Light Materials – an evening lecture at Charterhouse School

A Talk on Materials Science at Charterhouse

On the 3rd October, 19 chemistry students and I took a trip to Charterhouse. When we arrived, it felt like we had taken a trip to Hogwarts with the looming old fashioned buildings and we soon realised that this was a great place to explore the depths of chemistry and physics.

Professor Howard Colquhoun’s aim was to discuss the ins and outs of nuclear and molecular structure of materials – something which was a little scary to a physicist! He spoke very well and gave a detailed account on the different materials which make up specific aircraft; comparing old with new design and the advantages of each. His case study on the polyethene bag was particularly interesting, especially when he shone a laser through it and explained why it created a haze. I also enjoyed learning about tensile strength of polyethene. One of his demonstrations was to pull a strip of polyethene along a horizontal axis making it stretch and extend, but not snap! It was fascinating to learn that the extension was caused by the molecules lining up in the plastic, hence changing a flat material into a wire like form which could not tear after stretching.

Finally, he went on the discuss composites which have a much larger impact in today’s world compared to that of our grandparents generation. Comparing tensile strength against extension of materials showed that Kevlar (a composite consisting of fibres bound together by epoxy resin) has almost ten times the tensile strength of polyethene per unit of extension!

Overall, Professor Howard Colquhoun gave an enlightening speech on Materials Science and I am so glad I have applied for it at Uni! Thank-you to Mr Roberts for organising the trip, along with Mr Saunders and Mrs Hood who came along too!

Fiona Harrington

Mr Roberts asking the deep, important question. "What's your favourite polymer?"
Mr Roberts asking the deep, important question. “What’s your favourite polymer?”


Note to self: bring better camera to evening talks.
Note to self: bring better camera to evening talks.

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