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YourFormula attended the Pint of Science in London, a festival where some of world’s best scientific researchers travel to pubs across the UK to discuss their latest findings on science.
The event took place in good old pub flair – the Ye Olde Cock Tavern – where Dr Shelly Moram & Dr Robert Horton, from Imperial College London, shared their expertise on materials discovery – to explore and create our technological future.
The pub was full, everybody enjoying their pint, but still we were all focused on what these leading experts had to tell us.
Dr Robert Horton, the first speaker of the night, explained us the importance of theoretical physics to create new materials. “We basically use computers to create simulations and to develop a new code; we change the composition of things with similar properties, discovering new properties”
The role of the theoretical physicists is key to the innovation process: not only do they search for new particles or examine the universe; they also provide a vital role in the discovery and development of new technologies.
Robert explained to us that he uses some “powerful super computers” to examine the behaviour of atoms and electrons within materials.
“The ability to understand and predict this behaviour allows us not only to improve current technology but also to design and develop new technologies that can be tested in the lab.”
The second speaker, Dr Shelly Moram, highlighted the unlimited power of materials and how the combination of different elements can lead us to a complete range of innovative materials – “The search for El Dorado” – as she described it.
Taking the periodic table as our ingredients list, Shelly explained that one element can be exploited to offer exciting possibilities
for future technologies – for example silicon is being now used in technology, communications, solar cells but is also being explored to be used in new products in the future.Using cooking analogies, the PhD in materials science introduced us to the different materials (rocks, metals, polymers, bone, semiconductors…), and then demonstrated to the audience that these materials look quite similar on the atomic scale.
Nanotechnology is key in this process.
“Using nanotechnology we can manipulate the environment and get the electron bond in the way we want”
To learn more about the fascinating world of nanotechnology, take a look at the video below:
Making the majority of these products commercially viable is still a long way off, but it’s definitely a path leading us to an easier, healthier and sustainable future.
See more photos of the event here