About Us

Revealing invisible inks

Use the links on the left hand side to navigate through this section all about us, and what we do. We have some photos showing the events in action, as well as pictures of the finished murals.

The 'Creating a Colourful Life' project is an EPSRC funded partnership for Public Engagement award. The project aims to raise the profile of pigment science and of chemistry at universities. The work is co-ordinated by two academics, Dr Sandra Dann from Loughborough University and Prof. Mark Weller from University of Southampton.

We have organised numerous science meets art type events. The events typically involve a wide range of short, hands on, experiments. Worksheets detailing the experiments are available as PDF files in the worksheets section. The experiments which we have found to be most popular are

  1. Making paints from pigments and binder. The paints are classed into three different ages; ancient, modern and futuristic. The paints are then used to paint a massive mural drawn by our artist, Paul Gent.
  2. Making paints from chemicals. Three simple titration reactions result in three different coloured pigments. These are dried and then used to make paint.
  3. A mini crime scene investigation experiment. Two different black inks from pens are separated by chromatography and compared to an envelope ransom note.
  4. Security markings on twenty banknotes from all over the world are investigated under a microscope and under UV light. A passport and driving license are also tested.
  5. Mug painting. A range of UV, glow in the dark and thermochromic paints are used to paint a mug.
  6. Invisible inks are made from materials available in a kitchen.
  7. Food colouring e-numbers are investigated using chromatography to demonstrate colour mixing.
In the laboratory Everyone attending a 'Creating a Colourful Life' day

These events have been held in the Chemistry labs at Loughborough and Southampton. We have also attended a number of science fairs and festivals, including Wrexham, Cheltenham and Brighton. At the science fairs we do a scaled down version of the above - dependent on space. In addition we also have numerous poster boards set up, which give further background and context to the science being undertaken.

A team of demonstrators attend all the events to create a fun, friendly and safe atmosphere. We have catered for audiences between 2 - 84 years of age, as well as for people with university education to no previous science experience. The activities are designed to work on a range of levels, and the demonstrators are able to recognise and communicate ideas effectively.

Along with all these activities a short 20 minute lecture has also been designed by Dr. Dann. This lecture explores the use of colour in everyday life, and where ancient pigments were obtained from. It also examines how modern pigments such as photochromics and thermochromics are used. The lecture is interactive, and a range of demonstrations are used throughout the lecture.

Painting the mural Painting the mural

In addition to these events an interactive display has been created demonstrating current pigment science undertaken in the Loughborough and Southampton laboratories. The display was exhibited at the Royal Society Summer Science Exhibition 2007. The display is due to be donated to Snibston science park.

To see what people who have been involved in our programme have said please visit our feedback page.

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