McBain Medal Award Lecture 2009

This year’s McBain Medal was presented to Dr Peter Dowding on Friday 11 December, at a half-day conference held at SCI in London’s Belgrave Square, honouring his work and achievements.

The McBain award is named in honour of James W McBain, and awards a younger scientist who has made a meritorious contribution to the field of colloid and interface science, which crosses many scientific disciplines and has a wide range of industrial applications.

Peter Dowding is a young scientist with an already remarkable profile: having graduated from the University of East Anglia in 1995 with a BSc and PhD in chemistry, he was awarded Chartered Scientist in 2006. An active SCI member, Peter became Honorary Treasurer for the SCI’s Colloids and Surface Chemistry Group later in the same year and gained his ‘Fellow of the Royal Society of Chemistry’ status in 2007. He has also acted as a consultant to the Royal Society for policy regarding nanotechnology and is regularly consulted by government bodies regarding science policy in the UK. Peter also finds the time to act as a referee for several leading colloid journals.

Dr Pete DowdingPeter’s interaction with industry dates back to his years at the University of East Anglia, where his research on microemulsions containing silicone oils was funded by Unilever and supervised by Brian Robinson and David Steytler. After graduation, Peter worked as an industrial chemist at Synthomer, developing emulsion polymers. He then moved to Bristol University in 1995, working as a postdoctoral researcher for Brian Vincent, another distinguished member of the SCI’s Colloids & Surface Chemistry Group who will be presenting at this commemorative event in December 2009.

Initially, Peter collaborated with the Surfactant Science Group at Hull University using electrophoresis to determine the degree of counter-ion dissociation of microemulsions as a function of droplet curvature. He then worked on an EU Framework IV programme studying novel methods for the production of porous suspension polymers. Afterwards, he worked with Zeneca (later Syngenta) investigating polymeric systems for controlled release.

In 2001, Peter made a career move and joined Infineum, where he now works as principal scientist in the areas of surfactants and colloids. He acts as a leader for background and fundamental studies of colloidal additives for future generations of additives used in lubricants. His job involves promoting customer-driven innovation and finding new business development applications, in particular overbased detergents. Peter applies fundamental scientific principles to industrial research, effectively working at the interface between industry and academia.

Interfacing between the two realms, he also has extensive experience in the use of central research facilities. This frequently involves applying complex characterisation techniques, and, in particular, light and neutron scattering to (non-ideal) industrial systems. He acts as a global consultant and trouble-shooter on colloids and neutron scattering for all research groups at Infineum, providing both intellectual and practical assistance.

At Infineum, his research has primarily focused on the study of overbased detergents used in lubricant additive formulations to provide neutralising species for acids generated in the combustion of fuel and to provide detergency to the pistons/cylinders. His research has involved mechanistic studies of particle formation including the influence of surfactant structure, acid neutralisation as a function of acid type and droplet size and interaction with other surface active species. Over the last five years, he has worked on fundamental studies involving the factors influencing the agglomeration of asphaltenes and, in particular, the role of surfactant mediation. His other research interests include surfactant design and self-assembly, controlled release use of supercritical fluids in particle production/purification and modelling structure/performance relationships for colloidal systems.

His current research involves dynamic studies of the competitive adsorption of surfactants at solid-liquid interfaces using NMR diffusion, SANS and interfacial surface tension.

A substantial part of Peter’s job involves acting as the principal external academic contact for Infineum; establishing, managing and securing funding for collaborative academic programmes. He was principal investigator for a sustainable technology initiative LINK Award worth £563,000 (2003- 2006), a co-investigator on an IMPACT Faraday CASE Studentship (2004-2007), co-investigator in an EU FP-7 programme from January 2010 and has part-funded other studentships and post doctorates in the UK and the USA. Peter has filed eight patents, co-written a chapter of one book and acted as co-editor of a second, published 15 papers and given 16 conference presentations, including five as an invited speaker.

Peter Griffiths, Chairman of the Colloids and Surface Chemistry Group

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