It received its Royal Charter in 1885 and was one of the founding member institutions of the former federal University of Wales. It was officially known for most of its history as the University College of North Wales (UCNW), and later as the University of Wales, Bangor (UWB) (Welsh: Prifysgol Cymru, Bangor). From September 2007 it became known as Bangor University, having become independent from the federal University of Wales.
In 2012 Bangor was ranked 251st among the world’s top universities.[
According to the Sunday Times University Guide 2012, it is rated top in Wales for teaching excellence and is among the top 15 universities in the UK in this category.
Scientists at the UK’s Bangor and Oxford universities have achieved a world first: using spider-silk as a superlens to increase the microscope’s potential.
Extending the limit of classical microscope’s resolution has been the ‘El Dorado’ or ‘Holy Grail’ of microscopy for over a century. Physical laws of light make it impossible to view objects smaller than 200 nm – the smallest size of bacteria, using a normal microscope alone. However, superlenses which enable us to see beyond the current magnification have been the goal since the turn of the millennium.
Hot on the heels of a paper (Sci. Adv. 2 e1600901,2016) revealing that a team at Bangor University’s School of Electronic Engineering has used a nanobead-derived superlens to break the perceived resolution barrier, the same team has achieved another world first.
Now the team, led by Dr Zengbo Wang and in colloboration with Prof. Fritz Vollrath’s silk group at Oxford University’s Department of Zoology, has used a naturally occurring material – dragline silk of the golden web spider, as an additional superlens, applied to the surface of the material to be viewed, to provide an additional 2-3 times magnification.
This is the first time that a naturally occurring biological material has been used as a superlens.
In the paper in Nano Letters (DOI: 10.1021/acs.nanolett.6b02641, Aug 17 2016), the joint team reveals how they used a cylindrical piece of spider silk from the thumb sized Nephilaspider as a lens.
Dr Zengbo Wang said:
“We have proved that the resolution barrier of microscope can be broken using a superlens, but production of manufactured superlenses invovles some complex engineering processes which are not widely accessible to other reserchers. This is why we have been interested in looking for naturally occurring superlenses provided by ‘Mother Nature’, which may exist around us, so that everyone can access superlenses.”
Prof Fritz Vollrath adds:
“It is very exciting to find yet another cutting edge and totally novel use for a spider silk, which we have been studying for over two decades in my laboratory.”
These lenses could be used for seeing and viewing previously ‘invisible’ structures, including engineered nano-structures and biological micro-structures as well as, potentially, native germs and viruses.
The natural cylindrical structure at a micron- and submicron-scale make silks ideal candidates, in this case, the individual filaments had diameters of one tenth of a thin human hair.
The spider filament enabled the group to view details on a micro-chip and a blue- ray disk which would be invisible using the unmodified optical microscope.
In much the same was as when you look through a cylindrical glass or bottle, the clearest image only runs along the narrow strip directly opposite your line of vision, or resting on the surface being viewed, the single filament provides a one dimensional viewing image along its length.
“The cylindrical silk lens has advantages in the larger field-of-view when compared to a microsphere superlens. Importantly for potential commercial applications, a spider silk nanoscope would be robust and economical, which in turn could provide excellent manufacturing platforms for a wide range of applications.”
James Monks, a co-author on the paper comments: “it has been an exciting time to be able to develop this project as part of my honours degree in electronic engineering at Bangor University and I am now very much looking forward to joining Dr Wang’s team as a PhD student in nano-photonics.”
Lancaster University is about to take the concept of smart cities out of town. Computer scientists at Lancaster University are investigating how the Internet of Things could work in the countryside.
The Internet of Things – which enables object-to-object communication over the internet and real time data monitoring – has typically been associated with urban environments and until now the countryside has been left out in the cold.
Computer scientist Professor Gordon Blair of Lancaster University has won £171,495 from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council to lead a new project in Conwy, North Wales, which will investigate how the Internet of Things could work in the countryside.
Working with partners at the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology, The British Geological Survey and Bangor University, the project launched on December 1 and will run for 18 months.
Problems from flooding and agricultural pollution to animal movements and drought could all potentially benefit from smart technology in the sticks.
The Internet of Things, which takes everyday objects and hooks them up to the internet, represents a shift in the way we gather and engage with information. Applying this booming technology to the countryside presents challenges – for example how to build a network when there are mountains and trees in the way – but researchers believe the benefits could be huge.
Sheep with digital collars, sensors on riverbanks, rainfall and river flow monitors could all soon form part of the project.
Take me to the story: Move over smart cities – the Internet of Things is off to the country
Work to unlock potential of plant life
The many uses of abundant but overlooked plants – from killing slugs to treating athlete’s foot – are being investigated by scientists at Bangor University.
Research into plant-based alternatives to products and ingredients currently derived from crude oil has found that ivy is just one of a range of plants with plenty of untapped potential.
Ivy, which grows abundantly in Wales, is being investigated by Bangor University’s BioComposites Centre at an Anglesey biorefinery for the fine chemicals and other valuable extracts and fibres which it contains.
The focus of the centre’s work is on finding new uses for valuable natural resources which are currently either completely ignored or thrown away.
Scientists have found that ivy could provide a number of extracts which could be used in areas ranging from personal products such as shampoo to horticulture and the food industry.
Development chemist Dr Dave Preskett said: “We’re not making the most of ivy; the plant has great potential.
“We’ve used ivy extract as a slug killer in place of slug pellets. Trials using it as a fungicide to treat potato blight – in place of oil-derived chemical sprays – proved very effective in protecting crops. The same extract also has great potential to be developed in products for treating dandruff and athlete’s foot. An oil produced from the berries is edible as, contrary to popular belief, ivy is not poisonous and has all the health-giving properties of olive oil but the more solid consistency of butter or lard.”
The centre provides the basic investigation into the compounds found in different plants and how they can be used, and also conducts specific contracted work for individual companies.
The new source of materials could also provide vital rural employment opportunities through local processing facilities known as biorefineries.
Natural sources including potatoes help to create new award-winning product
A new biodegradable and recyclable form of medium density fibreboard (MDF) has been created that could dramatically reduce the problem of future waste. Today (31 October), Professor Andrew Abbott is awarded the Royal Society Brian Mercer Award for Innovation 2013 that will help him make the critical step from prototype to product.
Almost one million tonnes of MDF is produced in the UK every year. It is a cheap and popular engineered wood product widely used for furniture and other products in homes, offices and retail businesses. However, as MDF cannot be recycled, waste MDF either has to be incinerated or ends up in landfill.
Professor Abbott and his team at the Department of Chemistry at the University of Leicester have developed a new wood-based product similar to MDF that uses a resin based on starch from completely natural sources, including potatoes.
Professor Anthony Cheetham, Vice President and Treasurer of the Royal Society said: “It is impressive to see someone take a material that is commonplace in all of our homes and solve its key limitations. Professor Abbott has managed to re-invent MDF, transforming it into a product that has much more relevance in an environmentally conscious society.”
A significant proportion of MDF is used for short term applications in the retail sector. The use of a material which can either be recycled or composted would be a significant benefit to an industry often criticised for the amount of waste it generates.
MDF is made by breaking down bits of wood into wood fibres, which are then pressurised and stuck together with resin and wax. The resin is currently composed of urea and formaldehyde (UF), the use of which is restricted due to health concerns. Professor Abbott’s new resin means that the use of UF is avoided and therefore so too are the associated concerns.
With the aid of colleagues at the Biocomposites Centre, Bangor University and the Leicestershire-based retail design company Sheridan and Co., his team have produced starch-based boards which have been made into retail display units.
Professor Abbott’s new material is easier to manufacture and easier to work with than current MDF boards.
The practical studies were led by Dr Will Wise who said: “It has been a technological challenge to develop material with the correct properties, but it is a great thrill to see the finished boards which look identical to the MDF which is so commonly used.”
The new material is easier to manufacture than existing MDF as the components are easily pre-mixed and only set on the application of heat and pressure; end user feedback suggests it is also easier to work with than currently available MDF boards.
It has not previously been possible to prove the exact origin of any particular fish
Powerful and versatile new genetic tools that will assist in safeguarding both European fish stocks and European consumers is reported in Nature Communications. The paper reports on the first system proven to identify populations of fish species to a forensic level of validation.
With up to 25% of fish catches being caught illegally across the world, and with an estimated cost to Europe of up to €10 billion by 2020, the EU were eager to address the problems facing the European fishing industry. One major initiative was to fund the EU project behind the latest development: a three year, four million Euro pan-European project, called “FishPopTrace” led by Bangor University, UK.
The EU has already introduced a law requiring any fish sold in the EU to be identified with the species and region of origin on the label from 2011. The same regulation explicitly requires EU Member States to undertake pilot studies of novel traceability tools by 2013 to test the authenticity of this labelling. Furthermore, awareness and take up of the product is already in hand. In the UK, DEFRA is funding a pilot project to develop the tools to help UK fishing industry to collect, manage and store the samples to forensic standards.
Minister for the Natural Environment and Fisheries, Richard Benyon said: “Illegal fishing is not just theft from responsible fishermen and fishing communities it has a devastating impact on the fish in our seas and oceans. I’m delighted to see a project as innovative and revolutionary as FishPopTrace come to fruition. Protecting our seas and our honest fishermen from this abuse would be a remarkable achievement and I am confident that this technology will prove highly valuable in efforts to achieve sustainable fisheries globally.”
Prof Gary Carvalho who headed the FishPopTrace EU consortium behind the new validation tools explains:
“A major existing problem is that it has not previously been possible to prove the exact origin of any particular fish, and in some circumstances, particularly with processed or cooked fish, it can be quite difficult even to identify the species, let alone its source of origin.