Friday, 3 June 2016

"Meet the Expert" at ThinkTank science museum

On Tuesday I went down to the ThinkTank with some other researchers from the Materials group here at the University of Birmingham School of Chemistry (@chembham) for an event they run every half term called "Meet the Expert". 
For this event, a group of researchers (in our case, 4 of us) get a spot on the museum floor to do some live demos and get people engaged with their research topic. 

We were talking about magnetism, superconductivity and electricity generation. And, more importantly, how the research in the department is developing new materials that may be important in these areas in the future. 

The use of liquid nitrogen turned out to be a big draw for the crowds, but I was impressed by the length of time people spent with us. They really wanted to hear more, not just see the "headline" demo and then carry on. We got some really interesting questions and comments from both children and their parents when discussing magnetism and superconductivity. My favourite comment was "It's not magic - it's science!" in relation to the floating magnet experiment shown below (explained here).

We found the best experiments were those that had obvious results, for instance a light becoming brighter when a cable supplying electricity to the bulb was dipped into liquid nitrogen, but also the models of the materials went down really well, especially alongside the real thing. 

We also had some electrochemistry experiments people could get involved with including a simple battery using copper and zinc, and some different water splitting experiments. This led on to my favourite topic: hydrogen! This is where I came in, showing off our model fuel cell car complete with refueling station (explained in full by me in this video).  

It turns out I am rubbish at steering remote control cars, but I managed to avoid tripping any visitors up! It was a great day - thanks so much for ThinkTank for having me, and to Professor Greaves, Dr. Horsewell and Dr. de Laune for letting me join in. 

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