This summer, RCUK Academic Fellow Dr Simon Henley supervised Tim Smith, a sixth form student from Tiffin School in Surrey on a four week project entitled ‘Nanoalloys – detectors of the future!’ In this project, Tim helped develop a new technique to produce very small metal particles (nanoparticles) which were alloys of silver and gold. These nanoparticles could have important applications in sensing and security screening and Tim showed that how they interact with light can be controlled by varying the amount of silver and gold in the particles, as shown in the image below, where the colour of solutions of these nanoparticles varies strongly. Tim also demonstrated that these particles could be used to enhance the sensitivity of a “chemical fingerprinting” technique by many thousands of times.
Speaking about his experience of supervising a Nuffield student, Simon told us: “the project and research carried out by the student were of a very high standard and will likely be part of a scientific publication. I feel the scheme has allowed me to broaden the range of outreach activities I undertake, and has been a useful way to enhance my research led teaching activities.”
“As an RCUK Fellow, outreach activities are a core element of my work. Schemes like this encourage students to consider a career in research by giving them a practical experience.”
Tim got involved in the Nuffield Research Placements programme after hearing about it from his teacher. Speaking about his project, he said: “I learnt that Physics can play a very important role in the future in helping solve many problems in areas such as forensic science, cures of illness and much more. I can now also appreciate the hard work needed to solve complex areas when researching.”
“I aim to become a medical physicist that will one day cure human illness. This experience helped as it has introduced me to ways in which illness can be detected early, and also it has given me first-hand experience of what research will be like.”