Moss balls and marbling

Imperial College London is committed to sharing the wonder and excitement of the science that we do. So it is part of the Great Exhibition Road Festival every June, a two-day science and art party for all ages! In 2022, the theme was trailblazers. Imperial worked alongside some of the great museums and institutes in the Albertopolis to deliver talks, workshops, performances and activities. And of course IMSE was there as well!

Joao Cabral and Liva Donina grinning in front of the poster for the marbling activity at the 2022 Great Exhibition Road Festival
Joao Cabral and Liva Donina at the 2022 Great Exhibition Road Festival

Surfactant science in paper marbling

Liva Donina and her team (including our IMSE’s Associate Director for External Partnerships João Cabral) delivered hands on activities in the science and art of paper marbling.

This activity explored the intersection of surfactant science, fluid dynamics and creativity. It was a community experiment with aspiring scientists of all ages!

Group of people of all ages sitting round a table in a tent. The table is covered art materials. Each participant is creating a marbled image.
Participants at the 2022 Great Exhibition Road Festival trying out paper marbling

Try paper marbling yourself here [Scientific American Science Buddies activity]

Liquid stone

IMSE MRes student Chen Gong ran a workshop on recipes for bio-receptive concrete, a building material which can also support living organisms. Building with materials that can support organic life could help reduce air pollution, flooding, urban overheating, and improve psychological wellbeing.

In the workshop, participants made a ‘moss ball’. This is a polyhedral concrete shape to take home and put in the garden or on the balcony. They can then send Chen photos of what grows on the moss ball. This is all useful data for Chen’s research (with Mary Ryan, Rupert Myers, and Ifan Stephens from Imperial College London, and Clement Périssé from Villa Medici) on how to make concrete more bio-receptive.

Clement Périssé, Chen Gong and Mary Ryan on stage at the Royal Academy of Music. Above their heads is a projector screen showing a photograph of Chen and another teacher working with 2 children to make a polyhedral 'moss ball'
Clement Périssé, Chen Gong and Mary Ryan presenting making a ‘moss ball’ during the 2022 Great Exhibition Road Festival

The collaboration with Villa Medici fits in with IMSE’s work with the SERCH network, building collaborations for science and engineering research in cultural heritage.

Mary said “Chen did a fabulous job preparing for the workshop with Clement and explaining her work to the public today (Ifan has been tweeting @IfanStephens and tagging #IMSE)!”

Chen said “Thank you everyone, I am really grateful and feeling lucky to be working with you! The workshop and panel discussion are a huge success thanks to everyone’s help, loved it!!”

Ready for 2023!

Will you come to the festival in 2023? We will be there with some cool stuff that hasn’t been invented yet!

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