Welch Conference explores basic science of water, emerging technologies to conquer water challenges

HOUSTON, Aug. 20, 2018 – Water is critical to life, covering 71 percent of the globe and making up approximately 60 percent of our bodies. Many of this century’s most pressing global problems involve water, including fresh water availability for human use and agriculture, waste water treatment and creation of carbon-neutral energy sources. The 62nd Welch Conference on Chemical Research will bring together leading scientists to discuss new research that expands our understanding of how water behaves as well as emerging technologies that can help address water issues.

Sponsored by The Welch Foundation, “Water: Science and Technology” will be held Oct. 22-23 in Houston and is expected to attract some 600 attendees.

“Water couldn’t be more important,” said James L. Skinner, conference chair, member of The Welch Foundation’s Scientific Advisory Board, and Crown Family Professor, Deputy Director for Faculty Affairs, and Director of the Water Research Initiative at the University of Chicago. “Scientists are working to better understand water in many complex systems where it is difficult to measure: in biology, in solution and at interfaces. Experts will share their latest breakthroughs from experimental, theoretical and computational research, and explore new technologies that are helping us tackle critical water challenges.”

The conference will be divided into four sessions. The first day will examine water structure, looking at water clusters and interfaces to shed light on water’s behavior in such circumstances as aerosols and biomolecule hydration. In the afternoon, scientists will discuss how water moves, using spectroscopy to explore its dynamics, including in pure water, water around ions and in membranes.

Day two will begin with a session on metastable water---non-equilibrium states of water such as supercooled water and amorphous ices. Examining metastable phases and non-equilibrium processes can help scientists better understand water in the natural environment.

The conference will wrap up with presenters sharing advances in water technology. “We use water as if it is an inexhaustible resource. It isn’t,” Dr. Skinner added. “In fact, almost 1 billion people don’t have access to fresh water today – a situation expected to significantly worsen in coming decades. How can technology help meet fresh water needs? Our presenters will discuss desalination, new approaches to water treatment and recycling water. The session also will look at the latest developments in water-related catalysis for solar fuels with the goal of addressing our climate, energy and water crises.”

For a complete program, please visit www.welch1.org. The conference will be held at the Hilton Houston North. Admission is free although registration is required.

The Houston-based Welch Foundation, founded in 1954, has grown to become one of the nation’s largest sources of private funding for basic research in chemistry. In addition to the annual chemical conference, it supports science through research and departmental grants to Texas colleges and universities, funding of academic chairs and support for other chemistry-related programs. The Foundation bestows the annual Welch Award in Chemistry, recognizing achievement in basic research internationally, and the Norman Hackerman Award in Chemical Research to Texas scientists who are early in their careers. Since its founding in 1954, The Welch Foundation has contributed some $866 million as part of its mission to support the basic chemical research that improves life.