Discovery, invention and innovation in university research is meeting past, present and future challenges right on your doorstep. Our experts here at the University of Bath study key societal issues every day, and use the results of their research to influence public policy, inform industry, and ultimately to shape our future.
Universities Week is an opportunity for the public to learn more about the type of research carried out within universities, and how it has an impact on their lives.
Here at the University of Bath we welcome your questions about our research, and aim to share details from a selection of our current projects with you.
The stories highlighted below represents only a small snapshot of the many projects that researchers from Bath are currently involved in, each impacting on policy, industry and society - now and in the future.
Helping the blind see
The challenge: According to the World Health Organization, around 40 million people in the world are blind, while another 250 million have some form of visual impairment. And age-related disorders, such glaucoma and diabetes mean these numbers are on the rise in the ageing populations of the UK, Europe and other countries.
The research: Developing new solutions that allow those individuals to interact with sighted people, and the sighted world. Our researchers are contributing towards these solutions by studying blind people to gain insights into how becoming blind affects the way we perceive, and think about, the world, and the way a person’s other senses are able to gather information about the world.
The impact: A new sensory substitution device, called the vOICe, revolutionises the way blind people use sounds to build an image in their minds of the things around them. Tests carried out at Bath using the device found that, even without any training, the best performances exceeded the level of visual performance of the current invasive technique for vision restoration, such as stem cell implants and retinal prostheses.
Creating next-generation sun protection
The challenge: While many suncreams provide good protection against the sun’s UVB rays, the chief cause of skin reddening and sunburn, they provide less protection against more prevalent UVA rays. Scientists believe this may be one of the reasons why skin cancer incidence rates are increasing worldwide.
The research: Our researchers have created an innovative ingredient which when applied in a suncream can act as a UVA filter and provide fuller protection against skin damage.
The impact: The new compounds that have been created by our researchers provide a highly effective means of protection against both UVA- and UVB-induced skin damage and associated skin cancer, without inducing toxicity in cells. These compounds will be applied as a ‘pro-drug’ to the skin as part of a suncream, however unlike normal suncreams, this next-generation cream will be activated by sunlight at the right time and in the right place to provide protection.
Fuelling the future
The challenge: Traditional solar cells are produced from crystalline silicon, which use a lot of energy to make. There are efficient alternatives to silicon, but these materials are scarce. And if the world is going to increase its use of solar energy then we need to find more easily sourced alternatives.
The research: Our researchers are looking to develop new, more sustainable materials that could make solar power a more viable technology worldwide. They are also looking at novel types of solar cells, particularly ones which can be made very light and flexible, unlike conventional silicon cells, which have to be protected by glass plates - making them fragile and heavy.
The impact: This research contributes towards making solar power a more viable technology worldwide – encouraging the use of renewable energy and mitigating against the effects of climate change. There are already companies making use of the results from this research project, and as studies develop this is likely to increase, resulting in greater efficiency of the technology and employment in the sector.
Learn about our research
If you have questions about these projects or any of our research, please do get in touch with us - either by tweeting us at @UniofBath or through our Facebook page. Alternatively, you can find out more about our research through our websiteor can contact us by email.
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