Julia Griffen, final year DTC student, undertook a one month internship way back in November at the University of Addis Ababa in Ethiopia. Here’s what she had to say about her experiences:
I thoroughly enjoyed my time spent at the University of Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. The experience was extremely beneficial to my professional and personal development and overall I found it thoroughly rewarding. Predominantly my time was spent preparing undergraduate lecture material on green chemistry. However I was also invited to give a departmental seminar to staff and postgraduates, and in my final week I attended the RSC Pan African Chemistry Network (PACN) conference on Agricultural Productivity Waste and Water.
While at the University, I was able to meet many staff and students, and to see different departments, laboratories, equipment and teaching facilities. From this experience I was able to gain an appreciation of how difficult it is to do chemistry (as we know it) in a developing country, with lack of resources, technical parts, and technical expertise. However these hindrances do not hamper their enthusiasm and passion for their dedicated fields.
Some of the benefits from this internship arose from preparing a lecture course which brought me up-to-date on current teaching methods, materials and current research in the area of green chemistry. I have kept the material for future use. Presenting the departmental seminar to an international audience, predominantly Ethiopian graduate students, gave me experience in this lecturing style. Finally the PACN conference gave me the opportunity to meet many individuals from across Africa, whom I was able to converse over science, sustainability and issues facing scientific development in Africa.
Overall it was an excellent experience, which I would recommend.
University of Addis Ababa gates
Addis Ababa classroom
Julia Griffen in Ethiopia
CSCT student Rhodri Jenkins, currently studying for a PhD in microbial biofuels, was interviewed recently for a documentary put together by Science Communication students from the University of the West of England. In the interview, he was asked about the difference between biodiesel and renewable diesel, the problems we face when trying to use them, and what the future of these fuels might be.
Have a look at the documentary (Rhod's at about 3:38):
On Monday 28 and Tuesday 29 January 2013, our student Ibbi Ahmet attended a Theo Murphy international scientific meeting held by The Royal Society, which "intended to be pivotal events of lasting significance."
This report comes from second-year DTC student Ibbi Ahmet.
The UK-China workshop was excellent and showcased cutting edge knowledge, which brought together researchers from both China and the UK to present new and interesting concepts on a range of functional materials, addressing both the organic and inorganic fields.
The conference was held at the beautiful location of Chicheley Hall close to Milton Keynes. There were a range of speakers and audience members that had eminent status in their field of research and impressive career successes.
I especially enjoyed the talk by Professor Clare Grey from the University of Cambridge, who presented some excellent concepts that used in-situ solid state NMR to characterise local structural changes in lithium ion batteries, specifically investigating the process of intercalating ions in silicon anodes and lithium air cathodes. The time-lapsed examination of in-situ rather than ex-situ charging of materials in the solid state presented interesting evidence of a multi-step intercalation processes, which can help develop and improve novel battery design as well as our understanding of cathode and anode materials.
Professor Sir Richard Friend, from the University of Cambridge, presented an interesting mode towards high efficiency solar cells. He showed that using materials that had a triplet exciton energy less than one half of the singlet exciton energy will favour the fission of a singlet exciton to a pair of triple excitons (a “two for one offer!!”). This can result in an enhanced solar conversion efficiency beyond the theoretical single junction Shockley-Quessier limit (33.7% to c.a. 48%). He also demonstrated how this phenomenon occurs in a pentacene/leadselenide hybrid low band gap solar cell device.
Professor Richard Catlow, from UCL, showed how computational techniques can be used to understand defect and electron processes in doped semiconducting materials. One fascinating topic of discussion was around p-type ZnO semiconducting materials: It was shown, by calculating the energetics of producing an oxygen vacancy or electron hole within a ZnO lattice, that an oxygen vacancy will be more favourable. This provides evidence for why it is difficult to produce good ZnO p-type semiconductors. He went on to explain why research will need to look towards producing ZnO materials that stabilise the electron hole process and destabilise the process of forming oxygen vacancies.
Another talk, presented by Professor Yunqi Liu, was titled ‘Controllable synthesis of graphene by chemical vapour deposition method and studies on its electronic properties’. There were many techniques shown to be valuable for my research, such as growing high quality graphene onto a range of substrates including ruthenium crystals. It was then shown that graphene can undergo an interesting annealing process resulting in the intercalation of different materials between graphene sheets.
Overall I felt that the conference was very educational and presented interesting experiments and research concepts that can be used to investigate a number of important functional materials in which the properties are not yet well known.
On Wednesday 20 March 2013, four students took part in The Big Bang, "the largest celebration of science, technology, engineering and maths for young people in the UK".
This report comes from second-year DTC student Emily Holt.
Harriet Manning, Stephen Wood, Adam Jackson and myself went to Cirencester College to take part in their Big Bang event as part of National Science and Engineering Week. 200 primary school and 500 secondary school kids from 16 schools visited the event where we did energy-related activities with them.
Using PVA glue, corn flour and borax solution, the kids got their hands messy as they made bouncy balls. For the younger children this was a fun science experiment. However many of the older kids asked questions about how it worked, allowing us to give them a basic understanding of polymers and energy.
We used a ‘bounce-o-meter’ to test how well their bouncy balls could bounce. The kids also used a dynamo to investigate the energy input required to light up three different light bulbs showing them more efficient ways to light their homes.
The stand before the event with the light exhibit (left) and bouncy ball materials (right)
Over the past few months students from the CSCT have been collaborating with a group of final year graphic communication students from Bath Spa University to create an exciting new science exhibit.
The aim of the project is to communicate the important role chemical technologies can play in achieving a sustainable future and highlight some important issues that the general public may be unaware of. The exhibit will focus on four main themes around the areas of “Attitudes to chemicals”, “Fuels for the future”, “Element scarcity” and “Bio plastics”.
Using the expertise of the Bath Spa students, it has been possible to design an aesthetically appealing platform for science communication based around the setting of an “Actual Genius bar” (a play on Apple’s genius bar idea). This project aims to take the idea of a science café one step further by actually setting up the exhibit within one of the many cafes around Bath. The event will include a “Breaking Bad” style coffee making apparatus using labware and liquid nitrogen ice-cream.
As well as designing the setting for this activity, the Bath Spa students have come up with innovative stencil designs which will be used to allow students from the CSCT to communicate science to the public with the help of little more than a blackboard and a piece of chalk. They have also designed some attractive flyers for the public to take away, which contain interesting facts and information about the research taking place at the CSCT.
Designs are currently being finalised and the finished products will be produced over Easter. We can therefore expect this unique science communication experience to be showcased at a café in Bath later this year.
“Some words about science” flyer prototype
“The little book of big facts” flyer prototype
Inside flyer prototype
First-year DTC students Joe Thompson and Paul McKeown bring us this post from Bath Taps Into Science 2013.
On a chilly Saturday morning, we set up our stalls in Green Park Station next to Sainsbury’s. This day also happened to be the day of the farmers market, so there was also the teasing smell of bacon in the air. While setting up, we got curious stares from the early morning shoppers which were probably due to our bright yellow t-shirts. There was still time for a coffee before everything began.
The main challenge of this day compared to the previous was the mixed audience. Parents, children and curious shoppers were attracted to our stalls and this really changed the dynamic of our discussions.
The table I spent most of my time on was titled “The Generation of Energy,” with a generic power station prop simulating CO2 release and also mitigation by capture and storage. The emission of carbon dioxide as both gas from dry ice and as a foam from sodium bicarbonate and vinegar, really grabbed the attention of the kids, even going as far as to draw it away from the adjacent tables of bouncy balls!
What typically followed was a discussion on what exactly carbon dioxide is, its link to global warming and a very brief overview of how we can combat emissions. After the two previous runs, the whole routine had been well practiced and the general reception seemed positive. The sort of things we were asked by the children was; where does carbon dioxide come from? why does it foam? and can I do that at home?
DTC students with the Mayor of Bath, Councillor Andrew Furse, and the Mayoress, Mrs Mei-Ling Chou Furse
It was very interesting to hear the viewpoints and opinions of adults who perused our stall. This interaction was a lot more verbose and covered a range of topics from the appearance of wind farms to the introduction of solar cell on houses. It was certainly reassuring to see that the perils of unmitigated greenhouse gas emissions is a real concern for the general public, particularly for parents who had their children’s future in mind. Parents really engaged with the experiments and some commented on how the interactive nature of the stalls was a great way of getting children interested in science.
Another surprise of the day was to have to opportunity to have a conversation with the Mayor of Bath about what it was we do at the Doctoral Training Centre and have his opinion on the matter of energy.
From Bath Taps, we have gained invaluable experience and ideas to start preparing for our next big outing at the Cheltenham Science Festival. Hopefully this will be another great opportunity to inspire and teach people about science whilst also making a bit of a mess.
This short post comes from first-year DTC student Georgina Gregory.
Good day at Bath taps! Kids were non-stop doing bouncy ball — made lots of mess but they really seemed to enjoy it. They seemed to like the dry ice coming out of the power station and I hope they learnt a lot about carbon dioxide emissions. The banana piano went down well with adults it seems too. Hopefully they learnt a bit about what we do as sustainable chemical technologists from the bioethanol experiment using yeast and the hydrogen powered cars.
Bath Taps Into Science is an annual Science Fair held in Bath. This year, the CSCT stalls will have the theme “Energy”.
This year’s Bath Taps into Science Fair dates:
10:30 - 15:00, Friday 8th March 2013 - Founders Hall, University of Bath
10:00 - 16:00, Saturday 9th March 2013 - Green Park Station, Bath City Centre
Our first stall, “What is Energy?”, repeats one of the popular activities in the past. Participants mix corn flour, glue and borax together to form a bouncy ball. Participants then hit the ball to our Bounce-ometer and see how high the ball can reach.
Then we have “Energy Generation”. Fumes will be coming out from the chimney of our power plant model. We will talk about carbon capture and renewable power generation methods.
Next we have “Biofuel”. A fermentation experiment using baking yeast will be demonstrated. Ethanol is produced from fermentation and can be used for fuel in a petrol engine.
After “Biofuel”, we have “Hydrogen cars”. Participants will be making a car with cardboard, strews and a balloon. The balloon will then be inflated and put onto the race track. We will briefly explain why hydrogen is a good alternative to fossil fuels and the current difficulty for implementation.
Finally we have “Energy materials”. Energy material can be as simple as the graphite from a pencil, to the metal oxide at the back of your smartphone touchscreen, and BANANA. Participants can join themselves together to play the banana piano.
Entrance is free and you don't need a ticket - just turn up.
This post comes from a group of our students who recently went to Bristol to explain some of their work to a mixed audience.
The Tobacco Factory in the heart of Bristol was the location of two recent talks on sustainability by CSCT PhD students. The students formed two panels to present their respective expertise at a recent Science Café event under the headings of “What’s in Your Shopping Bag?” and “Fuelling the Future”.
The first group involving Thomas Forder, Julia Griffin, Luke Williams, Rebecca Bamford and Will Reynolds spoke about the chemicals and elements that most people will encounter on a day-to-day basis, most likely without even realising it. This went on to address some of the negative preconceptions people might bear towards perfectly benign or indeed beneficial chemicals.
Lee Burton, Lisa Sargeant and Daniel Minett delivered the second talk discussing the ways in which we can move away from fossil fuels to cleanly and efficiently power the world of tomorrow. This included a variety of important topics ranging from climate change to renewable energies in the context of recent policy changes at home and abroad.
Both talks were followed by questions from the 40-strong audience leading to a wider dialogue between all participants, from retired professors to students with no scientific background.
Laura Walker, who co-ordinates the events, said she was “very impressed … with the high calibre of these students and the excellent talks they delivered … with confidence and clarity. The presentations were excellent and pitched exactly right for the diverse audience.”
The students also attracted the interest of others working to deliver science to a wider audience, including the director of Bristol based company My Future My Choice, Mr Hugh Thomas. Building on the successes of these events to further extend the impact of our science, the CSCT congratulates our students on their continued excellence in the field of public engagement.
DTC MRes student Marcus Johns brings us this report on the recent Global Sustainability Jam.
Sustainability Jam participants pitch their project idea
48 hours to create a brand-new real-world idea with a group of people you’ve never met before, could it happen? Being intrigued, I decided to find out.
This was the first Global Sustainability Jam to be run, building on the Global Service Jam, and the London event was one of 58 simultaneously run events across the world over the weekend of 2nd-4th November. The basic concept was to do rather than discuss and this immediately came across: we were given just over an hour from meeting the other members of our groups on Friday night to come up with a single idea to work on over the rest of the weekend, based on the theme of ((heart))beats.
Most people present at the event were designers of some form with the event doubling up as a networking event. Being a voluntary project, a number of people failed to turn up on the Saturday – for example, the group that I was in went from 9 people to 3. This wasn’t necessarily a bad thing as it helped us focus more than some of the other groups.
It was interesting to see how people perceived ‘sustainability’ – I may have been the only person who brought up the Brundtland definition – with most people talking about life-cycles of products and getting people involved with nature and their local community, and a number of people saying that they’d never heard of the word before.
Over the course of the weekend 244 separate projects were generated and presented across the globe, ranging from promoting the local community via bread baking to encouraging businesses to turn off their lights at night. The project I was involved with came up with an innovative way to deal with the two major problems with Barclays Bikes, namely the time taken to actually get a bike out and the lack of spaces or bikes at your location.
The weekend was an enjoyable experience albeit stressful – our initial idea was scrapped at 17:30 on the Saturday – and we have the option to continue with the projects in the future, which is an exciting prospect.
More information on the Global Sustainability Jam