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Nanotechnology and photonics research inspires the public

Cleanroom-ready! Children dress up in their own 'bunnysuits'
Cleanroom-ready! Children dress up in their own 'bunnysuits'

The University of Southampton opened its doors on Saturday to thousands of people for its biggest outreach event of the year, Science and Engineering Festival 2016, part of British Science Week. Amongst the huge range of activities, tours and shows on offer was the opportunity to see inside the state-of-the-art Zepler Institute Cleanroom Complex, home to the best set of nanoelectronics and photonics fabrication capabilities in the UK.

Some 300 people visited the cleanrooms and were treated to tours from a team of Zepler Institute researchers, led by Dr James Gates, a senior research fellow in the Planar Optical Materials group. Visitors also had the opportunity to learn about cleanroom fabrication processes through assembling their own silicon chip key rings.

Younger children and families were attracted to a range of activities run by the Nano Outreach and Optoelectronics Research Centre’s Lightwave teams. Over 250 children participated in learning about nanofabrication, through dressing up in cleanroom ‘bunnysuits’ and making their own microfluidic jelly chips, and exploring the scientific principles of optics with hands-on experiments involving mirrors, prisms and even laser modulation.

‘Demonstrations of ray optics were particularly popular’ said Nathan Soper from the Lightwave team. ‘Over one hundred people went away with diffraction gratings produced to celebrate the centennial year of the Optical Society (OSA), which has a Student Chapter at the University. From the smiles on the children’s faces it’s fair to say the day was profitable for everyone involved.’

Dr Katrina Morgan who, with Dr Despina Moschou, leads the Nano Outreach team also commented:

‘Days like the Science and Engineering Festival are vitally important for outreach. They enable the University to not only engage young minds but to inform parents of all the possibilities in their children’s future.

‘The day was a resounding success. Families were queuing out of the door, waiting for their chance to dress up like a cleanroom scientist - both children and parents alike! My highlight of the day was when a mother exclaimed her joy at seeing such a high number of women researchers running the event, working in engineering.’

Members of the public will soon have another opportunity to discover more about photonics and electronics research as Zepler Institute scientists head out into the city for the Pint of Science Festival. This annual event brings the latest scientific research to pubs, with venues across Southampton taking part from 23-25 May 2016. For more information on forthcoming public engagement events, visit the Public Engagement with Research website.

Follow the links here for more information on the Nanoelectronics and Nanotechnology Group and Lightwave Outreach.

Posted by rc2c12@sot on 17 Mar 2016.