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Earth Day Reflections

22nd April 2019 | Author: Dr Matthew Hiscock

Earth Day Reflections

With today being International Earth day, I thought I would reflect on the role that Oxford Instruments plays in the exploration for a deeper understanding of our home planet formation, explaining its history and provide solutions to some of the environmental challenges we face that threaten the earth’s future.

I am a geologist by training, so I am always excited when I get the opportunity to look at samples originating from the earth.  By understanding what the earth is made of, how it formed and how the many components of the earth and atmospheric system interact we can not only understand how our home planet came to be as it is but also make predictions on how it will react to changes in the future.  I have spent a great deal of time looking at rocks from both a research and industrial point of view, but since working at Oxford Instruments have had the opportunity to look at a far greater range of samples including many at the cutting edge of technology that aims to lessen human impacts on our planet.

International Earth Day is focussed on a number of issues related to the earth, and it strikes me that so many of the issues and their solutions rely on information from the nano and micro scale.  An example of this is climate change and the state of our atmosphere.  It is widely accepted that anthropogenic CO2 plays a major part in climate change and as such, one important part of the solution here is the use of renewable sources of energy.  I’ve been really excited to be involved in several projects at Oxford Instruments looking at everything from how solar cells operate to how gearboxes wear in wind turbines. There is a lot of very ingenious work happening out there using the products we develop! 

Airborne pollution and particulates is another big topic – with most of the particles of interest being on a scale of micrometres or smaller the analysis that we perform here is an essential step in understanding the shape and composition of those particles – and therefore how they behave – both in terms of effects on health and on how the atmosphere operates. 

Electric vehicles will also benefit air quality as they don’t burn fossil fuels and therefore don’t create emissions of particulate material.  One of the key technologies being developed for electric vehicles is of course ever more efficient Li batteries.  We’re involved in this as well - looking at where the Li is in batteries and ensuring quality throughout the manufacturing cycle and just recently won a Queens Award for the development of our Ultim Extreme detector that makes this type of analysis possible.

These are just a few of the many ways that nanoanalysis can help in the journey towards a better, healthier Planet Earth – I’m very excited that we can contribute to that journey in so many ways.

Do make sure that you have a look at our library of application notes – this is where we publish all of the latest work that we’re doing – I’m sure you’ll find some interesting material there.

Ask me a question

Dr Matthew Hiscock
Head of Product Science

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