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MacDiarmid Institute Regional Series 'Materials: Fact or Fiction' - Tauranga

MacDiarmid researchers will delve into the periodic table to give us their scientific take on whether Tricorder from 'Star Trek' and Mithril from 'The Lord of the Rings' could be reality in a not too far off future.

Tricorder – a fictional device from the world of Star Trek - is a multifunction hand-held device used for sensor (environment) scanning, data analysis, and recording data.

Mithril is a precious, silvery metal featured in The Lord of the Rings that is very lightweight but immensely strong and used to produce extremely lightweight, hard and durable armour. It could be beaten and polished without being weakened or tarnished.

From what we know of the periodic table and the world around us, could these exist in real life?

Dr Michel Nieuwoudt, a MacDiarmid Institute Associate Investigator and a Research Scientist at the University of Auckland, will give us her take on the tricorder from Star Trek. She will be joined by Dr Chris Bumby, another Associate Investigator in the MacDiarmid Institute and also a Principal Scientist at the Robinson Research Institute of Victoria University of Wellington, who will discuss mithril from The Lord of the Rings.

The event will be chaired by Otago Museum science communicator Dr Claire Concannon as MC. There’ll be two talks, a three-minute animated video on the ‘science of lightsabers’, and time for Q&A. Due to recent uncertainty around COVID alert levels, the MacDiarmid Institute researchers and Claire will be contributing digitally to this event, but the public is invited to attend the event in person as normal and will still have the opportunity to ask questions of our speakers. 

There will be other events around the country as part of the lecture series, including in Nelson and Wanaka, so please email MacD-Admin@ed.ac.uk if you would like to be informed of future events. 

About the speakers

Dr Chris Bumby is an Associate Investigator with the MacDiarmid Institute and a Principal Scientist at the Robinson Research Institute of Victoria University of Wellington. Born and raised in England, Chris completed his DPhil. in Physics at the University of Oxford in 2005. Shortly afterwards, he arrived in New Zealand to undertake a Royal Society (UK) Fellowship at Victoria University of Wellington and he’s been here ever since. Chris currently works on a range of commercial and industry-facing applied research projects and currently leads two research programmes funded by the NZ Government (MBIE). His research spans a diverse range of materials engineering topics including hydrogen steelmaking, ceramic semiconductors and superconducting machines. 

Dr Michel Nieuwoudt is an Associate Investigator at the MacDiarmid Institute and a Research Scientist at the Photon Factory in the School of Chemical Sciences, University of Auckland. She earned her PhD in Raman spectroscopy of passive film on iron film with electrochemical control from The University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, South Africa, following the completion of her BSc (Hons) in Chemistry and Applied Chemistry there. Michel is a Senior Research Fellow at University of Auckland, where since 2013 where she has performed research on extracting useful insights from complex materials, such as milk and biological tissues (human bone and skin) using Raman and infrared spectroscopies (Mid, Near- and Far-IR) and chemometrics. Currently she is PI on an MBIE Smart ideas project to develop a photonic device for rapid and non-invasive diagnosis of skin cancers.


Dr Michel Nieuwoudt and Dr Chris Bumby


The MacDiarmid Institute


Tauranga Yacht Club, 90 Keith Allen Drive, Tauranga 3110

7:00pm Mon 19 October, 2020 - 8:00pm Mon 19 October, 2020