Sciency Fun with Metrohm UK
Metrohm UK organized a customer networking event at the Museum of Science and Technology in Manchester. At the event, products were presented, technical questions answered, and two young scientists were awarded the Metrohm UK Young Chemist Award. When you’re in the Manchester area and you’re interested in science, the Museum of Science and Technology is a good address to start with. But there’s more to see, for example, the Jodrell Bank Discovery Centre with the impressive Lovell Telescope.
Two Winners at the Young Chemist Award
Metrohm UK awarded two young scientists the Metrohm Young Chemist Award. Alastair Lennox at the University of Bristol won the first prize for his work in the field of organic electrochemistry. In synthetic organic chemistry, an electrical current is used to control the electron transfer taking place in the chemical reaction, replacing traditional redox reagents, which are often toxic or produce a lot of waste. Alastair has optimized a reaction that produces building blocks for complex organic molecules. His results should have broad implications for the sustainable manufacture such molecules, including new drug and agrochemical compounds.
Hang Xiang, a doctoral student at Newcastle University won second place with her research on the electrochemical conversion of CO2 to valuable, higher-energy carbon products in a 3D-printed reactor. An efficient electrochemical conversion process would kill two birds with one stone: Firstly, it gets rid of the greenhouse gas CO2. At the same time, valuable products—such as fuels—are produced. The subject seems to be a trend t the moment: I’ve seen research in this area during my visit in Canada as well.
Return to Earth
After the event had finished, James Downs, sales account manager for northwest England, and I went to explore the Museum of Science and Technology. As Manchester has been shaped by the Industrial Revolution in the 19th century, a large part of the exhibition is related to this topic. You can admire heavy steam engines and cast iron machinery. I found the part of the exhibition concerning air and space travel particularly interesting. You can see aircrafts so flimsy you wouldn’t dare to get on and so big and sturdy you wonder they take off at all—and everything in between.
The museum also offers some virtual reality experiences. James and I decided to experience a return to Earth from ISS in a Soyuz capsule in a first-person VR experience narrated by English astronaut Tim Peake. Even though the experience was very informative thanks to Tim Peake’s explanations, we found it difficult to imagine the feeling of an actual return to Earth. First of all, you’re sitting still and can’t feel the forces of acceleration when speeding towards the Earth’s surface and upon hitting the ground (which might be a good thing, as hitting the ground feels «like being hit by a truck» according to Peake). And secondly, the Soyuz only has two small portholes on the sides, because windows are the weakest points of the capsule—but this means that you don’t see a lot of what’s going on outside.
Lovell Telescope at the Jodrell Bank Discovery Centre
On my last day in the UK, before going to the airport and back home, James and I, together with Jo, who’s responsible for internal sales and marketing at Metrohm UK, went to visit the Jodrell Bank Discovery Centre, which is close to Metrohm UK and Manchester. The Jodrell Bank Discovery Centre is home to the Lovell Telescope, a 60-year-old, giant radio telescope, and an interactive museum that teaches you about space and research done using the telescope. With a bowl diameter of 76 meters and a height of just under 90 meters, the telescope is one of the biggest and most powerful radio telescopes in the world. It captures radio waves from space, which shed light on cosmic phenomena (if you know how to interpret them).
It’s important that there’s no terrestrial radio interference because the radio signals from space are very weak. Visitors have to turn off their mobile phones when they arrive at the remote site that is surrounded by pastures and trees. The quietness and the beautiful surroundings also make it a nice place for a walk outside when the weather is nice.