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Science out of the Lab

Posted on 15 June 2016

As part of York Festival of Ideas, a group of PhD students organised a hands-on practical chemistry event on Parliament Street in York city centre.

Science out of the Lab

The Festival of Ideas theme of ‘Tick Tock’ inspired them to produce lemon clocks – linking lemon batteries, liquid crystal displays and the way in which electrons can also power people.

The focus of the stand was a large voltaic cell powering a liquid crystal wall clock. Craig Archbold from the Materials group engaged the public with liquid crystal activities. Lindsey Flanagan from Alison Parkin’s group devised a game involving noodles, marbles and ping pong balls to demonstrate how electrons trigger the movement of protons and the production of energy. Meanwhile, Lizzie Wheeldon, from Dave Smith’s group, powered various devices with batteries made from lemons, potatoes and even Diet Coke. Eleanor Morris and Katie Smith also helped out on the stall.

Many other York chemists also participated in the wider event, with Kirsty Penkman and the Bioarch team talking about dating proteins, Tom Dugmore from Green Chemistry explaining how to get useful materials from food waste, and lots of volunteers helping out on the RSC stand with an array of tasty experiments exploring the chemistry of food.

Well over 2000 members of the general public visited the marquee over the two days, and hopefully many of those who announced they were not scientists on arrival were persuaded that they could be.