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HONORARY FELLOWS LECTURE - Evolution in action: Materials, Design and Sustainability

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A COMPLIMENTARY DRINKS RECEPTION TO FOLLOW ON AFTER THE LECTURE WILL TAKE PLACE IN THE FOYER TO THE LECTURE THEATRE FOR ALL ATTENDEES

In the (very) beginning here was hydrogen and helium. Fusion in stars and nuclear reactions in supernovae created, over time, the elements we now have access to on earth. Bit by bit we have developed an understanding of these elements and what can be done with them, moving from the age of empiricism and alchemy to the present-day Science of Materials, an impressive body of knowledge but one that is still incomplete. As this understanding developed, so too did the range of materials and properties on which a designer could draw – and draw on it they did, creating a vast range of products on which we now depend. But dependence is not without its own problems. The designer of the 19th century drew on a relatively small portfolio of widely available elements; designers today rely on access to most of the Periodic Table, not all of it so widely available. Supply chain constraints, environmental legislation, economic competition and simple scarcity now make access to materials a matter of national geopolitical and economic concern. Meanwhile the complexity of design has increased, driven by the desire for greater functionality, consumer appeal, safety, environmental protection and – today – the target of “sustainability”, whatever that means. The talk ends by illustrating one way of exploring sustainable development in a materials context and the direction in which thinking is now going.

This talk is part of the Cambridge Philosophical Society series.

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