Centre for Sustainable Chemical Technologies

Energy Factory at Cheltenham Science Festival 2016

Wed Jun 29 11:56:00 BST 2016

20160629-cheltenhamOn 11 and 12 June, students from the CSCT showcased the best of their Public Engagement activities at Cheltenham Science Festival - one of the foremost science festivals in the UK that offers jam-packed days of debate, discovery, experiments, enjoyment and hands-on fun, encouraging members of the public to take a fresh look at the world around them. Our stand called The Energy Factory aimed to enthuse and inspire people in the research developments around the theme of energy and sustainability.

The most popular activity with ages 12 and above was the Bath Bike Battery. “How long do you think you’ll need to cycle for to power your house?” – a hook question that instantly grabbed the children’s attention. After some guesses, the children learned how mechanical energy of the rotation converts into electrical energy and figured that if an average house consumes 400kW, they'll need to cycle for about 60 hours. The children then engaged in the most fun part where they had a go at lighting a light bulb by peddling for about 30 seconds.

Attendees between ages 12 and 30 found the ultimate  Battle of the Batteries most exciting. The war was between fruit batteries and mud batteries. Members of the public tested the two to see which one makes the better battery! Mud battery, in other words 'microbial fuel cell', seemed to win every time; It converts chemical energy to electrical energy by the action of microorganisms. At the CSCT, researchers are using microbial fuel cells to generate electricity from urine or tomatoes and also to detect water pollutants.

How to make your own Rocket activity won hearts of ages 30 and above. The attendees were given a box of orange peel to think of something useful to do with them. They learned that orange peel contains sugars and chemicals which can be used to make ethanol. Bio-ethanol rockets encouraged them to think of novel ways of producing biofuels from waste. “So how much orange peel would you need to get to the moon?” Our researchers explained, “You need about 750 tonnes of fuel to get to the moon. It would take 14,000 tonnes of orange peel to produce this amount of fuel, which equates to 560,000,000 oranges.”

In addition to the hands-on activities, people were also encouraged to vote for their favourite kind of energy. Here were the results:

  • Solar: 207
  • Fossil Fuels: 116
  • Hydrogen: 63
  • Biomass: 59
  • Nuclear: 41

The overall feedback we received was extremely positive; 100% of those who engaged with us said they learned something new. Comments such as “I didn’t know you could get electricity from bugs”, “ It was so much fun”, “Excellent” and just the amazed looks on their faces, made all the hard work worthwhile! 

See more photos from the event.

For more information, please contact:

Rubina Kalra
Digital Communications Co-ordinator
Centre for Sustainable Chemical Technologies 

e-mail: R.Kalra@bath.ac.uk
Tel: 01225 385827