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Winton Programme for the Physics of Sustainability

Department of Physics


The third annual Winton Symposium was held at the Cavendish Laboratory on September 29, 2014.  The previous symposia were focused on the fundamental science that could lead to future breakthroughs in energy efficiency or discovery of new materials, which could have a significant impact on providing a sustainable future. This year the majority of the discussions were directed to examples of how advances in science and technology have made a real impact, posing the questions to the large audience of how we can all contribute to addressing the global challenges we face today.


Session I

The opening speaker was Professor Joseph Heremans from The Ohio State University, USA, on “Solid State Heat Engines and Waste Heat Recovery”.  He provided an insight into the design and use of thermoelectric systems for converting waste heat into useful energy.  Professor Nina Fedoroff, former Science and Technology Adviser to the US Secretary of State and Evan Pugh Professor, Penn State University, spoke on “Food and Civilisation”. She has performed pioneering work in the field of plant genetics and the development of modified crops and provided her opinion on how we could feed the growing population through continued development and investment in technology including genetically modified crops.

Session II

How can new technology make a difference on a global scale?  Dr Simon Bransfield-Garth is CEO of Azuri Limited, a Cambridge company that provides affordable solar lighting in several parts of Africa and he talked about “Empowering the Rural African Consumer”. Professor Winston Soboyejo is at the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, Princeton University and former President of the African University of Science and Technology.  His talk “New Frontiers in Materials for Global Development: From Health to Energy and the Environment”, provided a number of examples of how science can have an impact, including use of magnetic nano particles for targeted drug delivery, a mobile phone-based medical imaging device and a low cost filtration system to produce drinking water.  A common theme from these talks was that for solutions to be sustainable they must engage and empower people to use science and technology to address their own needs.

Link to presentations

Dr Simon Bransfield-Garth "Empowering the Rural African Consumer"

Professor Winston Soboyejo “New Frontiers in Materials for Global Development: From Health to Energy and the Environment”

Session III

The focus of this session was on the provision of energy on a global scale and the impact this has on people and the climate.  Professor Richenda Van Leeuwen,  Director of Energy and Climate at the United Nations Foundation, addressed the growing needs for energy in her talk “Towards Sustainable Energy for All - innovation for energy access and development”.  She drew upon her experience in providing energy services in the developing world and the impact on poverty alleviation.  Professor David MacKay, former Chief Scientific Advisor to the Department of Energy and Climate Change and Regius Professor in Engineering at the University of Cambridge, described “The Global Calculator”.  He discussed how this tool can be used to engage people in the debate on reducing international emissions and global action on climate change.

Link to presentations

Professor Richenda Van Leeuwen “Towards Sustainable Energy for All - innovation for energy access and development”

Professor David MacKay “The Global Calculator”

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