Boys' School Visit Photon Factory

November 17, 2014 at 11:09 AM

A group of Year 8 students from the Boys’ School paid a visit to a unique facility at The University of Auckland last week – the Photon Factory. Associate Professor Dr Cather Simpson, Director of the Photon Factory, kindly opened up her hi-tech lab for an afternoon for our boys to gain insight into the kind of research projects that science and engineering university students undertake as part of their degrees.

The Photon Factory is a multi-user laser facility with an amplified ultrafast laser system. These lasers have micro to nanosecond pulse widths that can machine microscopic features in any material. The machines are available for university students and staff to study how molecules convert light to useful energy and exploit short laser pulses in micromachining projects for scientists all over New Zealand. The high-tech machines are used for everything from discovering fundamental knowledge (research projects) to manufacturing on a microscopic scale. The ultra-fast lasers can cut and shape many materials from glass to plastic to metals.

Photon Factory trip (3).jpgSeveral PhD students gave demonstrations and talked about their projects which were as diverse as an investigation to find out what happens at the molecular level when sun fades paints in fine arts to sorting male and female bovine sex cells for selective reproduction on dairy farms.

The boys were shown how surfaces can be lasered with a hydrophobic relief on a custom made Saint Kentigern perspex plaque and then they were challenged to navigate through a laser light course using dihydrogen monoxide spray to identify the pathways.

Our thanks to Dr Simpson and her students for taking the time to host our boys in this incredible facility. Visits such as these put the boys’ learning in context and gives them insight into where their studies might take them later in life. 

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