An ocean divides the United States and United Kingdom but scientists and researchers in both countries are discovering new ways to create intellectual bridges.
That was never more apparent than during a recent visit by an 18-person contingent from the U.K. to The University of Southern Mississippi’s National Formulation Science Laboratory located in the business and technology incubator known as The Accelerator.
“This is really incredible isn’t it? We just don’t have anything like this in Great Britain to speak of,” said Darren Ragheb, projects and production design manager for Chemistry Innovation. “There is no question that we can learn a lot from touring a facility like this, seeing how formulation science is being tested and applied on a daily basis. And hopefully we can establish some collaboration between the work being done here and similar efforts in the U.K.”
Formulation science has emerged as one of the more innovative conduits for building partnerships that will enhance economic, educational and technical development in countries worldwide. Dr. Robert Lochhead, chair of the Department of Polymers and High Performance at Southern Miss, has taken a lead role in advancing this emerging science.
“Raw materials are not usually useful in their pure state,” said Lochhead. “They must be formulated with other ingredients to make them useful. The fibers in clothing that we wear use formulations; the food we eat often has to be formulated; the paint that we coat everything with has to be formulated as does the plastics we use and even the steel in our cars. So formulation touches our lives many times every day.”
Lochhead noted that U.S. and British groups have been in discussion for several years to advance formulation science and engineering and also to produce and share best practices for educating the modern formulator. These discussions culminated in a Formulation Mission to the United States by a British delegation from May 3-6.
“Our knowledge of the fundamentals of formulation has now advanced to the state that formulation is being recognized as a distinct science,” said Lochhead, who has served as President of the Association of Formulation Chemists. “The Royal Society of Chemistry has acknowledged this fact by creating a group dedicated to the science and engineering of formulation and British universities have developed master’s and doctoral degrees in formulation science and formulation engineering to formally educate bright students for careers in these fields.”
Within the past month, Lochhead teamed with fellow polymer science professors at Southern Miss to formulate an oil dispersant that will prevent spilled oil, like that from the Deepwater Horizon explosion, from sticking to birds. This oil-spill mitigation technology was based upon what scientists knew from the formulation of today’s advanced laundry detergents. He notes that formulation scientists are also working on sophisticated drug delivery system that are designed, for example, to exactly target diseased cells in the body with curative drugs, while leaving the healthy cells untouched.
“The opportunities for innovation and new technology are truly limitless,” said Dr. Colin Tattam, projects director for Chemistry Innovation, who participated in the U.S. visit. “A big part of what we do is help raise the profile of high value manufacturing. And this mission should certainly enable us to do that.”