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Professor Matthew Davidson
Professor Matthew Davidson

Press Release - 20 October 2006

The Queen will see University's green chemistry exhibit

An exhibit by the University of Bath will be seen by the Queen during a Science Day at Buckingham Palace organised as part of her 80th birthday celebrations.

The Department of Chemistry’s Power to the People: the Molecular Revolution in Sustainable Energy exhibit is one of 12 by academic research groups in the UK on show during the event on Tuesday 24 October.

Researchers from the Department will explain to schoolchildren, teachers and the Queen their work on the science behind the next generation of technologies, which it is hoped will lead to clean and sustainable replacements for fossil fuels.

Three research groups in the Department are working on biodiesel catalysts, fuel cell materials and solar cells as possible answers to the problems of expensive and dwindling energy supplies and environmental pollution.

The exhibit proved popular when it was first shown at two Summer Science Exhibitions hosted by the Royal Society in July and September. Visitors to the exhibit were able to see the team make solar cells, try their hand at some computer aided chemistry and examine molecular models close up.

“It is an enormous privilege to have been chosen to exhibit our work at this unique event," said Professor Matthew Davidson, the exhibit organiser. “We feel it is a reflection not just on the quality of the exhibit itself, but the importance of the research being carried out at Bath that lies behind it.

“The technologies we talk about in the exhibit have enormous potential - the sun provides the earth with more energy in an hour than the global fossil energy consumption in a year – we just need to harness it.”

Current green transport fuels, made from vegetable oil, are expensive to produce. Professor Davidson’s team are developing new catalysts to enable biodiesel to be made more cheaply and efficiently from unrefined oils, such as chip fat, as a short-term replacement for fossil fuels.

Professor Saiful Islam, also from the Department of Chemistry, and his team are using state-of-the-art computer modelling tools to develop new materials for fuel cells for homes and transport. Fuel cells are set to become an increasingly important source of clean energy in the medium term.

A research team led by Professor Laurie Peter is working on the long-term goal of harnessing the sun’s power directly. They hope to improve the efficiency and stability of new types of solar cell to convert sunlight into electrical power at a substantially lower cost than current silicon-based solar cells.

The Science Day marks the close relationship between science and royalty in Britain. The royal family has a long history of encouraging the sciences, going back to the granting of a royal charter to the Royal Society in 1662 by King Charles II.

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