Calum Birch

Background

I completed an integrated Masters in chemistry with a placement at Nottingham Trent University (Mchem with Professional Practice). I have done two years in industry prior to starting at the CDT, one was at a polymer company called Scott Bader making acrylate based emulsions for thickeners. The 2nd at another polymer company: Victrex, making advanced carbon fibre reinforced composites for the aerospace industry.

Research Interests

I’m currently undertaking work on the application of immobilised enzymes in flow for the manufacture of bio plastic precursor compounds. This involves the use of various flow reactors and immobilisation techniques to convert bio-sourced intermediates into platform chemicals. The end result of the work is a step towards producing renewable and biodegradable alternatives to commonly used polymers, in particular PET (the most widely produced plastic).
Hydroxymethylfurfural (HMF) and 2-5,furandicarboxylic acid (FDCA) have been identified as leading precursor molecules. The conversion of HMF to FDCA is a crucial step in producing a highly valued compound for both drug and polymer production. With fructose derived HMF as a renewable feedstock, FDCA can act as a substitute for terephthalic acid in the polymerisation of PET, instead forming the bio-renewable polymer PEF. A polymer synonymous with bio-renewability, as shown by Coca Coal’s great interest in bio-plastics (The plantbottle).

Why I chose the CDT in Bioenergy

I chose the CDT knowing it would provide me with a good work environment for studying at a doctoral level, having people come through the system with you provides a grounding for good teamwork and moral support. It’s a brilliant way of meeting people, and of course I do get the two important letters”D” and “r” in front of my name too. I’ve always had an interest in renewable energy, this being the best option the UK has, and I want to be on the forefront of this innovative technology. Throughout my time I’d like to gain as many interdisciplinary skills as possible, allowing me to truly become a “Mad Chemist” in the eyes of my family and friends.