Pushing the boundaries of science for you
Our science matters - we use it to push the boundaries of what we know, to help us achieve major developments that make a difference to everyday issues. If you’ve ever wondered what science has done for you, we’ve just published our Impact Report, which includes examples of the projects we’ve been working on over the last year. Here’s a taste of some of them:
Our research has been applied to detect the earliest stages of eye disease, made a breakthrough in the race to solve antibiotic resistance and is supporting carbon capture and storage to help the UK meet its greenhouse gas emissions target.
Age-related Macular Degeneration is the leading cause of visual impairment in the developed world. In the UK alone, there are 500,000 sufferers, who account for around 57% of all cases of blindness, costing the UK economy an estimated £3.7 billion per annum. STFC’s UK ATC is using expertise developed from astronomy technology to develop a unique instrument, a ‘retinal densitometer’, which can detect the crucial, earliest stages of this condition by measuring how the eye responds to light; the aim is to develop a diagnostic test that can be offered for sale to healthcare providers.
Using Diamond Light Source, researchers have made a breakthrough in the race to solve antibiotic resistance. By studying bacteria in extreme detail, they have identified an innovative method of disabling the bacteria and preventing antibiotic resistance. The World Health Organisation has warned that antibiotic resistance in bacteria is spreading globally and even common infections, which have been treatable for decades, can once again kill. This breakthrough is a giant leap forward in the fight against superbugs.
Carbon storage could play a major part in tackling global warming, as well as allowing us to generate clean, affordable energy. A team of researchers using STFC’s Boulby Underground Laboratory have demonstrated that cosmic ray detectors originally developed for physics research are suitable for monitoring underground carbon capture and storage chambers, and they are now looking at further development of these detectors.
and there's more...
Seven million patients world-wide take Warfarin, a drug which helps stop clots forming in the blood and is used to prevent heart attacks and strokes. There are risks to patients if the levels of Warfarin, which is affected by food and exercise, becomes too low or indeed too high. This year, Microvisk is due to launch a hand-held testing device that will enable the patients to test their blood clotting ability at home, in the same way that people with diabetes test for glucose. This will revolutionise the blood testing market, saving the NHS millions of pounds a year.
Rosetta at Comet
On 12 November 2014, ESA's Rosetta mission soft-landed its Philae probe on comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko. In our quest for answers to unsolved mysteries about the origins of water and, indeed, life on our planet, we have turned to comets. Having deployed the Philae lander on the surface of the 4.6 billion-year-old comet, instruments on board Rosetta will investigate the existence of organic chemicals inside the comet. One of Philae’s instruments, Ptolemy, was built by STFC’s RAL Space Department. Rosetta continues to captivate and intrigue with every image and every data packet returned. It may sound like science fiction, but it’s a reality for the teams that have dedicated their entire lives to this mission, pushing the boundaries of technology for the benefit of science and to seek answers to questions about the origins of our Solar System. Rosetta at Comet (Credit: ESA)
Our science inspires - STFC research captures the imagination of young people inspiring them to study STEM subjects. This year we reached 18,000 teachers, 91,000 primary students, and 243,000 secondary students through our public engagement programmes. In the last five years, we have reached an amazing 84 million members of the public through just four of our captivating mass media initiatives. Such engagement helps to support a healthy interest in applications to study physics at university, which have seen a 64% increase between 2008 and 2013. We are proud to invest in postgraduate training and fellowships in particle physics, nuclear physics and astronomy, enabling students to achieve high-end scientific, analytical and technical skills, which drive the knowledge economy and help keep us at the cutting-edge of technology.
Furthering our fundamental understanding of our planet and our Universe. Creating jobs and bringing economic benefits. Researching solutions to security issues and environmental problems. Finding new ways to diagnose and treat disease. Raising the international profile of the UK, and training the next generation of world-class scientists. These are just a few of the things our science does every day – for the economy, for society, for you.