Chemistry for the Future of Europe – Energy, Food, Environment

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Chemistry for the Future of Europe – Energy, Food, Environment

Armando Zingales, CNC President, Raffaele Riccio, SCI President and David Cole-Hamilton, EuChemS President, opened the conference “Chemistry for the Future of Europe – Energy, Food, Environment” which took place on 25 and 26 November 2014 at the Sapienza University Rome. The conference was organised by the Società Chimica Italiana, Consiglio Nazionale dei Chimici and the European Association for Chemical and Molecular Sciences, on the occasion of the Italian Presidency of the Council of the EU. The conference was preceded by a press conference, chaired by Fabrizio Martinelli, President of the Association of Chemists of Rome, at the City Hall of Rome.
Nicola Armaroli, Istituto ISOF/CNR, Bologna, Italy, Alexander B. Zehnder Alberta Water Research Institute, Edmonton, Canada and Irena Vovk, National Institute of Chemistry, Ljubljana, Slovenia, gave introductory lectures on energy, water and food perspectives to about one hundred participants.

The lectures were followed by a round table of experts with Luigi Ambrosio, CNR, Riccardo Basosi, Italian Representative H2020 Energy EU Programme, Università degli Studi di Siena, Roberto Morabito, ENEA and Tomaso Munari, CNC.

The topics of energy water and food were then further explored by experts Gabriele Centi, Università degli Studi di Messina, Gianluca Farinola, Università degli Studi di Bari “Aldo Moro”, Fabrizio Passarini, Università degli Studi di Bologna and Elisabetta Collini, Università degli Studi di Padova, before opening the floor for discussion.

The second day of the conference was devoted to international labeling of foods and to quality of analytical results (metrology in chemistry).
On 27 November, conclusions and suggestions for future developments under Horizon 2020 programme and presentation of chemical risk in waste management were presented and discussed at the Italian Senate with the presence of Senator Enrico Buemi.

This event was officially recognised and supported by the Municipality of Rome, the Italian Ministry of Environment and the Italian Ministry of Economy.

EuChemS Introductory Lectures

In the EuChemS sponsored conference, Nicola Armaroli started with a highly factual and very well researched lecture on the energy problems we are currently facing. He argued that we must move away from fossil fuels as soon as possible, not only because they are depleting and causing global warming but also because of the price of getting fossil fuels from shale or by fracking which does not compensate the investment and could even destabilise the world’s economy. However, Nicola then appraised the possibilities of turning entirely to renewable energy sources and finished on the optimistic note that this is already possible but needs careful handling both at the chemical and political levels. Chemistry holds the key to many of the solutions both in converting solar energy to more usable forms and in energy storage and distribution.

Nicola Armaroli´s presentation slides can be found here.

Alexander Zehnder gave a fascinating lecture about water. Although we only drink about 3 litres of water a day (1 m3 per year), each person uses about 1700 m3 per year. Some of this is in washing and cooling, especially in energy generation plants, but mostly is in agriculture. Once again the present situation was mentioned and Zehnder went on to analyse the probable effects of global warming, which will change the geographical place where staple crops such as wheat are grown. Although the situation is bad, he finished on the positive note that we shall be able to feed and supply water to a growing world population provided that we eat less meat, since growing meat takes 10x more water per unit of energy produced than living on a vegetarian diet.

Alexander Zehnder´s presentation can be found here.

Finally, the conference finished with a captivating lecture from Irena Vovk on phytonutrients. These are chemicals such as flavenoids and carotenoids that are essential for processes such as seeing properly, acting as anti-oxidants, cell-to-cell communication, lowering blood pressure and even killing cancer cells. After explaining the importance of these compounds, Irena discussed the problems currently encountered in identifying and analysing them correctly. They are often major components of food supplements but sometimes the amount present is much lower than what is claimed on the label and in some cases it is not present at all. This lecture showed the importance of  proper use of analytical methods in the analysis of food and food supplements and for proper regulation of food supplements.