Scientists team-up with designers at new exhibition

Mad Hatter’s nuclear themed tea party

Mad Hatter’s nuclear themed tea party

Leading scientists at the University of Sheffield have used artistic flair to showcase the impact of future scientific developments, as part of a pioneering new exhibition in London, which kicked-off yesterday (Monday 15 March 2010.

In a groundbreaking new partnership, a group of leading science researchers from the University collaborated with a designer from the Royal College of Art, in a bid to visualise the potential impact of scientific developments. The results are being showcased in the IMPACT! exhibition at the Royal College of Art between 16 and 21 March 2010, which offers a powerful insight into how today´s research might transform people´s experience of the world.

Taking the form of a `Mad Hatter´s tea party,´ the display features placemats mapping sites of potential new nuclear reactors, upon which dinner plates showcase quirky benefits of nuclear power. These include examples such as using waste heat from nuclear plants to produce the optimum climatic temperature for a local alligator farm, or to heat swimming pools in the back gardens of local residents. The aim is to stimulate thinking as to how new nuclear stations can benefit the host community.

The table display also features a Vaseline glass cake stand – which contains Uranium to enable it to glow under a UV light -upon which there is a selection of yellow cakes. The cakes are high in naturally occurring radioactivity due to the fact they contain Brazil nuts and bananas. A Geiger counter will be displaying the reading for the sweet treats, with the aim of demonstrating that radioactivity is all around and not something to fear - it is simply a case of managing risks.

The display was the brainchild of artist Zoe Papadopoulou who worked with Dr Hyatt and the students at the University. Using knowledge drawn from the University´s latest research, it is hoped the exhibit offers scenarios of how science might influence the future and will educate people about the positive aspects of expanding nuclear projects, including boosting economic growth and cutting down carbon emissions.

The IMPACT! exhibition is the first collaboration of its kind between the UK´s main funding agency for science and engineering – the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), the National Endowment for Science, Technology and the Arts (NESTA) and the Royal College of Art. The 6.3M Nuclear FiRST Doctoral Training Centre, a joint venture between the Universities of Sheffield and Manchester, is one of only 15 EPSRC-funded research projects across the UK to be chosen to appear in the exhibition. The team from the University of Sheffield, which is being led by Dr Neil Hyatt, Reader in Nuclear Materials in the Department of Engineering Materials, includes 11 PhD students.

The exhibition comes just three months after Business Secretary Lord Mandelson announced a 25 million Nuclear Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre (NAMRC) to be based in South Yorkshire alongside the University´s award-winning Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre (AMRC). The NAMRC will be a centre of excellence for research and development of advanced manufacturing technologies that will deliver step change, lower cost, high-integrity components to the UK nuclear industry.

Dr Neil Hyatt from the Department of Engineering Materials at the University of Sheffield, said: "It has been fascinating to work with Zoe on this project – her exhibit has engaged local communities in thinking about the benefits of new nuclear power stations and the role of our DTC in supporting safe and secure nuclear power as a source of low carbon energy."

Professor Lord Robert Winston, a professor of Science and Society and Emeritus Professor of Fertility Studies at Imperial College launched the exhibition. He said: "Through the eyes of design, this project offers a fresh and creative insight into how the ideas that scientists and engineers are working on today might transform our quality of life and tackle the challenges we face in the 21st century in areas like engineering healthcare, transport, digital communications and the creative industries. It also offers a reminder that many of the conveniences and comforts of daily life have their origin in UK scientific endeavour, and a fascinating exploration into possible relationships between science and society in the future."