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

Converting probabilities between time-intervals

This is the first in an irregular sequence of snippets about some of the slightly more technical aspects of uncertainty and risk assessment.  If you have a slightly more technical question, then please email me and I will try to answer it with a snippet. Suppose that an event has a probability of 0.015 (or 1.5%) of happening at least once in the next five years. Then the probability of the event happening at least once in the next year is 0.015 / 5 = 0.003 (or 0.3%), and the probability of it happening at least once in the next 20 years is 0.015 * 4 = 0.06 (or 6%). Here is the rule for scaling probabilities to different time intervals: if both probabilities (the original one and the new one) are no larger than 0.1 (or 10%), then simply multiply the original probability by the ratio of the new time-interval to the original time-interval, to find the new probability. This rule is an approximation which breaks down if either of the probabilities is greater than 0.1. For example

1-in-200 year events

You often read or hear references to the ‘1-in-200 year event’, or ‘200-year event’, or ‘event with a return period of 200 years’. Other popular horizons are 1-in-30 years and 1-in-10,000 years. This term applies to hazards which can occur over a range of magnitudes, like volcanic eruptions, earthquakes, tsunamis, space weather, and various hydro-meteorological hazards like floods, storms, hot or cold spells, and droughts. ‘1-in-200 years’ refers to a particular magnitude. In floods this might be represented as a contour on a map, showing an area that is inundated. If this contour is labelled as ‘1-in-200 years’ this means that the current rate of floods at least as large as this is 1/200 /yr, or 0.005 /yr. So if your house is inside the contour, there is currently a 0.005 (0.5%) chance of being flooded in the next year, and a 0.025 (2.5%) chance of being flooded in the next five years. The general definition is this: ‘1-in-200 year magnitude is x’ = ‘the current rate for eve

Coconuts and climate change

Before pursuing an MSc in Climate Change Science and Policy at the University of Bristol, I completed my undergraduate studies in Environmental Science at the University of Colombo, Sri Lanka. During my final year I carried out a research project that explored the impact of extreme weather events on coconut productivity across the three climatic zones of Sri Lanka. A few months ago, I managed to get a paper published and I thought it would be a good idea to share my findings on this platform. Climate change and crop productivity  There has been a growing concern about the impact of extreme weather events on crop production across the globe, Sri Lanka being no exception. Coconut is becoming a rare commodity in the country, due to several reasons including the changing climate. The price hike in coconuts over the last few years is a good indication of how climate change is affecting coconut productivity across the country. Most coconut trees are no longer bearing fruits and thos