Perovskite pleasures

I travelled down to the University of Surrey on Monday to check out the Perovskite Project at the Department of Chemistry. Having checked my Marantz recorder and all related equipment, and convinced myself that I knew how to use it , I turned up to interview Dr Julia Percival, project leader for this lovely piece of citizen science.


Now, I am biased, I love perovskites. Not only are they the commonest silicates in the planet, forming most of Earth’s deeper reaches, before you get to the metal core, they are also deeply deeply useful. Mobile phones, computer chips, audio recorders, gas lighters, battery materials, fuel cell components, magnetometers, and, latest, dye-sensitised solar cells, all rely on perovskite materials.


Last year was the International Year of Chemistry. Next year is the International Year of Crystallography. This year is the centenary of the Braggs’ first crystallographic work. So, what better way to celebrate than to knit a perovskite crystal?!!!

Julia has been receiving knitted perovskite polyhedra and atoms from across the globe. We had a great chat about all things perovskite, about whether it is better to knit them or to synthesise them in a furnace, how to cast on, and the reasons scientists build models. It linked in well to a discussion I had at the Science Museum last week when discussing the exhibit there, also celebrating a century of crystallography.

The interview went on for around 40 minutes, on Monday afternoon. I spent most of Tuesday editing that down to 5 minutes or so, a painful process. And the result should be available for all to hear tomorrow evening on this week’s “Science in Action”, on the BBC world service radio, where all the best programmes are found!