2022 Archive

See youtube.com/WinchesterCafeScientifique for recordings of online talks

Mon 7th March 2022 7.30pm “Research into battery storage technology” Prof Peter Slater

Lithium ion batteries are ubiquitous in our society and their uptake was initially driven by the portable electronic revolution. Future uses of such batteries will dramatically increase with the transition to electric vehicles, as well as the need for large scale energy storage for domestic and commercial applications. In this talk, I will outline how Li ion batteries work, and discuss some of the challenges researchers are facing. In particular, the dramatic increase in their usage will have an impact on the supply of the elements needed, and so I will outline strategies to mitigate this. In this respect recycling will be crucial for recovering and then reusing the valuable metals from these batteries at the end of their usable life. Of additional importance will be to replace some of the metals used, in particular cobalt, by cheaper metals so as to bring down costs and reduce supply chain challenges. Finally I will discuss what future generation batteries might look like, outlining what is being investigated to increase the amount of energy that can be stored in these batteries, and alternative Sodium ion batteries which offer lower cost particularly for stationary power applications.

Professor Peter R. Slater is Professor in Materials Chemistry at the University of Birmingham and Co-Director of the Birmingham Centre for Energy Storage. He has more than 30 years research experience in the area of solid state/materials chemistry, ranging from battery materials to solid oxide fuel cells. In these areas he has published more than 250 papers in scientific journals, and has written more than 20 review articles. His present research is focusing mainly on the development of ionic and mixed conductors for energy storage and conversion applications (e.g. Li/Na ion batteries and solid oxide fuel cells), as well as strategies for recycling such materials. 

He is also active in promoting research into new energy technologies in schools, and to general non-scientific audiences.

Mon 7th February 2022 7.30pm “The Cultured Chimpanzee” Dr Mimi Arandjelovic

The evolutionary-ecological drivers that have generated the behavioral diversity in chimpanzee populations are still largely unknown. Progress towards a better understanding of these diversification processes is currently constrained by the small number of field sites at which chimpanzees are studied. Potential explanatory variables, related to resource availability, historic landscape effects, predation and disease pressure or population inherent dynamics influencing trait invention and loss, by far exceed the number of chimpanzee communities studied.

The Pan African Programme (PanAf) ‘The Cultured Chimpanzee’ aims to overcome some of these limitations by studying a large number of populations with a cross-sectional sampling approach. It will quantify a broad spectrum of the ecological parameters that possibly contribute to generating behavioural diversity in chimpanzees and will thus also evaluate potential evolutionary scenarios to decipher central questions of human cultural evolution.

I am a biologist whose research has primarily focused on primate genetics, molecular ecology and conservation biology. My current role as co-director of the Pan African Programme : The Cultured Chimpanzee (PanAf) is focused on studying chimpanzee ecology and evolution from all four Pan troglodytes subspecies from over 40 temporary research sites across Africa. 

My doctoral and post-doctoral research focused on developing precise and accurate methods of monitoring great apes. As most primates tend to live in low visibility environments, are cryptic and are generally sparsely distributed it has been very difficult to obtain population estimates for almost all great ape subspecies.

My current research focus is on developing cheaper and more efficient means of using non-invasive samples for genetic amplification to use in biomonitoring activities and assess the potential of using conservation genomics from fecal samples to better understand the evolutionary trajectories of great apes.

Mon 3rd January 2022 7.30pm “Life is simple” – Prof Johnjoe McFadden

How Occam’s Razor Set Science Free And Unlocked The Universe

His new book, Life is Simple (2 September 21) highlights the role of simplicity in science, and in particular its favourite tool, Occam’s razor.  We begin in the turbulent times of the medieval friar, William of Occam, who first articulated the principle that the best answer to any problem is the simplest. This theory, known as Occam’s razor, cut through the thickets of medieval metaphysics to clear a path for modern science. In the book, Professor McFadden follows the razor in the hands of the giants of science, from Copernicus, to Kepler, Galileo, Newton, Darwin, Einstein, Rubin and Higgs. Its success suggests that we live in the simplest possible habitable universe and supports the revolutionary theory that our cosmos has evolved. After graduating with a degree in Biochemistry from Bedford College, University of London I went to do a Phd on fungal virus genetics working with Ken Buck at Imperial College. I then went on to my first post-doc at St Mary’s Hospital Medical School with Professor Bob Williamson on human genetics.

St Mary’s was as a terrifically stimulating environment at the time where I worked with loads of very clever people but, if the truth be told, my project didn’t go well so after a couple of years I went on to another post-doc at St. George’s Hospital Medical School to study Crohn’s disease with the surgeon John Hermon-Taylor. This went a lot better and I went on to investigate the role of mycobacteria in this disease, work which took me on to the University of Surrey where I gained a lectureship in Molecular Microbiology working first on paratuberculosis in cows and humans, then tuberculosis and meningococcal meningitis in humans. My group now specializes in using systems-based approaches to study infectious disease.

I wrote the popular science book, Quantum Evolution, published in the UK by HarperCollins in 2001, in the US by Norton in 2002 and by Kyoritsu Shuppan in Japan in 2003. The book examines the role of quantum mechanics in life, evolution and consciousness. I also write articles regularly for the Guardian newspaper in the UK on topics as varied as quantum mechanics, evolution and genetically modified crops, and occasionally review books for the Guardian. The Washington Post and Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung have also published my articles