Never Lick the Spoon

A quirky podcast from the Institute for Molecular Science and Engineering at Imperial College London, that brings to life the teeny tiny world of molecules.

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Friday Mar 17, 2023

Silicon-based solar panels are four times as efficient as plants at harvesting energy from sunlight. But they're expensive to produce because the material they're made of has to be very precisely engineered. What if we could make solar panels out of copper oxides, where the imperfections in the material are what makes them effective? I talk to two researchers who used a supercomputer to discover this.
The research we're discussing is published here:

Thursday Jan 26, 2023

Molecules that change shape when light falls on them have many uses. Like the Trojan Horse, they can look benign, but transform into a weapon under the right circumstances. This week we explore how photoswitchable molecules could help tackle the next pandemic.
The research we’re discussing is published here:

Episode 22 - Crystal healing

Monday Nov 21, 2022

Monday Nov 21, 2022

This month, we're focusing on a chemical process which is all around us: how crystals form. Humans have been using crystallisation to harvest salt from seawater for millennia. In the modern industrial world, it's used to make sugar, gemstones and silicon chips. So it’s a bit of a surprise to find a completely undiscovered phenomenon, of a crystal healing itself, happening in crystals of paracetamol. How have we missed this? Why is it happening? And how could it be useful? 

Episode 21 - Soilless soil

Thursday Oct 20, 2022

Thursday Oct 20, 2022

One way of increasing food production is to develop substitutes for soil which can be used to grow plants. Why is 3D printing a good way of doing this? And how could it be used make new non-Earth type soils for farming in space?

Episode 20 - Concrete jungle

Tuesday Sep 20, 2022

Tuesday Sep 20, 2022

How could we make our cities greener, and how would that change how liveable they are? In a first for this podcast, I talk to a current masters student at Imperial about her research project developing a new type of concrete that can support life.  

Monday Aug 22, 2022

3D printing, or additive manufacturing, is a method of producing objects by printing them in layers. The layers can be made out of metal, ceramic or, most often, plastics. But could we actually print living cells into tissues or organs?

Thursday Jul 21, 2022

In the last few decades, thousands of acres of rainforest have been cleared for palm oil plantations in southeast Asia, with a consequent loss of biodiversity. Currently in Africa, coconut palm production is industrialising. Can this be done more sustainably than in Southeast Asia? I talk to two PhD students at Imperial who are using DNA sampling to explore biodiversity in coconut agriculture, and its links to ecosystem resilience and also economic resilience for farmers.  

Tuesday Jun 14, 2022

We're all being urged to reduce, reuse, recycle our plastics these days. But some types of bacteria have already evolved to be able to eat some kinds of plastic. Could these organisms help solve the plastic waste crisis?

Tuesday Mar 30, 2021

Last time we heard about some of the positive aspects that wearable tech has been bringing to modern life, now we hear about its dubious side. From big tech trying to guess if you're happy or sad so they can sell you stuff, to healthcare apps that monitor much more than they should. One thing is for sure - by the end of the episode you’ll be checking every T&C on every app or piece of tech you have at home - if you don’t do so already!

Friday Feb 26, 2021

In a two part special on wearable technology, we are joined by experts that look at this booming industry from completely different perspectives. In the first episode we look at wearable tech's exciting potential, including how mass consumer devices, that previously simply nagged you to walk more, are becoming more like sophisticated medical devices. And since heart rate data from Fitbits were able to predict infection outbreak, could this lead to a better understanding of disease transmission in the community?

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