Carbon Neutral Laboratory: fire update

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View of the University of Nottingham’s Carbon Neutral Laboratory construction site, early June 2014.

Over the past year I written several posts here and on other sites about our new Carbon Neutral Laboratory (CNL), which was due to open in mid-2015. As many of you may be aware, a dramatic fire at the construction site on Friday, 12th September destroyed most of the building.  The fire started about 8.30pm that evening and soon spread to consume the whole building; by the next morning little of the structure was left. Nottingham Fire and Rescue, who did a sterling job of managing the blaze and keeping everyone safe, reported that the fire was one of the largest they’ve had to deal with in recent years. I could see the glow from my own bedroom window 5 miles away.

Fortunately no one was injured and as the building was under construction no research was destroyed. However, the CNL was the culmination of many years of project development and in itself an exciting experiment into how to construct and operate a research lab. Many colleagues of mine have devoted huge amounts of time to get the CNL off the ground, including the project director and my former PhD supervisor Professor Pete Licence. I know this is a heart-wrenching blow to all those involved, including the School of Chemistry and the wider University of Nottingham.

It is too early to speculate as to what caused the fire and police and Health & Safety investigations have begun. What is certain is that there is a great amount of determination to push forward with the CNL project and rebuild in the near future. The CNL was, and remains, part of a wider vision and commitment at Nottingham to sustainable chemistry- one that began several decades ago and will continue well into the future.  Our department is expanding rapidly in the field, with the appointment of three new Professors and a new Centre for Doctoral Training in sustainable chemistry. As our Vice Chancellor, Sir David Greenaway, wrote on his VC’s blog, the CNL “may now take a bit longer, but it will still be delivered.”

I was away last week, hence a delay in this post. In the meantime, a number of reports and blogs have gone up about the fire, with plenty of photos and videos, which I link to below:

My blogs on the technologies and thought-processes behind building and operating a carbon neutral chemistry laboratory can be found on the YourFormula and EcoChem websites. Thank you to all those who have contacted us with kind words over the past week.

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