Hatfield Memorial Lecture 2009

Posted on Tuesday, September 8th, 2009 in Event, News, Polymer seminars| Share this article

tonyryanThis year the Hatfield Memorial Lecturer will be Professor Anthony J Ryan OBE, FRSC, FIMMM, Pro-Vice-Chancellor of the Faculty of Science, the University of Sheffield, discussing The Materials Requirements of the Origin of Life.

Over the last decade, metallurgy and materials science have been dominated by the recognition that exercising control at the nanoscale can lead to new properties. Surfaces are proportionately more important for finely divided matter such that properties depending on surfaces, such as reactivity and catalysis, are enhanced for nanomaterials. When physical dimensions approach the length-scales associated with quantum objects, electronic and optical properties change, leading to devices such as quantum dot lasers and new paradigms for information technology. Whole classes of new and improved materials have been generated through nanotechnology and new important techniques have been developed for nanometrology. And all of this has been accompanied by the rebranding of well established fields, such as diffraction and microscopy and polymer and colloid science, to create a new nano-industry.

Soft nanotechnology exploits ubiquitous Brownian motion and strong surface forces with what appear to be new design principles, self-assembly, molecular shape change and environmentally responsive materials. These principles are used by biology to make complex, functional nanomachines and structures and obviously soft nanotechnology has looked to biology for inspiration. This approach has delivered wholly synthetic devices that harvest light, encapsulate and release flavours and fragrances, or target the delivery of toxic drugs, with the materials being processed, and the devices operating, at ambient temperature and atmospheric pressure.

But in this lecture we will turn this paradigm around, using nanotechnology to shed light on one of the most fundamental of all questions – how life began on earth, and how it might have begun in other environments?

What kinds of materials are needed to separate space into chemically distinct compartments? How can you make selective gates and valves to connect these compartments? What features are needed in materials that can transform chemical energy into mechanical work? Are there any ways, other than ATP, to locally store and release energy? How are gradients and tracks constructed to move materials around?

We will answer these questions through examples from our research in Sheffield; using polymers to enclose space and encapsulate chemical systems, exploiting non-linear phenomena, such as oscillating reactions and osmosis, to achieve nano-scale motility. Developing the hypothesis that life arose from a combination of nanomaterials and complexity.

The Lecture will take place on the Tuesday 1st December 2009 at 6.45pm in the Octagon Centre, Western Bank, Sheffield

Entrance is free but by ticket only which can be obtained from Dr Russell Goodall, Department of Engineering Materials, Sir Robert Hadfield Building, Mappin Street, Sheffield, S1 3JD.

Online ticket request form