Sunday, 19 May 2013

May Fest 2013 in Pictures (Part 1)

May Fest is the University of Nottingham's annual open day for the local community. It is an awesome event, with plenty to interest adults and children alike. Much like the Science Museum in London, there is simply so much stuff going on that you cannot see it all in the one day!

This year, NSB visited the event with No1 and No3 Sons. The latter described the event afterwards with the single word "Epic!", which, unless NSB is very much mistaken (as was the case some years ago with "sick") that means he enjoyed the day very much!

Having posted about May Fest previously in 2011 and 2012, this year NSB is going to take a slighly different "photo montage" approach. All of the images can be clicked on to enlarge. Enjoy!

May Fest is crewed by volunteer students who do a fine job of helping visitors find their way around, as well as providing maps and other information. Incidentally, UoN students also do some fine voluntary work in the local community. Well done students !

No3 asks one of the helpful volunteers
 what is going on in the chemistry and physics buildings

The Tissue Engineering Group, are working on biological scaffolds to allow regeneration of damaged organs and bones. One of the reserchers explained how they were trying to print structures such as a child's jaw bone, which could then be used an an implant for a child whose jaw had been damaged by disease or in the course of complex surgery. The researchers explained that, amongst other technologies, they were developing gel type materials containging living cells. They hoped to be able to print these and then use them as implants. The team, led by Professor Kevin Shakesheff, won an award in 2008 for this technology. Regentec, a spin-off company working at Bio-City, are further developing these technologies. You can read more about the teams work here in this BBC Report, and this review paper.

3D printing a miniature skull

A 3D printer, which is used to print items such as bone sections
which are used as biological scaffolds for tissue to regenerate into.

Whilst the biological scaffolds represent a "top-down" approach to tissue engineering, the department are also doing work on a "bottom-up" approach by investigating how individual cells can be manipulated. Below is a simulation of a technology that allows a laser to select and move individual cells. The researcher explained that the laser could orient the cells so that the team could investigate the effects of arraging cells in different ways, and he described how cells are not uniform but can have a "head" and a "tail". The laser can be used not only to move cells in the X and Y directions, but also in Z direction to place one cell above another. It can even focus on and manipulate structures within the cell! The technology involved is explained here and a paper by the team can be found here.

A demonstration of how researchers are using lasers to manipulate individual cells,
which is giving them an understanding of how cells interact with each other

The Chemistry Department was certainly a busy place, with a number of displays to interest visitors...

A Chemistry researcher explains how a rotary evaporator removes
solvent from new research compounds. (BTW, that's  a model of the Capsicum molecule on the table)

No3 Son was rendered awestruck by a demonstration that allowed him to take home a piece of polymer sheet with a thin, but very pure, gold film on it. The demonstration was given by the SCFED team who are investigating the use of "supercritical fluids" as a means of producing very thin electrodeposited metallic structures. This is possible because supercritical fluids have no surface tension, so can penetrate very narrow openings in solid materials. According to the project website, this is no less than "a technique that could transform the future of technology".


This electrolytic cell was depositing a sub micron film of pure gold
onto a thin piece of plastic sheet for No3 Son

Supercritical Fluids offer the chance to
make even smaller semiconductor structures

Meanwhile, a display by the Veterinary Science Department included information on the Online Veterinary Anatomy Museum (the clue to its nature is in the name, so don't come crying to me if you get traumatised). NSB ended up talking to the researcher about the differences between bird and mammal respiratory systems. Birds, it turns out, have a much more efficient system than mammals (see here). This is because birds have air bladders which store air then pass it through the lungs in one direction only, allowing the extraction of oxygen to be performed mroe efficiently.

Children often assume that this skeleton is a dinosaur,
whereas it is actually a cat. Note the ridges on the upper spine,
which are used to anchor muscles

The "Fizix Trix" demonstration by the Phyiscs Dept contained all kinds of awesome, but the presenters were also able to convey their passion and enthusiasm for the subject throughout the show, with the most memorable words perhaps being "Find out more about the world around you - it makes it a more beautiful place".

The Physics Department held an awesome demonstration called "Fizix Trix"

The Air Cannon attempted to fire a foam ball clean through an empty pop can

The Hypersonic Levitator in  principle...

The Hypersonic Levitator in  practice

Vortex Cannons!

A paddling pool full of liquid nitrogen... which was added some boiling water, creating this monster cloud...

...definitely a crowd pleaser

Some wise words to close out the demonstrations

See here for Part 2 of this post.

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