Green Kid spreads the Cyrene™ message

By Rob McElroy

Back in 2013, Circa’s CEO Tony Duncan came to the Green Chemistry Centre of Excellence at the University of York to talk to us about levoglucosenone (LGO). We dived into research and that’s how I became a co-inventor of Cyrene™, Circa’s bio-based solvent.

Fast forward nine years of working closely together and I’m excited to have been appointed Deputy Director of the new Circa Renewable Chemistry Institute. The main goal of the Institute is to help Circa grow by supporting its customers in the use of Cyrene™ and by doing that, we will advance the adoption of renewable chemistry. We will carry out industrial research into commercially interesting end-user applications for Circa, as well as on pure scientific exploration of LGO and its derivatives.

I really enjoy the industrial engagement work I do, and there will be plenty of that with the Institute. We’ll be looking to prove new commercial applications of Cyrene™, exploring new sustainable bio-derived compounds and ways to improve biomass valorisation and the whole biorefinery approach.

Part of my role at the Green Chemistry Centre of Excellence is to do with outreach to schools and the local community. I’m basically a big nerd so I love doing experiments that are safe for kids to get them excited about science. That’s how I got involved in a project which brings Circa’s biorenewable solvent Cyrene™ to life for schoolchildren aged 9-12.

Funded by the Royal Society of Chemistry, a collaboration between the University of York and Teesside University resulted in the publication of a comic book called Green Kid. I helped develop it, and personally delivered the comic books to all the primary schools in York and to three secondary schools, along with resources for teachers to help deepen the children’s learning. That’s just the beginning… Green Kid is freely available for other schools that want to use it and Circa is already working on how to share it with the communities around where their plants are located.

I can’t stress enough the importance of making science accessible to young people, across a range of ages and backgrounds. I think that if even one child goes for a career in STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) that wouldn’t otherwise, then I’ve made a difference.

I want to show that science is interesting and the Green Kid comic book is a great way to do that. In the story, Summer, a scientist from 2064 comes back to the 2020’s to try to do something about the climate disaster they are living through in the future. Helped by a character called Green Kid, she learns about green chemistry from the example of Cyrene™. The story has been really well-received by the children in York and we look forward to expanding Green Kid’s reach in the coming months.

Circa’s goals and ethos are very much in line with my own environmental values so I feel like I’m staying true to the 12-year old in me who was always very committed to environmental protection. With both Green Kid and the Circa Renewable Chemistry Institute, we’re doing work with a shared vision for a better future and hopefully inspiring some young people along the way.

Download Comic