The Cardiff Catalysis Institute (CCI) team from the School of Chemistry spent the first week in July staging an exhibit for the Royal Society’s summer science exhibition.
This is a prestigious event, and competition to exhibit is fierce. The show lasts 7 days, and welcomed over 15,000 visitors this year, ranging from school children to royalty. The background knowledge of the visitors can range from none to expert, and often the two levels occur in the same family group. Talking about our science in an interesting and understandable way to such a wide ranging audience is a tremendous challenge but it’s quite exhilarating too!
The exhibit, led by Phil Davies, Dave Willock, Stuart Taylor and Graham Hutchings was presented by a team of 14 volunteers drawn from staff, postdocs and PhD students. All were kept constantly busy during the week. Alun Davies and Steve Morris, who helped develop the stand exhibits, also made guest appearances and got involved with the presentation of catalysis concepts.
The exhibit, called “the Gold Rush”, aimed to give the public an appreciation of the basic ideas of catalysis and to tell the exciting story of gold as a catalyst. To entertain and inform the visitors, Liam Thomas and Christian Reece helped put together “molecular cannons” representing energy barriers to reactions and a spin the wheel catalysis selectivity game. Simon Freakley, Gemma Brett and Ewa Nowicka came up with a dolls’ house mock-up of greywater treatment, which could use gold catalysis to produce hydrogen peroxide as a cleaning agent, allowing domestic water to be recycled within the home. Dayna Mason helped train us all in the art of making the chemical concepts accessible and fun. In the future we hope to work further with her to develop some parts of the exhibit into on-going outreach activities.
We were generously sponsored by Cardiff University, the Faraday division of the Royal Society of Chemistry and the Catalysis Hub. Feedback from all visitors was very positive and the team hopes the exhibit will have made a real impact in raising the profile of catalysis, the CCI, the School of Chemistry and Cardiff University.