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The talks were given by: Jamie Gallagher whose topic was ‘The Quantum Rainbow’; Saiful Islam who spoke about ‘New Materials for Green Energy’; Kit Chapman on ‘Chemistry in Conflict’; Jess Wade on ‘How Chiral Materials Will Change the World’; and finally, Andrea Sella on ‘Terra Rara – The Unknown Elemental Sea’.
The first talk on ‘The Quantum Rainbow’ was particularly interesting as Gallagher went into detail on the topic of colour, which many of us take for granted. For example, he gave an explanation as to why rubies are red, despite pure aluminium oxide being colourless and clear, which brought in a range of topics such as molecular structure and spectra. He explained that in rubies, a few aluminium ions are replaced by chromium ions, which are larger in size, resulting in the aluminium oxide’s normally regular crystal lattice, becoming distorted. This distortion then results in the crystal absorbing different wavelengths of light, causing it to start to absorb green and blue light, leaving reflected or transmitted red light to be seen by your eyes.
The third speaker, Kit Chapman, presented a very different area within chemistry. He talked about the controversial Scientist Fritz Haber who is infamous due to his invention of chemical warfare but also an important chemist in inventing the Haber-Bosch process. This process converts hydrogen and nitrogen to ammonia making fertiliser widely available and is perhaps one of the most important industrial chemical reactions ever developed. Additionally, Chapman commented upon the surprising fact that mustard gas can act as a chemotherapeutic agent, which reduced soldiers’ (who had been exposed to the chemical) risk of developing cancer.
Overall, it was a great day and all the speakers provided insight into fascinating topics that I am sure many of the VII will want to look into in the future.