Richard Cogdell’s Talk

Probus Meeting 13th September :

Climate change and clean renewable fuels : Professor Richard Cogdell

The Club received an outstanding talk from Richard Codgell on the potential for photosynthesis to provide a means to provide a clean and renewable fuel.  Prof Codgell warmed the audience up with an elegant insult (ie one that leaves the audience un-offended and with a smile on their face).  He observed that his students are becoming increasingly younger as he gets older.  However, for once, the audience in front of him gave him the pleasure of making him feel younger! No matter, by the end Members demonstrated their approval by enthusiastic applause.

The thrust of Prof Cogdell’s talk is the long term aim to exploit the vast amounts of energy from the sun by means of photosynthesis to meet mankind’s energy needs in a clean and renewable way.  In some detail, Prof Codgell explained how photosynthesis was key to the emergence and evolution of flora and fauna as we understand them today.  For millions of years there has largely been a balance between what photosynthesis has produced and life’s food and energy needs on the planet.  However, studies of Arctic ice cores have now firmly established our accelerating use of fossil fuels is the cause of global warming.  The ‘Big Dream’ held by Prof Cogdell and his colleagues is to take the CO2 out the atmosphere and convert it into fuel.  Laboratory scale experiments with bacteria can achieve realistic production of acetate which could then be converted in storeable fuel. Initially the fuel would be used to create a ‘closed carbon cycle’ based on a renewable approach.  In the longer term, Prof Codgell dares to think that maybe sufficient fuel could be made which could be stored underground in the former coal and oil fields.  He acknowledges the scientific and technical advances required for this will take some time and considerable sustained funding.

During the talk, Prof Codgell referrred to his article published in “Nature” Magazine entitled “Renewables need a grand-challenge strategy”.  Click here to access this article.

Richard Cogdell’s Talk