Meet Science and Engineering leader of tomorrow - Laurie Winkless

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Did you know that more than seventy per cent of the energy produced by a typical car is wasted and most of that is heat? Laurie Winkless is looking at the materials that could be used to capture this heat and transform it into electricity.

Laurie is involved in an Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) campaign called New Outlooks in Science and Engineering (NOISE).

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My name is Laurie Winkless and I work at the National Physical Laboratory (NPL) in Teddington and my research is on nanostructured thermoelectric materials. Three big words, but basically those materials can be used to capture waste heat and produce electricity. So when you think about all of the wasted heat in your life, 60 per cent of the energy produced by a car engine is lost and most of that is through heat. And if you think even about your laptop on your knee, you know how warm your knees get and again that’s wasted energy, so these materials can be used to capture that lost energy and they can transform it into electrical power. So, in terms of the energy market, there is a very obvious application and the work that I’m doing at the NPL is related to the car industry for the most part. We are looking at putting these materials on the exhaust of a car to capture some of the wasted heat in that exhaust and power batteries for example in the car. 

For me science can answer many questions, it can’t answer them all though and we shouldn’t try to I don’t think. But it involves every one of us, every single day we use technology and we use science even if we are just end users as we say. I develop technology and science, as do other scientists and engineers, but a lot of people just buy the result in technology. However their lives are completely impacted by the science that we have worked on. So I think it is incredibly important because we can’t avoid it and we shouldn’t be afraid of it, because we are not all crazy haired scientists that work in darkened labs. It’s not what we do we like to do research that is relevant to the real world. So if we are doing that we also want people to be interested in what we do.  

I became interested in science before I realised what science really was, because when I was very little I was really curious, or if you ask my parents really really annoying, and a lot of what I did was break household gadgets and ask incredibly ridiculous questions to my parents, but they seemed to bare up quite well and bought me science kits and books and then bought me a telescope and that was it I was hooked.