Explosions Galore, a World Record and Adam as one of the Helpers! What more could we ask for?!
27 blessed students went to see Saiful Islam, a Professor of Materials Chemistry at the University of Bath, whose research interests include computer modelling of new materials for lithium and sodium batteries, solid oxide fuel cells and perovskite solar cells.
Saiful has had a long association with the Royal Institution. He attended talks in the Royal Institution’s famous theatre by another Christmas Lecturer, George Porter, while still at school and returned to present his own school's lecture on superconductors a few years after his PhD under Richard Catlow FRS, the then Director of the Davy Faraday Research Laboratory at the Royal Institution.
Saiful has received several awards including the Wolfson Research Merit Award from the Royal Society and the Sustainable Energy Award from the Royal Society of Chemistry. He has presented more than 60 invited talks at international conferences, and has around 180 publications. He sits on the Diversity Committee of the Royal Society.
Getting places at Royal Institution Christmas lectures is rare, as it is a countrywide ballot, and there is a lot of competition! We witnessed history in the making as the largest lemon battery in operation made up of 1008 lemons broke the world record for pushing out more than 1000 volts! We were present when the World Record was declared. This event will now be recorded in the Guinness World Book of Records. There were lots of confetti bombs released to celebrate, and everyone got covered (well the students anyway!).
Professor Islam was very clear with the science talking about the number of cells it would take to power your mobile for a year, the dangers of piercing your lithium battery with a needle (don’t do it!), hydrogen cells, battery cars and how far they would drive you currently. He also had special guests from previous Royal Institution lectures, as the lectures was celebrating its 80th Birthday. These were crystal expert, John Meurig Thomas 1986, and also Director of Royal Institution, and Peter Wothers 2012 (in the orange lab-coat).
We saw superconductors at work, levitating on a track of super magnets, (amazing!), and saw a Hydrogen balloon exploding, to show the energy within the Hydrogen atoms, as Hydrogen fuel cells are the ways forward in terms of battery design.
Perhaps the icing on the cake was seeing one of our own students, Adam, selected to help lift heavy batteries, against Britain’s Strongest Woman 2016: Andrea Thompson! Well done to him.
Thanks to Councillor Raza, and Ms Alvis for giving up their time to assist the trip.
Leader of Elite Scientists
William Perkin CofE High School