Public Engagement Activities

The Photon Physics group are actively involved in a diverse range of public engagement activities, a few examples of which are shown here. For further information or to suggest a project that you would like us to become involved in please contact us

Forthcoming events

Details of forthcoming public engagement events will appear here.

Light for Life: Medicine in Pictures

Mark Dickinson demonstrates total internal reflection

Following the award of a Royal Society Partnership grant in May 2014, Mark Dickinson and other group members have been working with the pupils of Broadbent Primary School in Dukinfield, to show them some properties of light, and demonstrating how light can be used to diagnose and even cure disease.

The main part of the project involved the year 6 pupils using simple digital imaging and image analysis software to look at how skin colour of the fingers changes when blood flow is affected. They looked at the effect of cold, warmth and exercise on the colour. The key stage 2 pupils also build pinhole cameras and learnt about lenses, waves and that X-rays are just a form of light and X-ray imaging is simply "measuring shadows".

Live from Jodrell Bank

During the popular "Live from Jodrell Bank" event, attended by up to 30,000 people, visitors to our "Light for Life" stand were able to

  • measure the power consumption and spectrum of filament and low energy light bulbs
  • split water to make hydrogen to power a model racing car
  • measure their blood oxygen levels
  • make quantum dots glow

Despite these attractions, the biggest fascination was reserved for the lovely patterns created via birefringence with a couple of polarisers and sellotape! 

Royal Society Summer Science Exhibition 'Putting Sunshine in the Tank – Using Nanotechnology to Make Solar Fuel'

Scientists from the PSI and the Universities of East Anglia, York and Nottingham presented their research at the Royal Society’s annual Summer Science Exhibition which opened on 5th July 2011. The Royal Society Summer Science Exhibition showcases cutting edge research in science and engineering from across the UK. It is held annually at the Royal Society, the UK’s national academy of science. In 2011, 21 exhibits were selected from 97 applications. At the exhibition, Professor Flavell and her team displayed an interactive world map which showed children and other visitors just how much energy the Sun provides. There was also a chance to see quantum dots at work, and showing how simply by changing the size of the dots, how the colour of light they absorb or give out can be changed. A solar cell that produces hydrogen directly from the electricity generated was also on display and there was a chance to race solar-powered and hydrogen-powered model racing cars.‌

Harvesting Sunshine: a solar energy family fun day at MOSI

On Saturday 7th August 2010, the unsuspecting public were challenged to ‘Meet the Photon Scientists’ - a solar energy family-friendly scientific event, packed full of fascinating table-top demonstrations and exciting interactive activities, which took place at the Museum of Science and Industry in Manchester. The event was run by a team of 15 PhD students and staff from the PSI, and organized by Darren Graham, Samantha Hardman, Andrew Thomas with quite a few helpers! The event addressed the key physics behind harvesting solar energy with activities including the solar concentrator challenge, demonstrations of the latest solar technologies……and even a giant solar marshmallow cooker! It answered questions like ‘Why is the Sun yellow and the sky blue? – and gave the kids the opportunity to have fun with hydrogen-powered model racing cars and make a working solar cell from blackberries (and a bit of titanium dioxide!). The audience came in large numbers from all corners of the globe, but was predominantly made up of families (adults with children aged 5 – 14 years old). The idea was to help them realize the importance of physics in tackling the problem of climate change and reducing our dependency on dwindling fossil-fuel energy sources, as well as enabling them to learn some principles of physics. Judging from the smiling faces, amounts of artwork produced and marshmallows consumed, a great time was had by all (including the Photon Physics team).

Science at Work Event at the Catalyst Museum, Widnes

On Tuesday 15th June 2010, Andrew Thomas, Darren Graham, Karen Syres and Louise Pogson represented the PSI and School of Physics and Astronomy at a 'Science at Work' event at the Catalyst Museum, Widnes. This week long event introduced school children to careers in science. The team demonstrated how research into novel photovoltaic and photochemical techniques could potentially reduce our reliance on fossil fuels and CO2 emissions. Hydrogen was produced from water and sunlight with a catalyst and used to power a hydrogen fuel cell powered car.

Solar Fuel Rocket Challenge

Click on the image below to play the Solar Rocket Fuel Challenge game!

Solar Fuel Chemistry Challenge

Click on the image below to play the Solar Fuel Chemistry Challenge game!

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