The Anonymous Widower

Canary Wharf Boosts Its Science Ambitions

The title of this post, is the same as that of this article on The Times.

This are the introductory paragraphs.

Genomics England is to move its headquarters to Canary Wharf in east London this year as the financial quarter aims to become a life sciences hub.

The government-run DNA sequencing group will move in the autumn into One Canada Place, where its neighbours will include Brookfield, a Canadian property fund, and Reach, publisher of the Daily Express and OK! magazine.

Owned by the Department of Health and Social Care, Genomics England sequences the genomes of people with rare diseases and cancers to help doctors to treat them more effectively. With consent, some of that data is passed to researchers trying to develop new drugs and treatments.

If you type “Canary Wharf Science Hub into Google”, you find some serious articles.

This article in the FT is entitled Canary Wharf Proposes £500mn Lab Project To Reinvent Financial Hub.

This is a good idea, as scientist friends are always complaining about a lack of lab space in Cambridge and Oxford. Because of the Elizabeth Line, both these cities are not much more than an hour from Canary Wharf.

It should also fill the cafes and shops with scientists and engineers, who would replace some of those working from home because of the pandemic.

I wonder whether this model will work elsewhere?

 

June 16, 2022 Posted by | Health | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Omicron I Can Understand, But Arwen Is Surely A Funny Name For A Storm!

This article on the Birmingham Mail is entitled Storm Arwen: What Does The Name Arwen Mean And Who Chooses Storm Names?.

It says this about Arwen.

The name Arwen is believed to be of ancient Welsh origin and means “fair” or “good”. It is most commonly a female name.

Arwen was made famous by J.R.R Tolkein’s Lord of the Rings book series, which sees the name translated to “noble maiden” in Sindarin.

I’ve never read any of Tolkein’s books or seen any of the films, but I have played real tennis several times with one of his cousins.

He is or was a man who was involved with high-vacuum scientific equipment. He had some interesting tales about selling the equipment to the Soviet Bloc. He said that he always had a few of his cousin’s books handy, as they made excellent presents to oil the wheels of Soviet bureaucracy.

I hope everybody reading this, has been untroubled by the wrath of Arwen.

I

November 27, 2021 Posted by | World | , , , , | Leave a comment

The Diamond Light Source And PETase

When I was writing Diamond Synchrotron Sparkles And Shows Its Value To UK Economy, I came across a reference to PETase, in an article in Chemistry World, where this was said about the Diamond Light Source.

‘It is the facilities in the UK that really make the difference and make us a world leader,’ comments John McGeehan, professor of structural biology at the University of Portsmouth.

His team has used Diamond to study the bacterial enzyme PETase, which digests plastic. ‘Diamond’s I23 [long-wave macromolecular crystallography] beamline is unique in the world. It allowed us to solve the 3D structure of the PET-degrading enzyme, first found in plastic dumps in Japan in 2016. Three years ago it was the highest resolution image of the enzyme measured and remains so today. Having this information allows us to understand how the enzyme works, and how to make it work faster and better.’

As a result, the team has been able to visualise the active site of the enzyme and how it consumes plastic. The researchers discovered that the active site was slightly wider than cutinase, a similar enzyme that bacteria use to break down natural plant polyesters. ‘The technology leading from this research means plastic waste can be broken down and put back together into bottles (infinite recycling), or can be made into higher value products such as resins for wind turbine blades,’ says McGeehan. Patents are pending.

Note, that PET is polyethylene terephthalate, which is a very common plastic used to make fabric (Terylene/Dacron) and packaging.

Now that is what I call recycling!

October 24, 2021 Posted by | World | , , , , , | 1 Comment

Diamond Synchrotron Sparkles And Shows Its Value To UK Economy

The title of this post, is the same as that of this article on Chemistry World, which is a monthly chemistry news magazine published by the Royal Society of Chemistry.

This is the first paragraph.

Diamond Light Source, the UK’s synchrotron, has generated a ‘fantastic return on investment’ since it became operational in 2007. That’s according to a new study that values its socio-economic impacts at around £1.8 billion with each taxpayer contributing £2.45 a year towards it.

If you read the article about the Diamond Light Source, you will find example applications where the synchroton has been used.

  • Non-destructive testing of materials and structures. Some have been over a metre in size and a tonne in weight.
  • Drug discovery and development.
  • A team from the University of Portsmouth has used Diamond to study the bacterial enzyme PETase, which digests plastic.
  • Rolls-Royce has used Diamond to examine the stresses in fan-blades.

The article also states that it has hosted 14,000 users.

With an energy of only 3 GeV, Diamond is not the most powerful synchrotron, but it is certainly one of the most sophisticated.

Related Posts

I have written about the Diamond Light Source in these posts.

The Diamond Light Source is a serious scientific tool, that ranks with the best in the world.

 

October 24, 2021 Posted by | World | , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Could Current Airliners Be Fuelled With Ammonia?

The title of this post, surely falls into the category of tabloid stories, that you get on a slow news day, when the Science Editor has been drinking in a pub, with a fantasist, who claims he runs his Ford Cortina on carrots.

But read this article on the Ammonia Association web site, which is entitled Zero Emission Aircraft: Ammonia For Aviation.

This is a paragraph from the article.

The propulsion system was devised by Reaction Engines and investigated by a team at STFC’s Rutherford Appleton Laboratory … It would have the potential to efficiently crack the ammonia fuel using heat harvested from the jet engine through Reaction Engines’ ground-breaking heat exchangers to provide a zero-carbon fuel blend of ammonia and hydrogen that burns stably just like jet fuel. The density of liquid ammonia allows for conventional aircraft configurations to be used and it may be possible to retrofit into an existing engine, resulting in a zero-carbon jet that could start serving the short haul market well before the 2050 target currently set by the industry.

Note.

  1. The Rutherford Appleton Laboratory is based at Harwell.
  2. Reaction Engines Wikipedia entry is interesting.

Read the Ammonia Association article in full.

Conclusion

I believe that the answer to the question in the title of this post is Yes!

 

April 23, 2021 Posted by | Energy, Transport/Travel | , , | 1 Comment

The Diamond Light Source And Malaria

I had to put a link to this page on the Diamond Light Source web site, which is entitled Malaria in Action.

This is the introductory paragraph.

In 2007 Helen Saibil was at a conference in Australia. Amongst the presentations there happened to be talks on the parasites malaria and toxoplasma and how they infect mammalian cells, causing disease. Helen is a structural biologist and whilst listening she began to realise that her newly acquired skills -she was doing electron tomography of cells- might allow the researchers to see things they had never seen before.

The page describes the work of the Diamond Light Source to understand and lead the might against malaria.

January 20, 2021 Posted by | Health, World | , , | 3 Comments

A Reader’s Comment On The Times Web Site

This made be laugh.

We run an AirBnB and have been asked whether we have smart meters installed “as they’re known to cause cancer”. Made my day that did.

There are certainly some weird ideas about!

September 12, 2020 Posted by | World | , | 1 Comment

The Diamond Light Source And COVID-19

Deep in the Oxfordshire countryside on the Harwell Science and Innovation Campus, there is this large building.

It is around twenty-eight metres across and is houses the Diamond Light Source.

When you are in a war, military commanders call up their largest and most powerful weapons, when they are up against it.

Think about Barnes Wallis‘s weapons of the Second World War; the bouncing bomb and the ten-tonne Grand Slam bomb.

The Diamond Light Source is described on its web site like this.

Diamond Light Source is the UK’s national synchrotron science facility, located at the Harwell Science and Innovation Campus in Oxfordshire.

Another section on their web site details the cost.

Diamond’s construction was funded by its two shareholders, the UK Government through the Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC), which has contributed 86% of the investment, and the Wellcome Trust charity, which has a 14% stake in the facility.

Diamond’s construction is taking place in phases. Phase I cost £263 million and included the synchrotron machine itself, the surrounding buildings and the first seven experimental stations or beamlines. This phase was completed on time, on budget and to specifications in January 2007. Phase II funding of £120 million for a further 15 beamlines and a detector development programme was confirmed in October 2004 and completed in 2012. Diamond can potentially host up to 40 beamlines so there will be continual construction within the main building.

In the first year of operations (2007/8) Diamond’s operational costs were £23 million, in 2012/13, with 22 beamlines the operational costs were £40 million. As we enhance the facility by adding new beamlines the operational costs will increase. However, the more beamlines we have, the more cost effective we become, as the cost of running the machine is shared by a growing number of experimental stations.

It looks like capital costs were nearly £400 million, with yearly running costs of £40 million.

Earlier in the week, The Times detailed the work that Diamond was doing with British scientists and Chinese samples from Wuhan to find out the structure of the the COVID-19. The article said this.

A beam of light in an Oxfordshire laboratory that is ten billion times brighter than the Sun has been illuminating an object ten billion times smaller than a pinhead (Tom Whipple writes). In the shadows it produces may lie clues to defeating coronavirus.

The Diamond Light Source at the Harwell campus near Didcot is one of the most sophisticated microscopes in the world. Gwyndaf Evans, the principal beamline scientist, said that over the past three weeks there had been one goal — looking for ways to thwart coronavirus.

And I thought, Gwndaf Evans was a successful Welsh rally-car driver.

The Diamond Light Source web sire has a page for the Public on its research into coronavirus.

Read this page and certainly the last section, which is entitled What Is The Scientific World Concentrating On With The Current Outbreak of COVID-19?, where this is said.

The COVID-19 outbreak is at a critical stage, the WHO suggests that China, through tough and effective containment has bought other countries more time. This is the third bat-derived coronavirus to cause outbreaks of human disease in less than 20 years, and the most serious. 

The response to COVID-19 has been remarkable: first reports of an unknown pneumonia were on 31st December 2019 and by 11th January, six virus sequences were made available. Structural biologists moved extraordinarily quickly, getting synthetic genes made immediately, rushing to pick them up the day they were finished, and in less than a month, on 5th Feb the first structure, of the main protease was released by the PDB, from Zihe Rao and Haitao Yang’s team at ShanghaiTech. By then these coordinates had already been distributed by the team to 300 groups. In addition by this point, the protein had been used for in vitro assays and a collection of licenced drugs with potential antiviral activity had been identified and made available publicly.

Indeed by now, 35 clinical trials have been started, with the first just closed, so the first results should start to emerge quickly. However, these are re-purposed compounds, the route to tailor-made molecules will be longer but scientists across the world are working to find these.

I am heartened by what I have read today and feel that we are making progress towards at least winning a battle against COVID-19.

COVID-19 Only Research Other User Operations Suspended

This is the headline on one of the latest news pages on the Diamond Light Source web site, where this is said.

Given the rapid spread of COVID-19 Diamond Light Source wishes to minimise travel and the number of people on site, and we have in the first instance taken the decision to suspend user operations from our facilities until 28th April. A further extension of that period might become necessary, and we will keep users informed during the coming weeks.

However, it is still possible to run sessions remotely but only with samples connected with work associated with combating COVID-19 either through an already approved BAG or through the rapid access application.

Is Diamond concentrating all its immense muscle on COVID-19?

Conclusion

It looks like to get results you need teams of brilliant collaborating scientists and lots of money.

And all backed up by sophisticated tools, like the Diamond Light Source!

Is the world planning a bigger one?

Surely, as each of these viruses seems to get more deadly and more difficult to combat we will need it.

 

March 22, 2020 Posted by | Health, World | , , , | 5 Comments

The Crick Institute In The Evening Light

I took these pictures of the Crick Institute in the evening light tonight.

The colour of the stone comes through and matches that of the nearby St. Pancras station.

May 13, 2019 Posted by | World | , , | Leave a comment

Is Cambridge Going To Save The World From Global Warming?

Watch this video!

And then visit Superdielectrics web site.

It does appear to be a  bunch of mad scientists in Cambridge, who’ve come up with the bizarre idea of using the material in soft contact lenses as an energy storage medium.

Link Up With Rolls-Royce

And then there’s this press release on the Rolls-Royce-Royce web site, which is entitled Rolls-Royce Links Up With UK-based Superdielectrics To Explore Potential Of Very High Energy Storage Technology.

Conclusion

I have been observing technology since the 1960s.

This is either one of those scientific curiosities , like cold fusion, that appear from time-to-time and then disappear into the scientific archives or a game-changer

I suspect we’ll know in a couple of years.

But even if it is isn’t the solution to affordable and massive energy storage,, that will save the world, I believe that one of the teams of men and women in white coats, somewhere in the world will crack the problem.

 

May 2, 2019 Posted by | Energy Storage | , , , , | Leave a comment