With your support we’re striving to improve people’s lives and safeguard the planet for future generations.
Keeping vaccines safe
While taking her daughter for routine jabs, Dr Asel Sartbaeva noticed the vaccines were kept refrigerated, which keeps them from breaking down and becoming unusable. She was inspired to find a way of storing vaccines that didn’t rely on refrigeration, which is not only expensive, but also a major logistical problem when delivering vaccines to remote areas of the world.
She and her research group have created a technique which keeps vaccines intact up to 100°C by locking them in microscopic silica cages. Silica – the main component of sand – is non-toxic, inert and can be removed chemically. This discovery has the potential to save millions of lives.
Asel was able to accelerate her research thanks to your support. She says:
“The donations were amazing because I was able to hire a postdoctoral researcher, who has been instrumental in moving our project from what was just an idea into something that’s actually working now.”
“They might come up with something that could save the world.’’
These were the words of alumnus Roger Whorrod OBE, when he and his wife Sue made an extraordinary £1 million gift to the University in 2010. Theirs was an investment towards our new Centre for Sustainable Chemical Technologies (CSCT), where researchers from different disciplines work together to find practical solutions to some of the world’s biggest problems.
Our CSCT researchers are rising to these challenges with some truly visionary thinking. Like cars fuelled by coffee. Paper with the power to test for polluted water. And even plastic made from sugar and carbon dioxide.
Dr Chris Chuck, one of the first Whorrod Research Fellows, is working on a forest-friendly alternative to palm oil, using yeast. In 2015, Chris won a multi-million-pound Government grant, which has enabled him to grow his research team to develop the technology that will, in turn, grow the yeast on an industrial scale.
On joining Chris’s research group, PhD student Rob Hicks was inspired to dig deeper into the politics behind palm oil, the world’s most widely produced oil crop. It led him to an internship at the Rainforest Foundation NGO in Norway, thanks to a Santander Postgraduate Mobility Award. These awards help students develop the international research links that are vital in finding solutions to global problems.
“I have to give a big tusen takk (thousand thanks) to the CSCT and Santander for funding me for this internship. It was an incredibly unique opportunity for me – it wouldn’t have been possible without them.”
Fighting cancer with landmine research
Hidden landmines and cancerous tumours are two problems with one common challenge. Both can only be detected with extremely accurate imaging techniques. It’s life-saving research that began here in 2015 with funding from honorary graduate Sir Bobby Charlton CBE and his charity Find A Better Way.
Since then, the team, led by Professor Manuchehr Soleimani, has produced a smart camera that uses copper electrodes to scan the ground to determine how insulating it is. As modern-day landmines are made of plastic – a good insulator – they can be detected. This technology is now being developed for use in the field.
Manuchehr’s team is also working with CERN, the European Organisation for Nuclear Research, to create medical imaging software with the potential to significantly improve the treatment of cancer patients. The new software can produce images faster and at a lower radiation dose. Importantly, it can also account for movement, so when a patient is having a scan, the images are clearer, enabling more accurate treatment.