Skip to main content

Materials and energy… over a pint?

Bristol, along with 20 other cities, in 6 different countries, was host to an interesting approach to science communication – over three nights, 19 - 21 May 2014, science took place at the pub!

Although varied, relevant and interesting research takes place every day at Universities, in many cases the general public is completely unaware of what goes on inside them – other than lectures and exams! Pint of Science is a volunteer-based, not-for-profit festival, which takes academic research into the everyday world, by having scientists at the pub sharing their work and answering questions.

Premièring this year in Bristol, the festival was well received, with many of the events sold-out before the doors were even opened. Across the city, four pubs opened their doors to a curious audience looking to learn about a range of topics from nanotechnology, to energy, to the brain and oceans or volcanoes.

Engaging society being at the heart of the Cabot Institute’s aims, it was quick to become involved when approached. As well as sponsoring the event, the Institute was well represented by two of its members, Professors David Fermín and Paul Weaver, who shared their research during the festival.

Energy, Materials and the Electrochemist Dream


L-R David Parker and David Fermin
Prof David Fermín and one of his PhD students, Mr David Parker, took on the second evening of the festival, talking about “Energy, Materials and the Electrochemist Dream”. During this event renewable energy sources, in particular solar, were championed. Of interest was the many ways in which solar energy can be harvested and used, whether to be directly converted into electricity or used to produce “solar fuels” from water or carbon dioxide. The need for developing new photovoltaic materials, which are cheap, efficient and made from abundant elements, was stressed. Questions from the public revolved about “how green” these technologies really are and the need to develop a “complete, systematic” approach to energy, which can incorporate various forms and sources of energy. This last is another key interest of the Institute, with groups in Bristol doing interesting work in this area.

Morphing cars, planes and wind turbines: the shape of things to come


Paul Weaver talks to the pub-goers
On the festival’s last evening, Prof Paul Weaver and one of his PhD students, Eric Eckstein, talked about “Morphing cars, planes and wind turbines: the shape of things to come”. They discussed the development of new composite materials with the ability to tailor structural properties and the difficulties involved in predicting responses. Also highlighted was the very important interaction and synergy between University and Industry in this field. In a particularly interactive approach they brought along many of the composite materials they work with, alongside demonstrating the strength and failure of various materials, allowing the public to see and feel how different properties can be altered. The use of composite materials in wind turbines and helicopter blades was of particular interest and generated an animated discussion on the subject.

This blog was written by Cabot Institute members Daniela Plana (Chemistry) and Matt Such (ACCIS) at the University of Bristol.
Daniela Plana

Popular posts from this blog

Are you a journalist looking for climate experts? We've got you covered

We've got lots of media trained climate change experts. If you need an expert for an interview, here is a list of Caboteers you can approach. All media enquiries should be made via  Victoria Tagg , our dedicated Media and PR Manager at the University of Bristol. Email victoria.tagg@bristol.ac.uk or call +44 (0)117 428 2489. Climate change / climate emergency / climate science / climate-induced disasters Dr Eunice Lo - expert in changes in extreme weather events such as heatwaves and cold spells , and how these changes translate to negative health outcomes including illnesses and deaths. Follow on Twitter @EuniceLoClimate . Professor Daniela Schmidt - expert in the causes and effects of climate change on marine systems . Dani is also a Lead Author on the IPCC reports. Dani will be at COP26. Dr Katerina Michalides - expert in drylands, drought and desertification and helping East African rural communities to adapt to droughts and future climate change. Follow on Twitter @_k

Urban gardens are crucial food sources for pollinators - here’s what to plant for every season

A bumblebee visits a blooming honeysuckle plant. Sidorova Mariya | Shutterstock Pollinators are struggling to survive in the countryside, where flower-rich meadows, hedges and fields have been replaced by green monocultures , the result of modern industrialised farming. Yet an unlikely refuge could come in the form of city gardens. Research has shown how the havens that urban gardeners create provide plentiful nectar , the energy-rich sugar solution that pollinators harvest from flowers to keep themselves flying. In a city, flying insects like bees, butterflies and hoverflies, can flit from one garden to the next and by doing so ensure they find food whenever they need it. These urban gardens produce some 85% of the nectar found in a city. Countryside nectar supplies, by contrast, have declined by one-third in Britain since the 1930s. Our new research has found that this urban food supply for pollinators is also more diverse and continuous

#CabotNext10 Spotlight on City Futures

In conversation with Dr Katharina Burger, theme lead at the Cabot Institute for the Environment. Dr Katharina Burger Why did you choose to become a theme leader at Cabot Institute ? I applied to become a Theme Leader at Cabot, a voluntary role, to bring together scientists from different faculties to help us jointly develop proposals to address some of the major challenges facing our urban environments. My educational background is in Civil Engineering at Bristol and I am now in the School of Management, I felt that this combination would allow me to build links and communicate across different ways of thinking about socio-technical challenges and systems. In your opinion, what is one of the biggest global challenges associated with your theme? (Feel free to name others if there is more than one) The biggest challenge is to evolve environmentally sustainable, resilient, socially inclusive, safe and violence-free and economically productive cities. The following areas are part of this c