Silvia Madeddu – ECR in Japan Part 1

I am Silvia Madeddu, a PhD student at the Department of Materials Science and Engineering of The University of Sheffield, UK. My research project aims to develop an economically and energetically viable process to produce Mg(OH)2 for the sequestration of exhaust CO2 via mineral carbonation.

I successfully applied to the UKCCSRC ECR International Exchange Fund and I am currently in Japan for an exchange period of 3 months. I am based in Nagoya, at the Nagoya Institute of Technology (NItech) where I am working with Professor Shinobu Hashimoto at the Department of Environmental and Materials Engineering. During my stay, I will also visit Tohoku University in Sendai where I am going to work with Professor Atsushi Iizuka at the Institute of Multidisciplinary Research for Advanced Materials. My research will focus on the study of Mg(OH)2 carbonation. The experimental plan includes the test of commercial Mg(OH)2 and Mg(OH)2 produced at The University of Sheffield from the alkaline digestion of Mg-silicate minerals. The objective is to investigate the capacity of these materials to capture CO2 through carbonation reaction in a wide range of conditions, i. e. via gas-solid reaction, carbonation in aqueous solution and supercritical CO2.

With this page, I start the report/blog of my travel through two equally mysterious and fascinating subjects: Science and Japan.

First, I would like to sincerely thank the UKCCSRC for giving me such a great opportunity, in particular Ms Robin Cathcart for being extremely helpful and supportive.

My most sincere gratitude goes to Prof. Hashimoto for allowing the extension of the research period and to Prof. Iizuka for his collaboration.

I hope you will enjoy this travel like I am doing.

2 – 15 October 2013: Lost in translation

I arrived in Nagoya the 2nd October. At the airport, three of my new colleagues were waiting for me with a big sign: “Silvia Madeddu welcome to Japan”. I was accompanied at the University campus where I was showed around, introduced to the staff of the department and assigned a room in the students’ accommodation. The first week was dedicated to the registration procedure and to settle in. Prof. Hashimoto organised a welcome party with Japanese food and drinks. Everyone was incredibly welcoming with me and made an effort to help me in any way possible. There are no words to express my gratitude.

The NItech campus is very well organised. There are several sport facilities, clubs, convenience stores and a canteen, my favourite place. The food served here is cheap and delicious even though most of the time I have to point my finger to choose the meal and I have no idea of what I am going to eat until when I taste it. Fortunately, I am never disappointed.

Japanese people are not just welcoming but also efficient so the second week I was able to start the carbonation experiments and the training to use some of the analytical instruments.

The carbonation experiments were conducted in a high temperature tube furnace connected to a CO2 gas cylinder to test gas-solid carbonation reactions. The first experimental series was conducted using commercial Mg(OH)2 (95 wt% Mg(OH)2). 1 g of Mg(OH)2 was placed into the tube furnace and pure CO2 was flowed into the tube with a rate of 0.2 L /minute to reach 1 atm pressure. During the carbonation reaction pressure and temperature were kept constant. Different temperatures were tested, from 200 to 700°C.

The second week I was trained in X-ray Diffraction (XRD) and Thermogravimetry (TG) which can be used respectively to identify and quantify the species formed during the carbonation reactions. The Department of Materials Engineering of NItech is well equipped and each research group has its own analytical instruments. The students can autonomously use the equipment and run the analysis whenever they need. New students like me are trained by other students. Sometimes the training sessions were very challenging both for me and the trainer since my knowledge of Japanese is close to zero. Although, the communication was not always straightforward it was usually very entertaining and we discovered to be unexpectedly talented with gesture.

The first weekend I explored Nagoya and pleasantly got lost. Here skyscrapers and contemporary architecture alternate with old temples and shrines, the modern coexist with the traditions in a perfect balance. One moment you are walking in a crowded street, with neon lights, Starbucks and boutiques then you turn the corner and find yourself in another world. A quiet neighbourhood with narrow streets pervaded with the smell of food from izakayas or with the perfume of burning incense coming from a small temple where the only sound you can hear is the water flowing. It is here that you can find the most beautiful sights in Nagoya. Sometimes in Japan like with science, you have to get lost in order to discover…

Part 2 of Silvia’s blog can be read here