Wednesday 2 October 17:30 - 18:30

Lecture theatre 200
City and Guilds Building
Imperial College London, South Kensington Campus

Tickets Unavailable
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(Dis)solving the world’s problems

Science & Technology

The lecture is free to attend and open to all, but registration is required in advance.

A drinks reception will follow the lecture at 18.30 in the the City and Guilds concourse.


The field of sustainable processing, which uses chemical and biological process to turn waste in wealth, can play a critical role in the circular economy, prolonging the lifespan of the products we produce - even contaminated or toxic materials. Construction wood, treated with metals like chromium and arsenic to preserve it from rotting away, might seem too complex for recycling and destined for landfill.

However, chemical engineers like Jason Hallett, Professor of Sustainable Chemical Technology at Imperial College London, are challenging conventional wisdom on the limitations of green solvents such as ionic liquids by taking an economic approach to chemistry, tackling chemical problems where cost is most prohibitive. By focusing on key steps, such as making the critical biocatalytic reactions that turn wood into sugar cheaper, his team developed a whole new approach to biomass deconstruction. From separation of cellulose, lignin and toxic metals to stabilising enzymes for stability up to 200 degrees, faster chemistry leads to an economic case for construction wood recycling, and this approach also provides a route to cheaper and more environmentally friendly biofuel production. It’s a story that has also had knock on effects in medicine, where a similar protein coating process could protect vaccines, allowing them to be shipped and stored at more cost effective higher temperatures.

In his inaugural lecture Jason will discuss the potential for chemistry and biocatalysts to aid sustainable production, and reduce waste. He will also argue for the benefits of engineers taking an economic perspective on the problems they face, tacking issues at their critical cost points to overcome conventional wisdom, and find new approaches.


Professor Jason Hallett received his PhD in Chemical Engineering from the Georgia Institute of Technology. He joined Imperial College, first with a Marshall-Sherfield Postdoctoral Fellowship in Sustainable Chemistry and in 2014 was appointed a Senior Lecturer in the Department of Chemical Engineering, before promotion to Reader in 2016 and Professor in 2018.

He has authored over 90 articles and holds 4 patents. His current research interests involve the solvation behaviour of ionic liquids and the use of ionic liquids in the production of lignocellulosic biofuels, sustainable chemical feedstocks, vaccine manufacturing and waste recycling (particularly for metal-contaminated solid materials). This research is supported by both the UKRI and industry.

Professor Hallett currently serves as Director of the Imperial Network of Excellence in Industrial Biotechnology and as theme leader for Biorenewables and Biofuels research in the Manufacturing Futures Lab. He is also a core member of the Supergen Bioenergy Hub and the Future Vaccines Manufacturing Research Hub.

He is also co-founder of Chyrsalix Technologies, a spin-out company based on the group's ionic liquid biorefinery research.

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