For more than 12 years, Tohoku University has been working to make science more accessible, taking interesting ideas out of the labs into the local communities through a lecture series called Science Café.
Held once a month at downtown locations like Mediatheque, the 2-hour interactive event provides an opportunity for anyone who is interested, to attend a free lecture on the latest in science research, take part in experiments and chat with researchers, students and like-minded people over drinks.
At the first Science Café of this academic year, held on April 28, Professor Shin-ichi Orimo of the Advanced Institute for Materials Research, spoke about hydrogen and its potential for storing energy. The event attracted an audience of about 120 people of all ages. They were lively during the question and answer session, and enthusiastic during the practical exercise of building their own fuel-cell batteries.
"I really like the hands-on approach that the professor is using, allowing us to experience for ourselves how these fuel-cell batteries look and work," said Australian Gregory Trencher, an associate professor at Tohoku University's Graduate School of Environmental Studies. "It really engages the audience, and helps us understand the information better."
"Many people are not yet familiar with hydrogen and what it can do, that's why events like these are so important," said Orimo. "My message today is that hydrogen is very near to all of us. A hydrogen society is coming!"
An example of an emerging industry built on hydrogen, is the fuel-cell vehicle - Japan's vision of low carbon transport. Toyota's line of hydrogen-fueled cars is called Mirai, the Japanese word for future.
Participants at Orimo's Science Café got an up-close look at two Mirai cars and might even be able to drive them soon. "It is very exciting and I hope young people get inspired, get interested in what hydrogen can do and continue advancing the research," said Orimo.
Science Café has been popular for over a decade because everyone involved is passionate about sharing knowledge, like the dozen or so student volunteers who help staff the events. "Science Café is a bridge between experts and non-experts. It's different and interesting because it's interactive. As a student, I appreciate so many people wanting to talk to us and ask us questions about science," said volunteer and 3rd year materials science student Yoshihiro Chida.
For now, Science Café is only held in Japanese, but it is open to everyone. To take part, click on the link for upcoming dates and topics.
Contact:External Relations Office, Tohoku University