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My personal invitation to you to attend IEx 2016, 6 to 8 July 2016

Robinson College Cambridge

2 Jun 2015

I hope many of you will have taken the opportunity to read the fascinating history of SCI Ion Exchange Conferences by Prof Em Michael Cox in Chemistry & Industry (C&I) in April 2015 or on the SCI website (available via the link below).  There are not many scientific developments which have stood the test of time as robustly as Ion Exchange or supported the illustrious careers of so many scientific giants. 

Since the first synthetic resins were developed back in the 1950's, ion exchange has been - and continues to be - the backbone of the Power industry worldwide, supporting spectacular economic growth.  While other separation technologies such as reverse osmosis have been introduced alongside ion exchange, it remains very much the technology of choice at the heart of the water purification process due to its reliability, efficacy and low cost of operation.  The dire warnings about its future when I first entered the field of water purification in 1982 turned out to be untrue and ion exchange has retained its primary role in water purification for many industrial sectors, including both fossil and nuclear power, electronics, pharmaceuticals and healthcare, and hydrometallurgy.

This would be a remarkable success story by itself - something worth celebrating in a scientific world where old technologies are quickly and ruthlessly superseded by new developments.  But what is really remarkable is the way that new applications for ion exchange are constantly being developed, based on those same characteristics of reliability, efficacy and low cost of operation that were so important half a century ago.  This is opening up new opportunities in leading edge technologies previously never considered, where the ability to tailor its selectivity is, even today, proving irreplaceable.  Ion exchange in so many applications covers the full gamut from mature applications to proprietary, laboratory-based research designed to identify new applications for the future.  The number of new developments is a clear indication of the continued health of the technology.

Wastewater and potable water treatment by ion exchange are finding new opportunities where its specificity makes it capable of tackling problems which could not be tackled in other ways without applying the ubiquitous separation sledgehammer.  For potable water treatment, nitrate selective resins are extensively used, but ion exchange is now also used to remove or control arsenic, boron, perchlorate, dissolved organics (TOC reduction), colour and heavy metals.  For wastewater treatment, ion exchange can be employed to either recover water for reuse or treat water discharged to drain. A wide range of chelating resin and specialist ion exchangers is used to treat wastes from the nuclear industry and remove metals to meet discharge permits.

Ion exchange in process and catalysis continues to find new applications, with many proprietary uses and a strong research programme to find more efficient reaction paths with higher conversion rates, better specificity and less waste.

Or consider the increasing role of ion exchange in pharmaceutical manufacture, food processing and biotechnology - vital technologies for providing food and nutrition in a world where the population is growing rapidly and to maintain our health as we live longer.  Could there be a stronger vote of confidence in a technology than its use and acceptance in such sensitive applications - where we entrust the safety of ourselves and of our loved ones?

Has ion exchange had its day?  Yes - and it will continue to have even better days as it remains a core separation technology for so many processes.  For ion exchange is, indeed, a continuing success story.  One which has been a key topic in SCI since 1954 and which will again be our focus of attention in July 2016.  Its wide range of applications means that ion exchange can continue to attract delegates from a number of fields who have an interest in the technology itself and believe that there will something for them by attending sessions in topics with which they are, as yet, unfamiliar.  Not many mature technologies can claim the same attraction.

The ion exchange conferences have come to be known as ‘the Cambridge conference’, attended by old and new alike.  In 2016 we are marking a new departure as the conference will be held for the first time in the excellent facilities of Robinson College.  We look forward to welcoming you there!

Dr Rob Terrell
Chair, Organising Committee for IEx 2016.

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