The AAAS Annual Meeting is a unique, interdisciplinary blend of more than 120 scientific sessions, plenary and topical lectures, workshops, e-poster presentations and international Expo, attended by hundreds of people in person and online. Being allocated a science session is competitive, due to the international reach and high attendance numbers.
In July 2022, ISIS submitted an abstract for a science session focused on Clean Energy Storage, coordinated by Sara Fletcher and placement student Evan Jones. The team were pleased to discover in the Autumn that the abstract had been accepted! After all the hard work preparing the abstract and liaising with the speakers, it was excellent to see the session finally going ahead on 3 March.
Chaired by Dr Karen Salt from UKRI, the session included presentations from ISIS scientist Professor Bill David, the University of Sheffield's Professor Serena Cussen and Dr Alexandr Simonov from Monash University, Australia.
Professor David began by setting the scene (image, left), explaining the need for energy storage that enables clean technologies to replace our current fossil fuel infrastructure. He then brought in his work on ammonia into the discussion, showing that it could be an ideal alternative due to its widespread use as a fertiliser and therefore large existing infrastructure and handling regulations. He also discussed innovation, and taking this technology to industry, which is what the new STFC spin-out company Sunborne Systems, created in collaboration with Reaction Engines, aims to do.
Dr Simonov continued the narrative by showcasing his groups work on developing a catalyst that produces ammonia in an alternative way to the energy-hungry Haber Bosh process. He discussed the recent advances in the group's work, as well as discussing the future applications of the catalysts, both in ammonia-related applications and elsewhere.
Professor Cussen went on to discuss battery technologies, and the need to not only develop new materials, but also methods for producing them that are more sustainable. She stressed the need to use large-scale facilities such as ISIS, giving examples of using both neutrons and muons to advance her research in this area. (Image, right. Credit: Robb Cohen Photography & Video)
A key point that was brought out by all the speakers was the need for technologies to be developed in a way that benefitted everyone. From African nations with the potential to produce high quantities of solar farm electricity to the need to reduce the use of elements that are mined in unsafe conditions.
After the talks there were questions from the audience for all the speakers and, after the session finished, the panel had audience members queuing up to speak to them.
Just a few hours after the science session, Professors David and Cussen were then invited to be interviewed live on stage in the exhibition hall for NPR's Short Wave podcast (image, below) Again, the discussions covered the use of both ammonia and batteries, with the audience highly engaged. Following the recording, both speakers were again approached by audience members, with discussions continuing until we were all asked to leave the exhibition hall as it was closing!
Also present at AAAS were Diamond Light Source, who ran an excellent panel discussion about women in STEM careers, and hosted an exhibition stand with lightsources.org. UKRI held a session on the last day of the conference on the topic of diversity and inclusion work in the UK and USA, with some very open and honest discussion among people working in both countries.
Overall, the ISIS trip to AAAS was very successful, and sets a high bar for future proposals. Thanks to all those who helped with making the session a success, especially our superb speakers.
For more information about our session, visit our Sway. The NPR podcast should be available online soon.