Students, aged between 11 and 14, from schools in Derbyshire, Leicestershire and Nottinghamshire visited the BASF site in Alfreton this week for a Chemistry at Work event organized by BASF and the Royal Society of Chemistry.
BASF is the world’s largest chemical company. In Alfreton, Derbyshire, BASF plc manufactures polyurethane systems which customers use to produce polyurethane foam and elastomers for a wide range of applications.
One hundred and thirty students and their teachers attended the open day. They were from City of Derby Academy, Mill Hill School, St. John Houghton, William Allitt, The Redmoor Academy, St Thomas More School, da Vinci Community School, Chellaston Academy, Heritage High School and Loughborough Grammar School.
They clearly enjoyed the opportunity to tour a chemical plant, meet industrial chemists, have a go at hands-on chemistry workshops and find out how BASF’s products play a part in everyday life. Comments ranged from “interesting and informative” to “awesome” and “amazing”.
During their visit the students took part in four workshops run by BASF employees. In the first, they gained hands-on experience of how polyurethane foams are made and how BASF ensures that the systems meet the agreed specification and are fit for purpose. In a second workshop, they took part in an experiment looking at how efficient different insulation materials perform in terms of thermal performance and air tightness, and they saw a demonstration of how WALLTITE® is injected into the exterior wall cavity of a typical building.
The third workshop was a demonstration of polyurethane processing machinery and how the flexible foam component of a car seat is produced. In the fourth they were shown how car manufacturers use polyurethanes to enhance driver and passenger comfort, and in tactile, safety and weight-saving applications. They took part in measuring the sound insulation effects of polyurethane and compared the engine sounds of a classic Morris Minor and a modern car.
The students were informed about safety on a chemical plant, and were given a number of items to take home with them, including a pair of safety goggles.
Phil Robinson, Managing Director, who hosted the event, said: “The Open Day was a fantastic experience for us. It was great to see the passion which our own employees put into the workshops, and extremely rewarding to see the enthusiasm of the students. Hopefully, we have opened their eyes to some of the many and varied opportunities there are to develop a career in the world of chemistry”.
Heidi Dobbs from the Royal Society of Chemistry said: “Chemistry at Work events are a rare opportunity for students to see how chemistry can lead to real careers, working in fascinating roles with real end products. This was a unique, inspiring, particularly special day with BASF making so many students welcome and getting them involved in hands-on activities.”