Welcome to the Knutsford SciBar Website

This blog shows all our events, both future and past.


Unfortunately, due to an illness in the family, our intended speaker will be unable to join us on October 2nd. We had hoped for a replacement but this has proved impossible to arrange.

Therefore our next meeting will be on Monday 6th November at our usual venue.

Please note that the start time will be 19.30 until announced otherwise. The entrance fee will be £2 from the September meeting (free to students and under 21s).

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6th November 2017 – On The Face Of It

Surfaces and Interfaces in Chemistry, Physics and Medicine

Dr Andrew Thomas of the School of Materials, Photon Science Institute, The University of Manchester will be presenting this topic.

Andrew Thomas

Andrew Thomas

Every solid or liquid has a surface. We probably take this for granted, but the surface of a material is particularly special. It is via the surface that the material interacts with its surroundings; so the surface is where corrosion begins, and it is what governs whether a medical implant will be populated by cells, or will prevent bacterial adhesion. In the chemical industry, tonnes of catalyst material are used in a vast array of processes, and in many cases it is the surface which governs their effectiveness – more recently, novel solar energy harvesting devices have been developed which rely on functionalisation of the surface, and which transfer a charge across an interface. This talk looks at what makes the surface of a material different from the bulk, and how research takes into account the nature of surface chemistry and physics to carry out specific functions.

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4th September 2017 – Building Biological Batteries

This topic will be presented by Nick Fowler, a Biophysics PhD student at the Manchester Institute of Biotechnology.

In Nick’s own words: “Nature has had billions of years to evolve the various life processes that constitute life. As a result, these processes are very sophisticated. For example, consider photosynthesis. Photosynthesis exploits quantum mechanics to convert sunlight into energy, at ambient temperatures, extracting carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and with oxygen as the only waste product. In my opinion, these life processes, as engineered by nature, outshine humanity’s best attempts to create environmentally friendly technology. We have a lot to learn from biology. Biotechnology is a rapidly growing field looking to do just that, by re-engineering biological processes to create products or technology, previously unobtainable or in a more environmentally friendly way. This talk will introduce enzyme catalysed fuel cells, devices which use enzymes taken from fungi or bacteria to generate electricity from hydrogen and oxygen, with only water as a waste product.”

Picture for Sept 17


Posted in 2017, monthly_meeting | Tagged ,

3rd July 2017 – Laboratory Support in Poisoning

Laboratory Support in Poisoning – a Clinical Toxicologist’s View

Dr Ian D Watson MSc PhD FRCPath FACB FIBMS DipMedTech CSci EurSpLM MCMI
Retired Consultant Clinical Biochemist

Dr Watson will give a presentation on ‘Laboratory Support in Poisoning’. This will cover an historical perspective, the analytical methods, examples of cases investigating live patients usually. Substance abuse may be covered.

Dr Watson says “This is not necessarily forensic as I was a clinical toxicologist”.

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21st June 2017 – Lymm Dam Geology Walk

Pre-walk Briefing

Pre-walk Briefing

Leader Fred Owen gathered a group of SciBarians at the Lymm Dam car park for a briefing on the geological history of the area.  He explained that Lymm is situated in the centre of the northern part of the Cheshire Basin, which is one of a series of basins extending from the east Irish Sea to the English Channel. The sediments filling the basin are the familiar red sandstones eroded from a mountain range of Himalayan proportions about 230 million years ago, when the ‘English’ tectonic plate was roughly where the Sahara Desert is today. It would have been in an inland, arid desert climate, on a super-continent on the north of the mountain range. The south east of the Cheshire Basin would have been deep enough to bury the Matterhorn.

Tarporley Siltstone

Tarporley Siltstone

Later earth movements caused the sea to transgress the desert to form finer inter-tidal sediments, known as the Tarporley Siltstone, which were seen at the southern end of the lake. Today’s picturesque landscape around Lymm Dam was formed during the last Ice Age, by a combination of erosion by glacial ice and glacial melt-water around 20k to 10k years ago. The ice, 200m or more thick, flowing from the northwest, scoured out the gorge now occupied by the lake formed when the dam was built in 1824 on the site of a 3 meter waterfall in the Bradley Brook.

Meltwater Channels

Meltwater Channels

The group examined a remarkable set of seven deep, narrow, sinuous channels cut into the red Helsby Sandstone, which were aligned more or less parallel to the ice flow direction.  It is deduced that they were cut by melt-water below the water table, known as ‘phreatic’ water. Less obvious were five horizontal channels at right angles to the deep ones, believed to have been eroded later by melt-water above the water table, known as ‘vadose’ water. The only other example of such channels in England is at Thurstaston on the Wirral.  An alternative hypothesis has been proposed that these ‘melt-water’ channels were really formed by children with trainers and mountain bikes!

Vertical ‘scallops’

Vertical ‘scallops’

Further along the path a sandstone outcrop exhibited numerous vertical, elongate ‘scallops’ eroded into the sandstone, believed to have been formed by turbulent, phreatic melt-water flowing between active ice and the rock face.

Fred reflects: “It was interesting that here we were standing on the longest day in real-time on the edge of a temperate thunderstorm, on sandstone formed in an arid dessert, observing channels cut under 200m of ice by melt-water. Climate is always changing! The real issue is the rate of the change to which life can adapt to survive.”

In answer to a specific question about tectonic plate thickness Fred explained that oceanic plates are about 7 km thick while continental plates average 35 km thick. Oceanic crust is much denser than continental crust so is repeatedly ‘subducted’ beneath continents and recycled. It has a maximum ‘lifespan’ of 200 million years. There is an excellent free app ‘Earthviewer’ which shows how the plates have moved over geologic time and gives much information about fossils, mass extinctions etc.

The walk concluded with a convivial meal at the Spread Eagle in Lymm village.

Thanks to Fred for conducting the walk and for writing this blog entry.

For further reading, Fred suggests “Leviston, D. 2001. Subglacial meltwater channels at Lymm Dam, Cheshire. Proceedings of the Geologists’ Association, 112, 147-154.”

Posted in 2017, out_&_about | Tagged

5th June 2017 – Mersey Gateway

Mersey Gateway

Keith Bold Portrait

Keith Bold will tell the story of one of the largest construction projects in the UK.

Work started on the Mersey Gateway Project on 7th May 2014 and in autumn 2017 a new six lane toll bridge over the Mersey between the towns of Runcorn and Widnes will open to relieve congestion on the ageing Silver Jubilee Bridge.

Posted in 2017, monthly_meeting | Tagged

29th May 2017 – Lions Centenary Fair

Play Day Rocket

Play Day Rocket

The photo above is from a previous big rocket event, held as part of Playday, organized by Friends of the Moor. Please note that Friends of the Moor have said they will NOT be running Playday this year.

Three Two One!

Three Two One!

Update (June 2nd): The Lions Fair was all round a very successful event. There were lots of activities, the threatened rain did not materialize, and, after a slow start, there were a large number of visitors. On the SciBar’s big rockets stall, over 70 rockets were fired at the moon, and we were able to publicize the SciBar to many local people who did not know about us. Below are a couple of photos from the day. Thanks to all SciBarians (and others) who supported the stall.

Lions Fair 1

Rocket launched!

Posted in 2017, out_&_about