16 Apr 2013
Dr Valeska Ting was awarded a Sir Eric Rideal Travel Bursary to attend the Sixth International Conference on Advanced Materials and Nanotechnology in Auckland, New Zealand from 11-15 February 2013:
In February 2013, I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to trade in the snowy February weather in the UK for the warm summer sunshine of Auckland, New Zealand, for the Sixth International Conference on Advanced Materials and Nanotechnology, AMN-6.
Bringing together over 400 international researchers working in advanced materials and nanotechnology, this biennial conference represented well the growth and evolution of this exciting area, incorporating sessions on topics as diverse as nanoengineered materials and devices, biomolecular assembly, nanopore science, conducting polymers and hybrid materials.
The calibre of the keynote speakers was certainly impressive. Nobel Prize laureate Prof Roald Hoffmann gave a fantastically engaging talk called 'The Chemical Imagination at Work in Very Tight Places', on the effects of GPa pressures on the physical properties of matter.
Prof Joanna Aizenberg (Harvard University) presented her group's research into the design of novel omniphobic materials for an astounding range of applications, from deicing refrigerators to self-cleaning surfaces and anti-fouling medical implants. I especially enjoyed the presentations by Prof Dan Nocera (Harvard) on the 'The Artificial Leaf' as a way of generating affordable energy for developing countries, as well as Prof Richard Kaner's high-energy presentation on new ways of processing graphene for commercial applications.
My presentation, 'Exploring new routes to high surface area nanomaterials for enhanced hydrogen storage' had been accepted for the Molecular Materials session. The talk itself was well-attended, and the comments I received afterward were extremely positive, indicating that this work on modification of metal-organic framework materials was of broad general interest. I also had the opportunity to chair a parallel session, Biological Interfaces - my first experience of chairing a session at an international conference.
As is often the case, most of the real work was done after the sessions had finished. There were two evening poster sessions and an evening function where delegates could socialise and informally discuss their research. I had several very useful scientific discussions. For example, a fellow speaker in the Molecular Materials session suggested that we could use a particular spectroscopic technique to determine if the structure of our materials had changed. I had not considered this approach but followed it up on my return. I also found out that the chair of my session, an esteemed researcher from Massey University, NZ, was working with a supercritical CO2 dryer of the kind we are currently designing in our lab at Bath. We discussed the design and operation of their very similar system in depth, and thanks to their experience I could identify potential pitfalls in our design.
In short, I found the AMN-6 conference to be a thoroughly enjoyable experience that also had a large number of positive impacts on my research. I attended a number of inspiring talks and the discussions I had may lead to some new scientific projects. I would like to express my gratitude towards the SCI and the Royal Society of Chemistry for helping to fund my attendance, and I shall look forward to attending the AMN-7 in 2015.
Dr Valeska Ting
Prize Fellow in Smart Nanomaterials
Department of Chemical Engineering
University of Bath