At the Green Chemistry and Catalysis Group of Memorial University of Newfoundland, Prof. Francesca Kerton and Olivia Wyper are looking at the use of algae in a wide range of applications. Olivia began her master’s program by collaborating with 7 Fathoms, a skincare company based in Grates Cove, Newfoundland, Canada. 7 Fathoms wanted to know if their locally grown seaweed and their proprietary seaweed extract had higher concentrations of biologically active compounds than other sources. More specifically, they wanted to determine how much fucoidan, a polysaccharide with a range of beneficial properties (anti-bacterial, anti-coagulant, and anti-inflammatory), is present in their seaweed. By using a range of mass spectrometry methods, Olivia and Prof. Kerton were able to gain a deeper understanding of the structure and level of sulfation of the fucoidan in their extract.
After moving into the Ph.D. program last September, Olivia’s research has moved toward using algae as a renewable energy source, which is in collaboration with the Department of Engineering and Applied Sciences at Memorial University of Newfoundland. This work will look at pre-treatment options for seaweeds to optimize bioethanol and biohydrogen yields. Both of these projects are being actively worked on.
“As we continue to promote renewable materials such as algae, we become closer to eliminating the dependence we currently have on fossil fuels.” By using seaweed instead for energy applications, Olivia and Prof. Kerton are able to adhere to multiple of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDG 1 – No Poverty, SDG 2 – Zero Hunger, SDG 7- Affordable and Clean Energy), along with promoting the use of the 12 Principles of Green Chemistry (Prevention, Design for Energy Efficiency, Use of Renewable Feedstocks). Along with using seaweed for biohydrogen production, there are many other applications for this material, such as waste-water treatment, degradable and functional plastics, and nutrition.
According to Olivia, she is “continuously grateful for the opportunities that she’s able to access through working on seaweed, such as presenting her research at the Global Conversation on Sustainability and Scientific Endeavours in Academia conference this year.”
Olivia Wyper is currently a Ph.D. student in the Green Chemistry and Catalysis Group at Memorial University of Newfoundland under the supervision of Prof. Francesca Kerton. She completed her B.Sc (Hons) with Prof. Kerton in the area of renewable catalysts, which led to her interest in green chemistry. Currently, Olivia is looking at Newfoundland seaweed, Laminaria digitata, in dermatological and biorefinery applications. Since the start of her graduate studies, she has been heavily involved in outreach, such as organizing the Global Womens Breakfast in 2022 and 2023, an event organized by IUPAC. Previously, she gave a talk at the Global Conversation on Sustainability and has been involved with Science Rendezvous, an organization that aims to strengthen science knowledge in youth.
Francesca Kerton is a professor of Chemistry at Memorial University of Newfoundland and has a global reputation for her innovative research on sustainable chemistry related to the oceans. She is a Fellow of The Royal Society of Chemistry and is a member of many scientific panels and committees worldwide. She currently chairs IUPAC’s standing committee on Chemical Research Applied to World Needs (CHEMRAWN) and is chair of the 27th Annual Green Chemistry & Engineering Conference, which will be held in June 2023. She is an Advisory Board member for Reaction Chemistry & Engineering and an Associate Editor for RSC Sustainability. She will chair the 2027 IUPAC World Chemistry Congress and General Assembly, which will be held in Montreal, Canada.
She obtained her Ph.D. in Chemistry at the University of Sussex and was a postdoctoral research associate at the University of British Columbia. In addition to authoring over 70 journal articles, she has contributed several books and book chapters on aspects of green chemistry including “Alternative Solvents for Green Chemistry”. Her current research group is focused on developing environmentally friendly ways to process bio-sourced molecules and materials, catalysis and sustainable polymers. She also performs research in the area of carbon dioxide utilization and is part of an NSERC-funded training network “Centre for Innovation and Research on Carbon Dioxide Utilization in Industrial Technologies.” She received the 2019 Canadian Green Chemistry and Engineering Award and the 2023 SCI-Canada Kalev Pugi Award for exceptional achievements in research and development.