Nanoscale and Microscale Research Centre

Public engagement in nanotechnology


Public Engagement


Gravity Fields 2016

Dr Mike Fay from the nmRC visited Isaac Newton's family home at the National Trust owned Woolsthorpe Manor on Thursday 22nd September, to give a public lecture on Nanotechnology as part of the third biennial Gravity Fields Festival based in and around Grantham. Introduced by Grantham-born Prof Val Gibson (University of Cambridge), Mike Fay's talk to a large audience in the festival marquee was a very well received part of a very successful Festival.

This year's festival marked the 350th anniversary of Newton's "Year of Wonders", of huge scientific advances with his work on light, mathematics, and gravitational forces that largely took place at Woolsthorpe Manor, Newton having spent the year away from Cambridge due to the outbreak of the plague.

Tiniest 90th birthday message to the Queen

With the Queen's 90th birthday coinciding with the official nmRC opening event, the centre has celebrated by writing a message in the most appropriate way - very, very small on the hair of a corgi.


Nottingham Evening Post articles 2016

  • 21 Jan 2016 - On popular names for new elements and planets

Nottingham Evening Post articles 2015

  • 2 January 2015 - Drones
  • January 2015 – Climate Change and the Media
  • February 2015 – The Return of GM Food
  • March 2015 – Science Funding
  • 21 April 2015 – William Inchley and Edward Harrison
  • 21 May 2015 – Five health care issues facing the world
  • 12 June 2015 – On the accumulation of results
  • 14 July 2015 – Pluto and the end of a space exploration era
  • August 2015 – Can we treat sport like science?
  • October 2015 - Is technology making us stressed?
  • November 2015 - Taking climate change seriously
  • December 2015 - Britain in Space - More than Major Tim

2015 talks on nanotechnology

  • 19 January 2015 – Nottingham Café Scientifique
  • 3 February 2015 – Schools lecture – Shrewsbury School
  • 11 February 2015 – Seeing the Unseeable, University of Nottingham
  • 4 March 2015 – Chemistry at Work, Keele
  • 14 July 2015 - Chemistry at Work, Keele
  • 6 October 2015 - Next Generation Innovators, Three Counties Showground, Malvern

Nottingham Evening Post articles 2014

  • February 2014 - Making our beer cleaner and tastier
  • March 2014 - How Nottingham University helps solve food problems
  • April 2014 - Unlocking the secrets of ancient Avro
  • May 2014 - AstraZeneca future needs to be the best for UK,
  • June 2014 - We need to decide how much data to share,
  • August 2014- Why do roads still melt in summer?
  • September 2014 – Belgian beer and Fields Medals
  • 3 November 2014 – Life on Mars

2014 talks on nanotechnology

  • 30 April - Beverley Cafe Scientifique - Dr Mike Fay
  • 26 June 2014 - Chemistry at Work, RAF Cosford - Dr Mike Fay
  • 2 October 2014 - Chemistry at Work, Malvern - Dr Mike Fay

Nottingham Evening Post

Monthly articles written by Dr. Mike Fay on science in general, and nanotechnology in particular.

Skeptics in the Pub

Dr. Mike Fay gave his personal view of nanotechnology, in talks entitled "Nanotechnology - Hype, Fear and Reality" at three Skeptics in the Pub events in the UK over the summer of 2013. The talk considered how, a longside the genuine excitement in the possibilities, nanotechnology has also come with the unwelcome accompaniment of a great deal of both hype and alarmism. How much is the reality swamped by the Hollywood plot device, and what does it tell us about the link between science and the public?

  • Sheffield - Monday, May 27 2013 at 7:30PM, Farm Road Sports & Social Club
  • Nottingham - Tuesday, June 4 2013 at 7:30PM, Vat & Fiddle
  • Edinburgh - Monday 12 August 2013, Banshee Labyrinth (Part of the Edinburgh Fringe Festival)
  • Glasgow - Monday 28th October 2013

2013 talks on nanotechnology

Dr. Mike Fay presented his workshop on nanotechnology at a number of schools events in 2013.

  • Thinktank Birmingham, February 5
  • Keele Sustainability Hub, March 15
  • Three Counties, Malvern, March 20
  • RAF Cosford, June 26

The Queen on a diamond

In April 2012, just before the Easter weekend,  the NNNC were visited by filmmaker Brady Haran with an idea for the award-winning Periodic Videos series. They had a spare industrial diamond (donated by Chemistry - taken from a broken instrument mount, and thus now unusable for its intended purpose) - and the Queen's diamond jubilee was approaching - could you etch an image of the Queen on the diamond?

The answer was yes.

More pictures on Brady Haran's Periodic Videos Blog

The engraved diamond has been featured on BBC East Midlands News.

Ockbrook School students visit the NNNC

In late 2011, two students from Ockbrook School contacted the NNNC to ask if it was possible for them to have some samples looked at as part of a science project. One of the students described their visit:

On Friday 2 December 2011 myself and another student from Ockbrook School visited the Nanoscience Department at Nottingham University to use the Scanning Electron Microscope (SEM machine) for our CREST Award.

For those who do not know, a Crest Award is a science- based qualification, where students must come up with a task title, research the task and fulfil the question. For our award, we came up with the task, “Do hairs of different ethnicity react differently to hair products?”

In our experiments, we took several hairs from our own heads (my own hair is Caucasian and my partner’s hair is Asian), and then placed them in sample bottles for one week in 10cm3 solutions of shampoo, hairspray, straightening serum, strengthening serum and our control, air. We sealed each of these for one week, and we found that they did not look any different to the naked eye, so we thought: “Do they look different under the microscope?” After interrogating our science teachers, we found the only way we could see the hair in enough detail would be under an SEM machine, and our school obviously did not budget  for multi-million pounds worth of microscope. That is where the University comes in:

My partner and I contacted Dr. Milligan to ask if we could send the samples in to be viewed under the SEM machine, and a wonderful reply landed in my e-mail Inbox - “Would you like to come and do it yourselves?” We accepted and we were on our way!

In the Nanotechnology Centre, we met with Dr. Milligan and Dr. Parmenter, and we were taught about microns and nanometres. We then prepared our samples by pressing a centimetre long sample of our hair onto studs, which were then pressed into the disc inside the SEM machine. Pressing hairs of 0.05 mm in width onto a stud was tricky, but we managed and we went downstairs. We were allowed to see our hair, which to be quite frank, looked fairly grotesque, at a 1000x zoom!

Unfortunately, we were unable to play with the “Big Gun” microscope, as it was worth millions of pounds, and would take days to fix and reset if we pressed the wrong button. We were able to take away over 200images of our hair, and we were even able to leave one of our teacher’s hairs with the centre to later mill our school emblem onto the surface with an ion beam!

So the answer to our question is “Yes”: Hair products affect hairs of different ethnicity. Asian hair reacts well to shampoo and hairspray, whereas Caucasian hair reacts better to straightening serum. Neither ethnicity hairs reacted well with strengthening serum, as it stripped the protective coating off the hair.

We would like to thank Dr. Milligan, Dr Parmenter and the rest of the Nanotechnology Centre for allowing us to visit, and for spending valuable time teaching us how to use the microscope and about nanometres and microns, which has already proved useful in understanding topics mentioned in our lessons and even on the news!

Sixty Symbols and Periodic Videos

The electron microscopes have contributed to some of film-maker Brady Harans videos - see more:


Following on from Nano in Nottingham in 2007, the NanoWhat? East Midlands Nanotechnology Roadshow, co-ordinated by The University of Nottingham with the help of local partners including the other seven Universities in the East Midlands (Loughborough, Nottingham Trent, Leicester, De Montfort, Derby and Lincoln), had thousands of visitors in the shows at Nottingham, Leicester, Loughborough, Derby, Lincoln and a schools event at Rockingham Festival 2008.

The NanoWhat? Totally Tiny Technology video collected the 'Best Corporate/Non-Broadcast Programme' at the annual Royal Television Society Awards 2008. Produced for The University of Nottingham and East Midlands Development Agency by VPoint.TV, it brought the fascinating world of nanotechnology to the public, and was shown to 24,000 people at the NanoWhat? roadshows across the region.

NanoWhat video award

Professor Clive Roberts, Professor of Pharmaceutical Nanotechnology and Director of the Nottingham Nanotechnology and Nanoscience Centre at The University of Nottingham, said: "We'd like to congratulate VPoint.TV on the award. The University has been really delighted at the success of the film, which has made a difficult science accessible to the general public. It's had a huge impact, and we've had nothing but positive feedback."

The films are available to download from the NanoWhat? channel on YouTube.

Nanoscale and Microscale Research Centre

Cripps South building
University of Nottingham
University Park
Nottingham, NG7 2RD

telephone: +44 (0) 115 748 6340
email: nmrcenquiries@nottingham.ac.uk