18 October 2022
Element Six (E6), part of the De Beers Group, has worked with IF Oxford over the past five years to deliver STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Maths) experiences for the Festival’s diverse attendees. E6’s own multidisciplinary team has expanded its range of engaging activities with support from the Festival, while strengthening team collaboration and skills.
Located on the Harwell Science and Innovation Campus in Oxfordshire, the Element Six Global Innovation Centre is one of the world’s largest facilities entirely devoted to the design, development and production of synthetic diamond and other advanced material solutions. Thanks to the Group’s Ambassador For Good programme, E6 is able to support once again IF Oxford to engage and educate thousands of individuals across Oxfordshire and worldwide.
The E6 team of scientists has built up a collection of interactive demonstrations and video content that are used to inspire families and adults to explore technologies at the cutting-edge of science. Diamond materials have exceptional mechanical, thermal, optical and chemical properties. Renowned in nature for its sparkle, synthetic diamonds are grown in one of two ways: like frost accumulating on the walls of a freezer compartment, using chemical vapour deposition (CVD); or by recreating the physical and chemical conditions under the earth’s crust in huge machines which press and heat carbon starting ingredients (high pressure, high temperature – HPHT).
Among its many successful collaborations across industry and academia, Element Six provided the highest purity CVD diamond used at CERN to support the identification of the Higgs boson, supplied the synchrotron vacuum windows for the Diamond Light Source and helped UKAEA break world records in fusion energy by providing access to their patented diamond solutions and technologies.
Element Six regularly participates in the Festival’s family-friendly Explorazone with its hands-on diamond activities, and created a suite of short videos during the Covid pandemic to enable attendees to engage and learn remotely. These videos are a handy resource for anyone wanting to learn a little more about synthetic diamond technologies and the STEM stars of the small screen are the men and women from different background and nationalities, all based at E6’s the Global Innovation Centre.
Commenting on the value of being part of a bigger STEM engagement effort, Maria Cann, Laser Ablation Specialist (or diamond blaster) said: “We love talking about what we do and engaging with the public is always a great experience. There is such a mixture of people attending every year, and they often tell us about topics we are completely unaware of; it really gets our brains firing and inspiration flowing.”
She continues: “It’s great to see such a variety of attendees, especially people who wouldn’t normally go to a science festival. They always know more about science than they think and it is exciting to see how science fits into their everyday lives.
“Everything is connected. A family who went to the Chemistry Confectioners presentation last year and learnt about the science behind meringue, may next year be inspired to talk to Element Six’s about material structure, and see links between the structure of diamond and spun sugar, or how defects might link to crumbly pastry.
“We hope that seeing how our materials have the potential transform their world in the future, for instance enabling quantum technologies, could inspire the next generation of engineers and scientists to solve the next important problems.”
The clustering of STEM organisations in Oxfordshire helps science and ideas come together at an accelerated rate and UKAEA, Element Six, Diamond Light Source and STFC (the UK’s contribution to CERN) are all long-standing contributors of IF Oxford. They all recognise that by working on a coordinated public project, like IF Oxford’s science and ideas Festival in October, companies of all shapes and sizes can contribute to a greater effort, closing the skills gap and encouraging diversity in STEM career paths.
IF Oxford sends huge thanks to its collaborators, supporters and talented individuals who volunteer to make the Festival possible. It could not happen without their time, creativity and enthusiasm. IF Oxford 2022 key supporters: https://if-oxford.com/supporters