Bonjour to biofuels!

PhD student, Lisa Sargeant talks about a recent meeting with one of our industrial partners, Airbus Group, in Paris.

Thus far, our quarterly meetings with our industrial partner, Airbus group (formerly EADS) have taken place either at their Filton site near Bristol, or on-site at Bath University. Feeling guilty for always making our collaborators travel from France, we made the selfless decision to arrange our most recent meeting in January in Paris.

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Tour d’eiffel

Following some confusion with the Parisian metro system getting from the airport, we arrived at our hotel in the Suresnes area of Paris late in the evening. As France is famous for its fine food and wine, we immediately set off in search of some local delicacies.  Being a small suburb of Paris, we soon discovered that Suresnes was not the cosmopolitan hot-spot that we’d hoped for and many of the restaurants had closed for the evening. This was until we stumbled across the golden glow radiating from a small restaurant chain known as McDonalds. Ordering through some rather patchy French we were delighted that we actually got what we asked for!

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Breakfast in a Parisian cafe

Making the most of being in such a stunning city, we took some time to test out some of Paris’ patisseries, and explore some of the tourist hot-spots such as the Notre Dame, Sacre Coeur, the Eiffel Tower and the Louvre. We also managed to find some more sophisticated cuisine at a restaurant in Suresnes where we bravely ordered snails, a beautiful (but very rarely cooked) steak, and possibly the most alcoholic dessert that I’ve ever had!

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Outside the Notre Dame

Being at the Airbus Group site in France, we were fortunate to present to a knowledgeable audience ranging from fuel specialists to those working in life cycle analysis. Showing the breadth of research that takes part in the group, Rhod presented a summary of his work thus far, particularly focussing his metathesis work, and Heather showed how various inorganic catalysts could be used to produce fuel antioxidants from lignin. Having had a great amount of experience with algal-derived fuel (being the first to demonstrate a flight on 100% algal jet fuel in 2010), they were particularly interested in Jon’s PhD on the conversion of microalgae biomass into a range of hydrocarbons. Also discussed was the opportunity for me to work with them as part of a month’s internship researching the economic or environmental viability of microbially-derived fuels, particularly those from oleaginous microorganisms. All being well this should take place in June, when Paris will hopefully be distinctly warmer than in January!

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