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Back to the future - a sustainable one: the University of Bologna celebrates Giacomo Ciamician, pioneer of solar energy

100 years after his death, a day of talks open to all to retrace the life and discover the scientific legacy of the great scholar, a long-time professor at the University of Bologna, who was one of the forerunners of photochemistry

He was a forerunner of photochemistry and a pioneer of solar energy: as early as the beginning of the 20th century, he suggested replacing energy from coal with the free and inexhaustible energy provided by the Sun. One hundred years after his death, Giacomo Ciamician's insights are more relevant than ever. The University of Bologna is celebrating his life and scientific legacy with a day of talks entitled "Back to a Sustainable Future. 100 years after Ciamician."

The event is scheduled for Friday 16 September, from 9.15 AM to 5 PM, in the historic Aula Magna of the Department of Chemistry, named after Ciamician (via Selmi, 2 - Bologna). The whole event will also be streamed live.

"For our Department and the young researchers who are part of it, the figure of Ciamician still represents a role model," says Marco Lucarini, Director of the Department.

"We decided to create a non-specialist event to share a moment with the public," adds Professor Pierluigi Reschiglian on behalf of the event's organising committee. " Chemistry, and today in particular chemistry coupled with solar energy, is no longer a specialised subject but without a doubt a matter of public involvement. Nowadays, who, in fact, is not asking questions about the sustainability of resources, the energy transition and how to make the most of renewable energies, especially solar energy?"

Among the events scheduled for the day, professor emeritus of the University of Bologna Vincenzo Balzani will give a keynote lecture on Giacomo Ciamician's legacy. Leonardo Setti, professor at the "Toso Montanari" Department of Industrial Chemistry, will give a keynote lecture on solar communities and collective self-consumption for the energy transition. Finally, Maria Cristina Facchini, director of the CNR Institute of Atmospheric Sciences and Climate, will talk about air quality and climate change.

Born in Trieste in 1857, Giacomo Luigi Ciamician was Professor of Chemistry at the University of Bologna from 1889 until his death in 1922. Although his research spanned between several fields of chemistry, he made a major contribution to the development of photochemistry, so much so that he is now considered one of the founders of this branch of chemistry and a pioneer of solar energy conversion and green chemistry.

From 1900 to 1921, together with his collaborator and friend Paul Silber, he published many articles on photochemical research, but a large part of his fame is due to the lecture he gave at the VIII International Congress of Applied Chemistry, which took place in New York in September 1912. In his speech, entitled “The photochemistry of the future” and published in four languages, Ciamician addressed the energy problems of the time by suggesting the use of solar energy to replace that produced by coal, a century ahead of the spread of photovoltaic technologies.

The event "Back to a Sustainable Future. 100 years after Ciamician" will start at 9.15 AM with the greetings of Alberto Credi, Vice-Rector for Research, and Paola Fabbri, Rector’s Delegate for Guidance for outgoing students and Job Placement as well as Vice-President of the Almae Matris Alumni Association. Indeed, the event is held in collaboration with the Almae Matris Alumni Association, precisely because it involves different Ciamician alumni, starting with Prof. Balzani up to the new generation of young researchers.

"The human capital of those who have studied at our University over the centuries is immense; celebrating the illustrious figures and especially disseminating the scientific discoveries and impacts they have generated in our communities is a founding value of the Alumni," explains Chiara Berti, President of the Almae Matris Alumni Association. "This event is therefore an opportunity to offer good role models to the younger generation as well, to stimulate a passion for chemistry and curiosity about research.

After the opening greetings, the morning will continue with a lecture by Vincenzo Balzani on Ciamician's legacy and "A walk in the Library" with Teresa Gandolfi, Scientific Director of the Ciamician Museum. Professor Margherita Venturi will then retrace the history of the Ciamician Department, while Chiara Berti, President of the Almae Matris Alumni Association, and Stefano Luca Giaffreda, CEO of PolyCristalline Spa and Leader of the Ciamician Chapter, will conduct the meeting "The Ciamician Alumni and the Ciamician Chapter of the Almae Matris Alumni Association - AMA: a testimony of excellence." Leonardo Setti's keynote lecture on solar communities will be the last of the first part of the day.

In the afternoon, starting at 1.30 PM, Giacomo Bergamini, the Rector's Delegate for Sustainability, will introduce and moderate a series of speeches by young researchers working on several fronts to design a sustainable future, including new green materials, recycling, and sustainable energy. At 4.15 PM, the closing lecture on air quality and climate change by Maria Cristina Facchini.