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Wooden bathrooms, golden spoons and other tales of materials in society

Clare SRyan15 March 2013

This morning, crawling out of my bed in icy south London my first post-sleep experience was of a chilly, tiled bathroom.

Sullenly brushing my teeth with my feet on the cold floor, new questions popped into my head. Are cold tiles really the best material to clad the bathroom in? Who made these tiles in the first place? What are they made of?

Professir Mark Miodownik

Professor Mark Miodownik

Before attending Professor Mark Miodownik’s Lunch Hour Lecture ‘Stuff matters’ these were not questions that routinely entered my head – the appearance of my first coffee was a much more pressing matter.

But Mark’s view of the world is perhaps different to most people’s, and it probably explains why he is the UCL Professor of Materials & Society (note the ‘society’ part) and we are not.

Materials and Society
If you look around you now you will see a lot of materials that once started out as rocks, sludge and various non-identifiable living things. Take, for example, the plastic of your keyboard, the water glass on your table, the concrete on the pavement outside or a stainless steel fork that you ate your lunch with (perhaps that last one’s just me). (more…)

Hydrogen fuel cell vs. diesel generators at the Green Man Festival

newseditor24 August 2012

Written by Mithila Manage, Graduate Research Engineer (UCL Chemical Engineering)

Torrential rain and knee deep mud couldn’t keep us away from a weekend of fun, music and spreading the word about our hydrogen fuel cell!

Off we went with our wellies at the ready to the Green Man Festival in Wales (17-19 August) to provide clean power to the Omni-Tent in Einstein’s Garden. Though I’m willing to bet Einstein probably wouldn’t have come up with something as great as this – the Garden aims to bring science to the masses and this year had an energy theme sponsored by the RCUK Energy programme.

Design of the hybrid polymer electrolyte fuel cell system has been led by Gordon Murray Design in collaboration with researchers from the UCL Chemical Engineering, Imperial College London and BOC. It has the ability to produce a whopping 8 kW of power; more than enough to provide clean, green and efficient power for the stage, sound and lighting in the Omni-Tent, which brought more science-themed fun to the festival crowd all weekend.

But, let’s face it, as much as I get excited about it and as great as it is for science and engineering, the magic of the fuel cell is still hidden away in a red box. That’s why we designed a game that made the festival goers a part of it. So much so, in fact, that they came out of it feeling like the hydrogen molecule itself! Welcome to the hydrogen relay.

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One banana, two banana…measuring carbon footprints with Banana Theory

newseditor1 June 2012

Jamie Bull, PhD student in UCL Engineering

On 21 May, a group of EngD students from UCL and MA students from Chelsea College of Art launched an art installation in the parade ground of Chelsea College.

EngD researchers from the Urban Sustainability and Resilience centre had spent time developing ideas for communicating their research to a wider audience through the medium of an art installation.

The winning team came up with Banana Theory, the idea of using the seemingly omnipresent QR codes as a kind of carbon barcode for products. This was tied in with the book, How Bad are Bananas? which uses the humble banana as a unit of carbon. A box of QR-labelled bananas was then on hand at the launch event to be handed out to the audience.

The main part of the art installation, though, is a giant QR code cut into the turf in the centre of the parade ground.

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UCL Entrepreneurship Guest Lecture 2011/12: Romain Eude, CTO, my-wardrobe.com

23 November 2011

The sixth lecture of this series took place on 17 November. UCL Classics Student Carolina Mostert summarises the talk below.

This week’s guest lecture was held by Romain Eude, CTO of my-wardrobe.com. Romain lived for many years in Lille, France, where he completed a Master’s degree with thesis in IA from ICAM. Later on, his studies led him to move abroad to Pennsylvania for a Marketing course at Temple University.

Right at the start, we learnt two important things about Romain: firstly, that he “is obsessed with software”, and secondly that “creating something from nothing” is his greatest love. The lecture began with a very short video, an excerpt from Shrek, the children’s movie about the giant green ogre.

Referring to this brief video, Romain worded the most important quote of his lecture: just like Shrek the ogre, “entrepreneurs are like onions”. In fact, Romain believes there are common themes to all entrepreneurs that keep coming up throughout their work whatever they do. He calls these common themes the “layers” of entrepreneurs.

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