I like talking about my work: to students, to the general public and to the leaders of my field.
Me and my work
Plastics lightbulbs? TOPLESS Science???Read more
Currently I am a Teaching Fellow which means during the university term-time I teach and during the vacations I do research.
I work with a type of polymer (yes,like a plastic) that emits light when you put a current across it (yes, like a lightbulb). For the last couple of years I have worked on project T.O.P.L.E.S.S. (really!) The acronymn stands for Thin Organic Polymer Light Emitting Solid Surfaces. Light emitting polymers are •cheap •light •flexible and •non-toxic (unless you eat a lot & I mean kilos!). The devices we make with them are also more efficient than ordinary light bulbs, so we can make cheaper, smaller, flexible, more efficient lighting. Our aim is to make a white light-emitting polymer that could be used instead of light bulbs.
This is the TOPLESS desk lamp that we made in September! Check out the youtube video to see how thin and bright it is. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BVsL9kMNRds
With the right electronics, we can also use the same technology as flexible displays….(TVs, mobiles etc). This image isn’t one of ours, it’s by Universal Display Corporation and the display will be in military handsets soon and your phones later.
During term time here in Durham, I work with the next generation of physicists. I teach them how to design and carry out their own experiments and then tutor them in maths and physics. I think we have lots of fun because sometimes I get complaints about the noise.
My Typical Day
Playing in the lab…but tea-times are 11am and 4pmRead more
My day starts by putting on my uniform: of jeans and a shirt for the lab or a suit if I’m teaching! I usually have full days of either activity. For example, I teach all Monday but on Wednesday I’m free to do my own research.
I’m a spectroscopist and I try to work out how the colour of light is related to a light emitting polymer. As you may have read above, I am working on a new set of materials that emit white light. I have to work closely with chemists and often in a chemistry lab, so I wear jeans under my lab coat just in case I spill something nasty! I then take the materials to our clean room where I get dressed up like a tellytubby (photo here soon!). This is where I make thin films of polymer and my collegues make light emitting devices. The polymer films I make then are rigorously tested to find out their colour (how much blue, how much green etc) and their efficiency.
The colour of light can change as a result of changing the structure of the molecule (by changing the atoms or even the position of atoms in a molecule) or its surroundings (by changing the solvent or fixing it in an alignment) . Below is an example of a laser dye (DCM2) that was put into different solutions of Alq3 (Aluminium complex). As you can see in the picture below, the glass slides change from green to red as the amount of Aluminium is decreased.
After I have done my tests I usually talk with the chemists again to see if we can develop our white-light emitters further. In fact, recently we have discovered that we can get really high efficiency by adding a simple element into our molecules. We are now testing the theory that we get high efficiencies everytime we add the element. *(I can’t tell you what it is, because it’s a secret!)
Things don’t always go to plan and my day doesn’t follow a strict plan. Sometimes I have to fix equipment, sometimes I have to design new experiments to investigate a different property of the polymer. But I will always have a tea-break. It’s during this “down-time” I read my emails, catch up on the papers and often, have a brilliant idea about why molecules behave the way they do.
What I'd do with the money
Go on holiday (to local schools) with the Spectroscopy in a Suitcase.Read more
Spectroscopy is a very useful tool that links physics and chemistry. By working with the chemists I can tell them how to develop their work further. It is also a tool that can be used to find out the elemental composition of drugs and other compounds.
It’s also a really easy technique to try at school. You can do it with a prism and a light white source and a filter. (more later).
My friends in chemistry have come up with an absolutely brilliant pice of kit that we take into schools. It’s called the Spectroscopy in a Suitcase and it’s pupil proof! The kit contains some quite expensive, but also very robust(!) pieces of equipment that pupils can use to carry out hands on activities. On the serious side, it fits in well with GCSE and A-Level chemistry, physics and biology. On the fun side you can see if your teacher’s hands glow, learn why sunsets are red and get to play around with optic fibres. Check this site out for more info. http://www.dur.ac.uk/andrew.beeby/SinaS_home.htm.
We have 6 kits, currently located in the North East of England AND we lend them and our demonstrators to school for free. If I won the £500 I would be able to bring the kits to different schools in a wider area (North West, Cumbria, etc) and show them all how to be spectroscopists.
For those of you in the North East, please, please, please get your teachers to contact me and we’ll see if we can get a visit arranged!
How would you describe yourself in 3 words?
Blonde. Adventurous. Nosy.
Who is your favourite singer or band?
Loving Lady GaGa at the moment.
What is the most fun thing you've done?
It’s a difficult choice between Scuba Diving on Ship Wrecks and Skiing the Olympic Run in Canada!
If you had 3 wishes for yourself what would they be? - be honest!
Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow
What did you want to be after you left school?
Taller and less spotty. (one came true – and I have lots, and lots of high-heeled shoes).
Were you ever in trouble in at school?
Nooooo…except for that time when I blew up a rather messy experiment.
What's the best thing you've done as a scientist?
Been thanked by the “Newton” of my field for the research that I have done – WOW!
Tell us a joke.