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Presse-Information

Press release ¤ Information de presse

Nov 03, 2006

DECHEMA Prize of the Max Buchner Research Foundation is conferred on Steven Howdle

The DECHEMA Prize 2006 of the Max Buchner Research Foundation is conferred on

Professor Steven M. Howdle, University of Nottingham, United Kingdom ,

in recognition of his outstanding contribution to the innovative use of supercritical fluids for the synthesis and processing of polymers with a wide range of applications including bioactive materials.

The award will be conferred in the course of a solemn colloquium in the house of DECHEMA, Theodor-Heuss-Allee 25, in Frankfurt/Main on December, 1, at 4:00 pm.

The DECHEMA-Prize of the Max Buchner Research Foundation has been conferred annually since 1951 by DECHEMA, Society for Chemical Engineering and Biotechnology, for outstanding research in the fields of applied chemistry, process engineering, biotechnology, and chemical apparatus. Preference is given to younger scientists whose work is fundamentally important and successfully combines theory with practical application. The Award comprises an honorary certificate, a gold medal and a prize of 20,000 Euro.

Photographs from the awards ceremony will be available from the public relations department of DECHEMA e.V., Tel.: +49 69/7564-267, -296, Fax: +49 69/7564-272,
E-Mail:

Putting the Fizz into Chemistry - A Supercritical Route to New Polymeric Materials

Polymers (plastics) are extremely important in everyday life: from the clothes we wear to the cars we drive; and from non-stick frying pans to medical implants. A huge global industry services our needs for all of these important materials. Professor Steve Howdle’s research at the University of Nottingham (UK) is focused upon developing better polymeric materials. To do this he exploits the unique properties of carbon dioxide (CO 2 ) the gas that puts the fizz into our drinks.

When carbon dioxide is compressed at temperatures greater than 31 o C and at pressures greater than 71 atmospheres the distinction between liquid and gas becomes blurred and a supercritical fluid is formed. Supercritical fluids are a unique combination of gas-like and liquid-like properties; like a gas, they have low viscosities and can penetrate materials extremely well; but like a liquid they can dissolve molecules and allow chemical reactions to be carried out. A particular attraction for processes that use scCO 2 is that they can operate near to room temperature and no solvent residues are left in the polymer product; simply opening a valve releases the pressure and the carbon dioxide escapes as a gas.

Howdle’s research exploits these new properties both to synthesise new polymers and to modify and process existing polymers. Success in polymer synthesis has arisen from a wide range of collaborations with industry (Uniqema (ICI), Solvay–Solexis, Smith and Nephew Ltd., the Dutch Polymer Institute; and DSM Bv) and academics in Europe.

In polymer processing, Howdle has demonstrated that biodegradable polymers can be plasticised (liquefied) very easily using scCO 2 . A major breakthrough was the realisation that this could be exploited to develop novel drug delivery devices. This development is now been commercialised through the formation of a spin-out company, Critical Pharmaceuticals Limited.

Professional Background

Steve Howdle was born in Rotherham (England) in 1964. He graduated from the University of Manchester in 1986 with a 1st Class Honours Degree in Chemistry and then moved to Nottingham to investigate infrared spectroscopy in liquefied and supercritical noble gases under the joint supervision of Professors J J Turner FRS and M Poliakoff FRS. His PhD was awarded in 1989 and he then began a BP Venture Research Fellowship at Nottingham (with Poliakoff) to develop new routes to organometallic reaction chemistry in supercritical fluids. In 1991 he was awarded a prestigious Royal Society University Research Fellowship at Nottingham and was then appointed as Reader (1999) and Professor of Chemistry (2001).

His recent research interests have focused upon broadening the use of supercritical CO 2 for synthesis and processing of polymers. His interest in biomaterials began through collaboration with laser physicists (Dr VK Popov - Russian Academy of Sciences) and Pharmaceutical Scientists (Professor KM Shakesheff, University of Nottingham). Together they have harnessed the plasticisation of polymers by supercritical CO 2 and the process is being commercialised through a spin out company Critical Pharmaceuticals Ltd.

Steve Howdle is a visiting Professor of Chemical Engineering at the University of Pittsburgh and a member of the Editorial boards of “Green Chemistry” and the “European Polymer Journal”. He is also a Chartered Chemist of the Royal Society of Chemistry and has received the Jerwood-Salters’ Environment Award for Green Chemistry (2001) , the Royal Society of Chemistry Corday – Morgan Medal and Award (2001), a Royal Society – Wolfson Research Merit Award (2003), and the Royal Society of Chemistry Interdisciplinary Award (2005).

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