Nuclear fusion focus for schools’ Christmas Physics lecture
Swansea University’s Physics Department will host the annual Institute of Physics (IOP) 2010 Schools and Colleges Christmas Lecture on Tuesday, December 7, in the Taliesin Theatre, Taliesin Arts Centre.
More than 300 pupils aged 14 to 16 from schools in Cardiff, Newport, Swansea and West Wales will attend the event, which will explain how scientists working on nuclear fusion hope to replicate the behaviour of the Sun on Earth, to produce a plentiful and environmentally friendly energy source.
The Institute of Physics’ (IOP) Dr Melanie Windridge, who has a PhD in plasma physics from Imperial College London and has appeared on BBC One’s Bang Goes the Theory and National Geographic’s Channel’s Mad Labs, will give this year’s lecture and share her passion for nuclear fusion.
The lecture will begin by explaining why fusion energy, which doesn’t emit greenhouse gases or create long-lived radioactive waste, could be the solution to the world’s energy crisis.
Dr Windridge said: “Fusion is the ultimate energy source – clean, green and safe with almost unlimited fuels. One kilogramme of fusion fuel releases the same amount of energy as 10 million kilogrammes of fossil fuel.
“Fusion has the potential to satisfy all our energy needs without resource problems, greenhouse gases or long-lived radioactive waste.”
Using a plasma ball, fluorescent lighting, and a basketball, Dr Windridge will explain why nuclear fusion – which involves fusing different types of hydrogen atoms spinning as plasma around a tokamak (a doughnut-shaped vessel) at temperatures and energies hotter and more vibrant than the Sun’s – poses one of the greatest scientific and engineering challenges of our age.
She will explain the challenges that scientists and engineers face, from building materials able to withstand temperatures of more than 100 million ºC, to designing robots ready to enter radioactive tokamaks and undertake any necessary repairs.
She hopes to inspire thousands of students across the UK to join her in the physics-based fight to overcome some of the world’s most pressing concerns.
Dr Windridge added: “Communicating nuclear fusion to young people is so important because sharing our knowledge is what leads to progress. New people come in with fresh ideas.
“The world is facing some incredible challenges so there is plenty of stimulation and excitement for young people coming into the field.”
Dr Bernard Richardson from Cardiff University’s School of Physics and Astronomy will also be contributing to this year’s event.
Dr Richardson will give a talk about how our ears hear sounds. Answering questions such as “What’s the quietest sound we can hear?” and “What’s the highest sound we can hear?” his talk will include some aural illusions, which will challenge the audience to wonder if they really can believe what they hear.
Dr Chris Allton, Treasurer of the IOP in Wales and Reader in Physics at Swansea University added: “This type of hands-on event is wonderful for firing pupils’ imagination and developing interest in Physics at a crucial stage in their education.
“Swansea Physics Department is again delighted to be involved in this joint annual initiative with the IOP.”
This news item has been posted by Katy Drane, Swansea University Public Relations Office, Tel: 01792 295050 or email email@example.com .