Lighting up RAMM – XM2 PGRs in the Royal Albert Memorial Museum

On Saturday 21st July 2018 the CDT in Metamaterials PGRs set out to inspire the public in Exeter’s Royal Albert Memorial Museum (RAMM). They joined forces with research colleagues from the University’s physics and engineering departments and an Irish artist to showcase interactive experiments, demonstrations and craft activities.

Thanks to all of them for sharing their time and passion, to RAMM for hosting the researchers, and very special thanks to XM² PGR Lauren Barr who coordinated the event.

Throughout the day around 150 visitors stopped by to try the experiments and learn a little about the physics behind the wonderful artefacts in the museum. One mother commented,

It’s been eye-opening & fun! We will continue to explore colour & light throughout the school holidays. Thanks for inspiring us

and many have requested more and different activities for next year. The PGRs are members of the Exeter Optics and Photonics Society

The stands offered a wide range of opportunities for visitors young and old:

  • Testing an oscilloscope and microphone, along with a few other noisy experiments. This piece of equipment allows us to see the sound waves we make when we talk, sing or bang on the drums. (Simon Baber, Erick Burgos)
  • Experiments to test the conductivity and magnetism of different materials, including lab samples made of graphene – just a single layer of carbon atoms, and extremely interesting as it is conductive, flexible and transparent. (William Ferguson & Jake Mehew)
  • Various iridescent butterflies, beetles and birds and put them next to a microscope used to see the fine structure of the wings and scales. The bright colours of these animals are really created by the structures, and without these they would be a dull brown. Because of this, they also have some unusual features when we look at them from different angles and through different filters. (Henry Fernandez, Erick Burgos)

 “I’ve been hundreds of times in this museum and I never knew why some animals show different colours depending on which position you’re looking at them.

  • Cleverly camouflaged animals (a good example of how wildlife uses colour to hide) and some cleverly hidden jelly spheres (a good example of how scientists work hard to hide things too!) (Ioannis Leontis)
  • A more science-based approach to colour mixing with red, green and blue LEDs which enabled the visitors to add the light from these LEDs to make all the colours of the rainbow, the same way our TVs and phone screens do. (Kishan Menghrajani)
  • Showing off some fluorescent materials and bugs that glow when UV light shines on them. Useful if you have to find a scorpion on the dark! (Kieran Walsh)
  • Arrays of optical illusions to show how our eyes can play tricks when we look at different colours and how famous artists from the past made use of these tricks when they painted some of their most famous work, like Georges Seurat and Claude Monet. (Tommy Barr)
  • Micrscopy of the fine structure of butterfly wings, minerals and paints (Prince Khatri)
  • How to make spectrometers out of cardboard and a CD. These little boxes separate light into different colours, making every sky full of rainbows, and giving  a glimpse at what’s inside different lightbulbs. (Dr Adolfo de Sanctis, Erick Burgos)

The event received financial support from the EPSRC CDT in Metamaterials, OSA and SPIE.

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