Thorium: Nuclear Fuel of the Future?
One of the first of a new type of particle accelerator, EMMA might be used to ignite thorium in a nuclear power plant.
50 years ago nuclear power was getting started and it was the Cold War era so uranium was the obvious choice of fuel since it produced plutonium which could be used in bombs. Today a nuclear fuel that does not produce plutonium might be more acceptable. Prof Bob Cywinski of Huddersfield University tells Quentin about the different approaches to nuclear power based on more abundant, energy dense thorium, including his own work using a particle accelerator to initiate the nuclear reaction.
Plants to Clean up Explosives
Liz Rylotte tells Quentin about her research
About 1.5% of land in the USA, most of it military training areas, is contaminated with explosive residues such as TNT and RDX. Dr Liz Rylotte of the York University Centre for Novel Agricultural Products has isolated bacteria that can break down the residues and inserted genes from them into plants that could thrive whilst cleaning up contaminated land.
Your Lying Face
Thermal image of Quentin. But is he telling lies?
Photo: Bradford University Centre for Visual Computing
Your face might give you away if you are lying according to Prof Hassan Ugail of the University of Bradford. His team has developed an automated system using heat cameras that might one day be adapted for use by security or immigration services to help identify potential criminals. He tries it out on Quentin and points out that, though not yet very accurate, it avoids the need to attach electrodes and so might one day be used covertly.
Dr Kevin Adams storing tissue samples in liquid nitrogen.
Photo: Bradford University
There have been high profile cases where human tissue removed during surgery has been stored without permission and used for research. Drs Kevin Adams and Susan Boyce of Bradford University have found that, if asked, most people from most communities are very happy to see tissue that would otherwise be discarded getting used for research. They take Quentin to their ethical tissue bank and describe how material is stored and used.
Artificial Volcanoes to Counter Global Warming
In theory, a balloon might lift a 20 km hose into the stratosphere.
Photo: Cambridge University, Engineering Department
When Mt Pinatubo erupted in 1991, it released sulphate aerosol into the upper atmosphere which cooled world temperatures for the next two years. There have been controversial suggestions that repeating this artificially, using 20 km long hoses supported by balloons to release an aerosol into the stratosphere, might help to counter global warming. But even if the idea is acceptable, there are many engineering challenges. Dr Matt Watson of Bristol University describes the first stage which will be undertaken in Norfolk next month when a balloon will lift a pressure hose 1000 m into the air to release, on this occasion, a harmless spray of water.
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