul Brooks, Head of Manufacturing, Santander Corporate & Commercial, added: “Manufacturing remains a key part of the UK economy and it is really encouraging to see that the UK is now the 8th largest manufacturer by output in the world, and that the majority of UK adults believe we should be aiming to be in the top five."

“With strong manufacturing figures reported from across the country, it is crucial that we continue to support manufacturers in all regions of the UK."

“Despite uncertainty around Brexit, manufacturers are seizing opportunities to increase their now more competitive exports, with the sector accounting for 44% of UK exports."

U.K.’s Economic Outlook Rosier

Neville Prior  18 September 2017 08:17:19 AM
Image:U.K.’s Economic Outlook Rosier
Bank of England officials aren’t the only ones feeling a bit more bullish about the U.K. economy. The Centre for Economics and Business Research upgraded its outlook for the nation’s economy Monday, citing a pickup in manufacturing and a view that the worst of the consumer-spending squeeze has passed. The group now expects U.K. growth of 1.6 percent this year and 1.4 percent in 2018, an increase from 1.3 percent and 1.2 percent, previously. The revision comes after BOE policy makers said last week that they’re headed toward raising interest rates for the first time in more than a decade, noting that while Brexit still poses a risk, data since their last decision points to a “slightly stronger picture than anticipated.”

Gertjan Vlieghe, regarded as one of the more dovish members of the Monetary Policy Committee, doubled down a day later, saying that data suggested “we are approaching the moment when bank rate may need to rise.” 

By the end of the week, the pound had climbed about 3 percent, markets were fully pricing in a rate increase by February -- a year earlier than previously seen -- and Barclays, Deutsche Bank and Scotiabank were among those forecasting a hike in November.

“U.K. economic growth has unquestionably slowed from the rates seen throughout much of 2016,” said Nina Skero, head of macroeconomics at the CEBR. “Many have mistaken recent headwinds for a full-blown storm.”

One of the major drags on growth in the first half was a slowdown in consumer spending, as faster inflation and subdued wage increases squeezed Britons’ pockets -- pressures which the CEBR say should now start to ease. The group also expects a “comprehensive interim deal with the EU,” boosting the economy beyond 2018, although it does admit that a sustained decline in net migration could cause “serious damage.”

UK Government Reveals Draft Law on Microbeads Ban

Neville Prior  15 September 2017 05:54:09 PM
Image:UK Government Reveals Draft Law on Microbeads Ban
The UK government has published a draft of a law that will ban the manufacture of rinse-off cosmetics containing microbeads by the end of the year. The draft follows a public consultation on the government's proposed ban, which closed on 28 February. Some respondents had called for its scope to be broadened and cover all products that result in microbeads being washed down the drain. This would include leave-on makeup and sunscreen. Others called for inclusion of some polymers and cleaning products. The draft law has kept to the scope originally proposed. But the UK environment ministry, Defra, has now also committed to working with the Hazardous Substances Advisory Committee (HSAC) to assess the case for addressing further categories of products.

NGOs have already started discussing the scope and timeline for this work with Defra and the HSAC, according to the Microbeads Coalition, a campaign umbrella group made up of the Environmental Investigation Agency, Greenpeace, Fauna & Flora International (FFI) and the Marine Conservation Society. The coalition is "particularly pleased that the ban will not include a limit on the lower size, shape or function of the plastic ingredients covered by the legislation or an exemption for so-called "biodegradable" plastics," FFI said. And it welcomes the inclusion in the draft of definitions for 'microbead', 'plastic' and 'rinse-off'. This makes it potentially stricter than the original proposal, FFI said.

Meanwhile, UK cosmetics trade association, CTPA, says it is scrutinising the draft legislation "to ensure it covers those solid plastic microbeads which have been identified as a possible, though minor, contributor to marine litter". The cosmetics industry has already acted voluntarily to remove those microbeads from rinse-off cosmetics, it said. Use of microbeads by its member companies had fallen by 80% by the middle of 2016 and will be zero by the end of 2018, even without the ban, it said.

CTPA adds that only rinse-off cleansing and exfoliating cosmetic products have been associated with marine litter because only those products had contained solid plastic microbeads. "It is important that the ban does not inadvertently cover ingredients that are not solid plastic microbeads and for which there is no sound scientific evidence to support legislative action," said CTPA director general, Chris Flower.

Referencing a report by environmental consultants Eunomia that identified the sources of primary and secondary plastic, Dr Flower said, the CTPA looks forward to seeing what action the government will take over "the major sources of marine litter, since more than 99% of the problem still remains to be addressed."

Defra is accepting comments on the draft legislation until 15 October.

BASF Reportedly Bids For Bayer’s Seed Assets

Neville Prior  15 September 2017 05:48:54 PM
BASF SE, is bidding for a package of seed and chemical assets that Bayer AG needs to divest as part of its planned $66 billion takeover of seed maker Monsanto Co., Bloomberg reported, citing people familiar with the matter. Bayer is required to divest parts of its business as condition for the acquisition of Mosanto. DowDuPont Inc. and Syngenta AG also are said to be competing for Bayer's canola, cotton and soybean seed varieties, as well as the Liberty herbicide system.

As per the report, BASF sees Bayer's antitrust-driven asset sales as a way into the seed market at this late stage. Until recently, BASF's strategy has been to focus on the firm's core expertise in chemistry, and was sticking to developing fungicides and crop-protection chemicals. However, Chief Technology Officer Martin Brudermueller reportedly said in June that the company was looking to see whether seeds makes sense.

It was in September last year that Bayer said it agreed to buy Monsanto for $128 per share in an all-cash transaction. In December, Monsanto shareholders approved merger, which is expected to close by the end of 2017. As per the report, Bayer has added soy to the assets it is divesting to help persuade regulators that competition in that industry would be protected.

Chemistry : What Has It Ever Done?

Neville Prior  8 September 2017 09:13:46 PM
Image:Chemistry : What Has It Ever Done?

Hut Group Acquires Skincare Brand Espa

Neville Prior  8 September 2017 09:03:17 PM
Image:Hut Group Acquires Skincare Brand Espa
The Hut Group has acquired luxury skincare brand Espa in a deal thought to be worth over £100m. The health and beauty etailer has confirmed its acquisition of Espa for an undisclosed sum. The UK-based skincare brand is sold in retailers including John Lewis, Harvey Nichols and Liberty, as well as being stocked in over 700 spas across 50 countries. All of the skincare brands products are developed and manufactured at its UK facility. The brand’s sale to The Hut Group was overseen by private-equity firm KSL Capital Partners, and comes less than a month after the health and beauty giant snapped up Glossybox.

Chief executive Matt Moulding said: ”Espa is an exciting addition to The Hut Group’s growing portfolio of beauty brands."

”Synonymous with luxury, its products are sold in the most prestigious spas and retailers around the globe. We intend to invest substantially in the Espa brand, especially in manufacturing capabilities, to develop the brand into a true global leader in its area."

”Our investment in acquiring the ESPA brand further supports our ambition of becoming the world’s largest online retailer of Health & Beauty products by the end of the year.”

Espa founder Susan Harmsworth added: ”I am delighted with this acquisition, which paves the way to an exciting next chapter in our journey."

”I am truly confident that The Hut Group has the passion and expertise to extend Espa’s holistic philosophy which has been at the heart of our products, spas and treatments for 25 years.”

The Hut Group is to invest around £400m this year across various technology projects and beauty brands, up from a £250m investment the previous year. In recent months the health and beauty retail group, which posted a 67% profit surge in May, has acquired web-hosting platform UK2 and Australian beauty retailer RY.com.au. The retailer hit the £2.5bn valuation mark in August after it sold a £125m stake to Old Mutual Group Investors.

Daikin Acquiring

Neville Prior  8 September 2017 09:00:03 PM
Image:Daikin Acquiring
Daikin has recently agreed to acquire Heroflon S.p.A., an Italian manufacturer of fluoropolymer compounds. Daikin will obtain all company shares owned by the Heroflon Executive Officers with finalisation of the acquisition planned for the end of October 2017 after completion of all necessary procedures.

        •        Heroflon is a compound manufacturer that produces high-performance fluoropolymers by combining various materials
        •        Its product line-up includes fluoropolymer compounds and micro-powders centring on polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE) 
        •        PTFE is a highly functional and high value-added fluoropolymer used in a wide range of fields including the automotive, construction, electrical power, and chemical industries. Business operations centre on the European market

Daikin supplies various kinds of fluoropolymers such as PTFE to processing companies including compounders. With this acquisition, Daikin fully enters the compound business for fluoropolymers and will utilise its global network to expand sales of Heroflon's fluoropolymer compounds and micro-powders. The company also expects this acquisition to further strengthen its relationship with European car manufacturers together with sales expansion of fluoroelastomers and Automotive air conditioning refrigerant.

By accelerating product development that meets customer needs, Daikin expects to realise sales expansion of fluorinated materials for automobiles.

Moreover, with the automotive parts market shifting toward fluoropolymers to reduce weight, promote miniaturisation, and lower fuel consumption, Daikin aims to increase global sales of fluoropolymers and fluoroelastomers to 100 billion yen in 2020 by developing products corresponding to a greater need for functional enhancement, such as in heat and wear resistance, and providing technical services.
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