Wednesday, 29 March 2017

Bristol Optical Student's Society (BOSS) and QETLabs researchers show off the power of optical fibres and photonic crystals to local school children at the new UnitDX facility, Bristol's new science incubator.

This time, the very first members of the public visiting UnitDX's sparkling new laboratories were neither local officials nor scientists, but children from local schools coming to discover how science will be used to engineer their futures. Arriving two days before the official opening of the site, the children had the opportunity explore a number of different exhibits, from donning VR headsets to interactive play with molecules, to lab coats for chromatography. 

At the event, students from Bristol Optical Students Society (BOSS) and QETLabs presented demonstrations of the fundamental concepts underpinning the cutting-edge research of the University of Bristol quantum photonics group. Their first demo displayed the apparent "magic" of optical fibres, completely trapping light inside without the need of a single mirror. By creating optical fibres of water, the students saw how light can be bent around corners and how this is used in fibre broadband to create super fast internet broadband speeds. Next students discovered the beauty of butterflies' iridescence from naturally-occurring photonic crystals. The students witnessed an experiment showing an effective stretching of these crystals through applying ethanol to a real specimen's wing and witnessed the colour transform from blue to green and back again before their own eyes.

"The children were absolutely fascinated by the workshops put on by BOSS. They were so engaged in the activities and had lots of questions to ask. From microscopes and laser beams to fibre optics and refraction, thank you for expanding their vocabularies and interest in science. What a great way to celebrate British Science Week at Unit DX." - UnitDX

BOSS and QETLabs researchers would like to thank UnitDX for hosting both the demonstrators and children for this unique event.

For more information about the event and the new UnitDX science incubator, visit

Friday, 24 March 2017

QETLabs outreach team invited to Royal Society for Science Museum training day

In preparation for QETLabs' upcoming exhibit at the Royal Society Summer Showcase, CQP PhD students Ben Slater and Sam Morley-Short were invited to a professional outreach training session hosted by Royal Society and Science Museum engagement experts. The event was also attended by members from many other exhibits, ranging from climate scientists modelling our complex ecosystem to engineers showcasing "mixed reality" with the new Microsoft Hololens (, with attendees encouraged to learn from each other's strengths and weaknesses.

The morning session focused on understanding your target audience: What scientific experiences, biases and assumptions might audience members already have before coming to your exhibit? What do they want out of the interaction and how can you give it to them? How can you design your exhibit to engage the audience in a way they enjoy, rather than how you might do so to other scientists? From this, key messages and learning outcomes were devised, providing a stronger focus for the QETLabs' exhibit. 

The afternoon session explored the different ways of communicating science in the most engaging way to the public, including exercises such as "Mystery Objects", "Powerful Questions" and "The Two-minute stare" (as it turns out, it's a strange experience to talk to someone with a blank stare, or to not react to someone talking for two whole minutes!). These exercises forced demonstrators to get onto the "other side" of the exhibit and understand how best they can improve their personal communication skills.

The session concluded with role-played run-throughs, from grandma's learning about studying fusion physics with the world's largest lasers to teenagers taught how to search for Dark Matter with supercomputers. Needless to say, descriptions were derailed and demos deconstructed, but armed with their new outreach skills, the demonstrators managed to put on a good show.

To find out more about QET Labs please visit:

For more information on the Royal Society Summer Science Exhibition:

Friday, 10 March 2017

QET Labs welcomes the Future Brunels

 “The Future Brunels programme aims to inspire and enthuse young people with science and engineering throughout their time at secondary school.
By introducing young people to the impacts science and engineering have already on their own and other’s lives, and to the range of career options available to them through studying STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) subjects, the programme encourages the Future Brunels to consider careers in the broadest set of STEM fields.”

On Thursday 9th March, twelve Future Brunels students aged 13 and 14 visited the QET Labs team to investigate the wave nature of light, and how this can be used to measure minute distances such as the width of a single animal hair.

The group began with a talk from PhD student Sam Morley-Short, who described the long-standing 17th Century feud between scientists trying to determine whether light is made of waves or particles. After learning how the wave nature of light was finally determined by Young’s famous double slit experiment, the Future Brunels were sent off in small groups to adapt the original experiment to measure the widths of a number of different animal hairs (generously donated by our furry friends at Bristol Zoo).

Carefully shining their lasers onto the hairs, the Future Brunels were able to measure the interference patterns produced, which varied in size depending on the hair’s width. By using their outcomes and solving the double slit equation, the teams then collated their findings to calculate the averages of each of their collected measurements to find a more accurate result.

Each group was also treated to a tour of our CDT lab by PhD students Henry Semenenko and Jeremy Adcock, and finished the day off with a question and answer session with the QET Labs team.

We look forward to welcoming the Future Brunels back to QET Labs soon, and are excited to see what these budding scientists and engineers bring to the world of quantum in the future.