Students show how bananas, tea leaves and salt are ‘nuclear’

02 Aug 2010

Radioactive bananas, uranium in Victorian glassware and natural nuclear reactors – just a few of the fascinating topics to be showcased at an exhibition this week.

Examples of glass with radioactive material
Examples of glass with radioactive material

A handful of students from The University of Manchester will be heading down to the Museum of Science and Industry to try and convince visitors nuclear energy is normal and natural.

The students, from the School of Chemistry, have the tricky task of convincing the public about how radioactivity is safe and important, and have developed an interactive display to get their message across.

The students are from the Nuclear FiRST Doctoral Training Centre, a joint Manchester and Sheffield programme funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC).

They are taking part in a ‘Meet the Scientist Event’ at the Museum of Science and Industry in Manchester

Part of their interactive display will include showing how bananas, Brazil nuts, coffee beans and salt are all radioactive using a Geiger counter.

They will also tell how the Victorians used to use uranium to colour their glassware a rich green colour, and how we use a very radioactive element, Americium, in smoke alarms that we all have in our houses.

Parts of the British Isles – Devon, Cornwall and Aberdeen – are naturally radioactive, which has nothing to do with nuclear power stations! The team will be showing how this is the case as well as showing how old-fashioned watches with luminous dials were radioactive.

Dr Sarah Heath, who has helped put the exhibit together, said: “The students have spent a lot of time developing an interesting and interactive exhibition which they hope will show people of all ages that natural radioactivity is all around us and is something most of us use or even eat everyday.

“They are also using the exhibition to present posters which illustrate vital aspects of their own research, such as how we can deal with legacy nuclear waste and how and why we should consider using nuclear energy in the future. 

“They hope this exhibit will give them the chance to teach the public more about radioactivity and Nuclear Power.”

The display will be at MOSI today (Monday) and Tuesday and is located in the aeroplane hall next to the spitfire.

For more details contact the museum on 0161 832 2244

Notes for editors

For press information contact:

Dan Cochlin
Media Relations
The University of Manchester
Tel: 0161 275 8387