Science -- Your Future, Scotland's Future
SCI-FUN shows -- Hot Topics in Research
SCI-FUN shows -- The Senses
SCI-FUN shows -- Stem Cells
SCI-FUN shows -- Climate Change
SCI-FUN shows -- Survival: ancient senses in a modern world
SCI-FUN shows -- To be announced
SCI-FUN shows -- Subject Choice
Climate Change
The Hot Topics show is intended to introduce pupils to some of the current research that is underway at a University such as Edinburgh.

There are thousands of different projects going on, in all of the different departments in the University, across all of the sciences, technology, maths and computing. There's enough time in the show to (briefly) tell pupils about three or four such projects, and we hope to change these throughout the year, keeping the show (and our presenters) fresh.

We’re using Edinburgh as our example, because of course that’s what we’re familiar with, but the same kind of stories could be told for all of the other Universities in Britain, where new discoveries are made, which may have an impact on all of our lives. And perhaps some of our audience will take part in these discoveries in the future.

Note that, of course, each of the topics listed below is covered for only five or so minutes: we can only introduce pupils to the subject, and guide them to the links presented below, for further information.

Hot topics in research -- the LHC
Carbon capture and storage

From the Edinburgh Centre on Climate Change:

For more than three centuries we have relied on fossil fuels to build a complex technological society, supporting billions of lives with industry that our ancestors could not even dream of.

For three centuries we have been pumping carbon dioxide into the atmosphere at an increasing rate. The unintended consequences of this have only recently become clear: our planet is warming, and if we carry on as we have for the past three centuries we are likely to cause rapid global environmental change, which may be catastrophic for human societies.

[Our Climate Change show looks into the problem in greater detail.]

As described in our research presentation, CO2 release into the atmosphere and ocean is one of our great environmental problems. Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) could form a significant part of future remedies.

The diagram below (and those later on this page) are made available for you to download. (Click on each image thumbnail for a larger version.)

There is a natural carbon cycle in the environment, a simplified model of which is described in the diagram opposite. It shows how carbon is released by a variety of methods into the atmosphere in the form of CO2, and is then reabsorbed into the oceans or into plant matter (to be locked up as sediments or fossil fuels). The great concern today is that humans are accelerating the release of CO2 into the atmosphere, beyond the capacity of natural systems to reabsorb the gas. A simplified carbon cycle

In collaboration with the School of Engineering and the Scottish Centre for Carbon Storage, and funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), the FUSION outreach group has designed and built an interactive CCS model (CCSI), which demonstrates the CCS chain from removal of CO2 to injection. The unit is being taken to schools throughout Scotland as part of the research presentation.

The Carbon Capture and Storage Interactive
FLV (large)
FLV (small)

The links above take you to a short film clip (rendered in a variety of formats), summarising the key stages of the Interactive's operation. (We are currently making a new series of films, which will go into more detail on each section of the CCSI.)

The following diagrams, some of which feature in the research show, may be useful in understanding the basic aspects of CCS.

This is a basic schematic, showing the steps in CO2 generation, capture and storage. Methane gas is produced from offshore gas fields, and is brought onshore by pipeline. Using existing oil-refinery technology, the gas is 'reformed' into hydrogen and CO2. The CO2 is then separated by a newly-designed membrane, and sent offshore, using a corrosion-resistant pipeline. The CO2 goes to an oilfield and is stored several kilometres below sea level, instead of being vented into the atmosphere from the power station.
The basic stages of carbon capture and storage
One of the most common public misunderstandings about the storage of captured CO2 in old oil wells (under the North Sea, for example), is that the gas is injected into an underground cavern, left after the oil is extracted. In fact, the gas is injected into a layer of sandstone, and occupies the spaces between the grains of rock, as can be seen here (and in the other diagrams).
Injecting CO2 into depleted oil/gas reservoirs
This is another diagram showing the stages of carbon capture and storage, this time on a land-based site. (This is a PDF file, showing each step in a separate image.)
Storing CO2 underground
Once collected, CO2 would be transported to depleted oil fields in the North Sea. The PDF file opposite shows a map of a proposed network of pipelines, which would draw CO2 from the major carbon production centres in Europe. A planned roll-out of CO2 storage pipelines in the North Sea

Research Show Links
Carbon capture and storage
The British Geological Survey webpage, introducing the concepts behind CCS. (Their YouTube video is described in a link below.) BGS educational web page for CCS
The Scottish Centre for Carbon Storage, a group of researchers in the field of CCS. This link takes you to the Education and Media centre, which includes information on CCS problems and possible solutions. Images and video clips are available for download. SCCS – education
Carbon Capture Interactive: a brief description of the CCS project (soon to be updated on our own website) from the School of Engineering at the University of Edinburgh CCSI overview

UK Carbon Capture and Storage Community
The link takes you to a page with some clear descriptions of the problems, solutions and issues surrounding CCS, including diagrams that can be downloaded for educational use.

UK CCSC : overview
The CO2 capture project: "an award-winning partnership of seven major energy companies working to advance the CCS technologies that will underpin the deployment of industrial-scale CO2 capture and storage."
This link points to the media and resources section of the website, for those who are interested in more technical information.
The CO2 capture project
CCS film clips
A five-minute YouTube film, introducing CCS, by the British Geological Society, with some nice animations. BGS video on CCS
A video clip (8:30) produced by the US National Energy Technology Laboratory, explaining the basics of greenhouse warming and CCS. NETL CCS video clip
Another US video (12:50) by the Department of Energy, with some interesting animations. You may find that only the first couple of minutes is useful, however. US Dept. of Energy film
A video produced in Alberta (US), which describes the state's local CCS projects. The computer graphics are fun, and look like they were taken from SIM-CCS..... Alberta CCS film
Atticus Digital's 3D animation video for the Global CCS Institute. Some very nice high-resolution CCS animations. Atticus Digital animations
Hot topics in research -- the LHC Smidge
The midge forecast map for Scotland
A midge forecast map for Scotland, on 24 September 2010. (Click for a larger version.)
It's important for pupils to realise that research is not only carried out within the University (or between collaborating groups), but that companies can be started, on the basis of research work that's been carried out, or using the expertise of leaders in a particular field. Our society benefits when new businesses are started in this way: they are often the starting point for future areas of employment.

One example of this is Advanced Pest solutions, founded in 2004 by Dr Alison Blackwell, an internationally-recognised authority on biting insect biology, "to address pest- and disease issues in a number of key market sectors, including: leisure and tourism; livestock farming; agricultural pathogen and pest control" [company website]

    One of the areas in which APS is active is in the development of new methods of repelling insects, including the Scottish midge, something with which many of us are all too familiar, having taken holidays in the North-west of Scotland at the wrong time of year...

    As well as marketing new forms of repellent sprays, APS operates the Scottish Midge Forecast, which keeps track of the midge population across the country. Find out more about the company, and in the forecast, at the links below.

    Research Show Links
    This link takes you to the home page for Advanced Pest Solutions, Dr Blackwell's company. Advanced Pest Solutions
    This is the home page for the Scottish Midge Forecast, which (in season) gives you a day-to-day account of midge counts across the country. The site is idle in the winter (no midges...) Midge forecast map
    Hot topics in research -- the LHC
    The Large Hadron Collider
    Understanding the Universe:
    a journey to the heart of matter
    The LHC, running on the PP4SS simulator
    The LHC, running LIVE, across the net
    Huge detectors, weighing thousands of tonnes, built with the precision of a watch; super-conducting electromagnets requiring the electricity supply of a small town to create titanic magnetic fields, bending near-light-speed particles into circular paths, then focusing them precisely to collide with such force that brand new particles – not seen since the Big Bang – are created from pure energy; vacuum fields as good as the vacuum of near-space; a world-wide network of computer centres to process the vast amounts of data from particle collisions...

    …welcome to CERN, the European Organisation for Nuclear Research, and the world’s largest particle physics centre, where thousands of scientists and engineers from eighty-five countries work together to study the building blocks of matter and the forces that hold them together.

    Over the years, CERN has created a unique set of interlinked accelerators. These complex machines accelerate beams of particles, and let them collide to create high-energy conditions similar to those during the first instants of the Universe.

    The higher energies available to the LHC and its detectors will allow scientists to investigate new properties of matter. In particular, it may be possible to create (and then detect) the particle which is believed to give all other particles their mass, the Higgs Boson.

    Another goal is to better understand why our universe is dominated by matter: where has all the antimatter gone? One detector in particular – LHCb – is intended to carry out studies into this area, and the University of Edinburgh is part of the investigating team.

    Research Show Links
    The Large Hadron Collider
    This is one of the pages that show information on the LHC as it is actually running. The following link takes you to a website that links lots of display pages together...
    [tip: if you run Firefox, and use the AdBlock plugin, it's a good idea to block the top image on this page (and all the others): it takes ages to load, each time, and is no more than eye candy.]
    Live LHC page: multiple displays
    This is the central portal for much of the online LHC displays. From here, you can access webcams, forums, LHC logs, and all of the detector display pages, as well as information on future plans for the collider. There are hundreds of links. LHC Portal
    An example of one of the forum sections: this one concerns the accelerator itself. LHC Forum: accelerator
    This link runs a Java applet, showing you the computing power used across the world, on the Large Hadron Collider Computing Grid. (You'll need a fast machine to run this.) LHG
    An example of a research group's website: The LHCb research team at the University of Edinburgh LHCb research at Edinburgh
    Detectors: public websites
    The LHC beauty experiment LHCb
    The Compact Muon Solenoid CMS
    A Large Ion Collider Experiment ALICE
    A Toroidal LHC ApparatuS Atlas
    Hot topics in research -- Stem Cells
    Stem cells for transfusions
    Note: in some schools a Roadshow session takes place in only an hour and a half (we have to fit into a school double period), and in such cases we will cut the first research topic, to ensure that there's enough time for the pupils to properly experience the hands-on sessions.
    Blood bags
    The LHC, running on the PP4SS simulator
    The University of Edinburgh is working with the Medical Research Council, the University of Glasgow, and the Scottish and Irish Blood Transfusion Services, as part of a £2.9M Wellcome Trust-funded collaborative research project: ‘Proof of principle: human embryonic stem cell derived red cell concentrates for clinical transfusion’.

    From the project website: In this project scientists are working together to generate a limitless and infection-free supply of red blood cells in the laboratory from human embryonic stem cells for use in clinical blood transfusion. Started in 2009, the project will run until 2012.

    Blood Transfusion has become a mainstay of modern medical practice. However, problems persist both nationally and internationally in maintaining an adequate supply, managing the risk of transmission of infectious agents and ensuring immune compatibility between donor and recipient. Human embryonic stem cells (hESCs) have unique properties in that they can be maintained indefinitely in culture in an undifferentiated state and yet retain the ability to form all the cells and tissues within the body, including blood cells. They therefore offer a potentially limitless source from which to generate red blood cells for clinical transfusion.

    Click on the links below to find out more.

    Research Show Links
    Stem cells for transfusions
    Find out more about the project above, and the uses of stem cell research for blood transfusions at this link. Stem Cells for Blood Transfusion?
    Follow this link to our Stem Cell show links page, which has many more... Stem Cell links page