Discovery Night - 11th March 2016 - Sheffield

Discovery Night opens the University’s laboratories and lecture theatres to the public for an evening of science for the whole family. The event showcases research through talks, exciting demonstrations and hands-on activities for visitors of all ages.

Our stand From Algae to Biofuels showed the public the multiple uses of algae in everyday products, and highlighted their vital importance for life on earth. 

discovery night

BBC Energy Day - 5th of September - Salford

On the 5th of September the ABS team was present at the BBC Energy Day. Some of the highlights were:

  • An outside studio powered for a full 12 hours purely on renewable energy
  • Richard Bacon’s show powered solely by exercise bikes
  • Ed Davey MP, the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change, answered questions from a live studio audience
  • Interactive energy harnessing on the MediaCity piazza featuring solar panels, wind turbines, two cows and a studio powered by volunteer cyclists on exercise bikes



PhD student David Russo explains the concept of syntheic ecology to Ed Davey MP


Women in Engineering Event - 15th of March - Sheffield

by Richard Smith

On the 15th of March 2013, David Russo and Vi Nguyen and I demonstrated the concept of using waste as an energy source to prospecting schoolgirls from the Yorkshire area. The event was organised by the Women in Engineering initiative, which aim to tackle gender imbalance and inspire the next generation to take up an engineering based career path.


Vi Nguyen caused quite a stir when she revealed that manure can be used to create methane gas via anaerobic digesters. Vi filled 3 balloons with the gas produced from home-made digesters fed on amongst other things cow manure. Students showed suprising interest in the biological process of organic breakdown and methanogenisis.

I showed off one the the labs algae bioreactors, and explained how algae can be cultivated from the CO2 from combusted biogas and liquid effluent produced by the digesters. I explained how researchers are interesting in growing algae to produce biodiesel as an alternative to fossil fuels. David Russo went on to discuss the many commercial products derived from algae biomass, including to the dismay of many students, skin care products.

We were surprised at the intelligent questions asked about the process. One girl ask me about the sustainability of algae biofuels, another questioned the compatiability of biodiesel with normal diesel cars. We all enjoyed the experience, and hope that we inspired at least some students to think about a career in biological engineering.


E-Futures students join forces with Science Brainwaves to give local school kids a taste of algal biotechnology - 9th August 2011 - Sheffield

By Krys Bangert

On the 10th and 11th of July 2011, 63 pupils from around the region were given the opportunity to experience a day in the life of a typical student at the university of Sheffield. The two day ‘Discover US’ event was organised by the University’s Outreach and Access team, as a way to give children from backgrounds where it was not common to go to university, a flavour of what being an undergraduate is all about. This involved taking part in


various social experiences during the first day and attendinga series of lectures and workshops on the second. The overriding theme of the event was related to energy, environment and sustainability, tying in the University’s Project Sunshine.

The students were split into various groups, based on their schools and subject preferences. For our part of the proceedings, fellow E-Futures DTC students, Philippa Uttley, Emily Hounslow and I ran a practical laboratory workshop on the topic of algal biofuels in conjunction withScience Brainwaves. The 2 hour session involved each student taking part in three separate experiments covering the different aspects of algal biofuel production.

Science Brainwaves Event 2

The first activity involved ‘bio-prospecting’ for microalgae; the students had to identify four different species of algae with varying attributes using the optical microscopes provided. The algal a

ttributes were then compared using specially made algal ‘top trumps’ to find out which strain was best for making biofuels. The students then had a go at making their own microscope slides from another strain.

The second activity was centred on the chemistry of algal oil and how to produce biodiesel. The students were tasked with identifying the neutral lipids needed for biodiesel using a wet chemistry colour change reaction; during this experiment they learnt about the process of transesterification.


The third activity showed the pupils how to make their very own anaerobic digester. This involved building a bench-top digester in small groups out of plastic bottles and clear rubber tubing. The pupils were then shown what goes in to the system (i.e. different types of waste) and the useful outputs like biomethane. To demonstrate this point we had a remote controlled car with a methane powered engine on display. The pupils (and teachers) all engaged really well with all of the activities. During the session and later in the afternoon they (along with the other groups doing other activities) produced a video podcast of what they had learnt during the day. The three of us got a lot out of the day and hopefully the pupils did too! We may have inspired some of the next generation’s keen minds to come to university and do their part to help battle climate change.