…distilling is nice. First of all because it is a slow, philosophical and silent craft […] Then because it involves a metamorphosis from liquid to vapour (invisible) and back to liquid; but in this double path, upwards and downwards, purity is attained, an ambiguous and fascinating condition, that starts with chemistry and comes so very far … and at last, when you set about distilling, you acquire the awareness of repeating a rite that by now has been consecrated by centuries, almost a religious act in which, from one imperfect substance, you obtain the essence, the spirit and, first foremost, the alcohol, that makes the spirit rejoice and that warms the heart …”
That’s how Primo Levi recounted his idea of chemistry, science and life in chapter five, “Potassium”, of his book “The Periodic Table”, published in 1975.
Even today, most likely, every chemist can find in his words the enthusiasm of a passion that comes close to the boundless and often impenetrable beauty of the arts.
Chemistry is not that austere subject that students are “obliged” to study at school and that seems miles away from the nooks and crannies of everyday life. Chemistry is us, the manifestations that determine us as living beings; it is what happens every moment inside and outside of the singular perception that every human being has of itself. Chemistry is the discovery of a new language, the possibility of identifying innovative paths by travelling roads as yet unknown. Chemistry is us, what we eat and what we cultivate. Chemistry is the transformation of matter that fascinated the ancient alchemists, offering them symbolic suggestions, metaphysical fascinations. Everything is chemistry, every phenomenon of the Earth. Even Isabella’s gaze, her enthusiasm, the determined steps that take her through the chemical laboratories of Mezzano (Ravenna), her voice, her story flowing beyond words, into her hands drawing in the air what the uninitiated can only guess at. And yet, listening to her, one has the impression of entering a dimension that is known, familiar. Every formula is like a good food recipe, her gestures are the paraphrase of a dish cooked with the amazement of discovery, the instruments of her work the transposition of those in the kitchen that the chef uses to satisfy the pleasure of the palate. It is Research that will increasingly play a key role in the development of technologies based on renewable sources such as sun, wind, hydro resources, geothermal energy, the use of innovative energy carriers such as hydrogen, electrochemical storage systems and the development of products and by-products of the agricultural chain.
“There’s Plenty of Room at the Bottom” said Nobel prize-winner for Physics, the father of nanotechnology, Richard Feynman in 1959. There is a lot to “cook,” “work,” “discover” in Mezzano’s laboratories, where the language of the scientists turns into the substance of a prototype of a dye-sensitized solar cell, or of a hydrogen bicycle, in the study of the distillation of essential oils derived from the Company’s Geranium Plantations in Madagascar.
Molecules, distillation, synthesis and nanoparticles. These are the words of Isabella and her work colleagues. It is the language of science, the Research that is at the service of enterprise and development, of Chemistry, which in the third millennium can be nothing other than green. Tozzi Green.