MERI Celebrates its 25th Anniversary Dinner with Unique Mementos
Saturday 31 October 2015
The Materials and Engineering Research Institute (MERI) at Sheffield Hallam University held its 25th Anniversary Dinner on Thursday, 10 September 2015, celebrating a quarter of a century of research and development excellence. Our attendees received a unique memento for the evening's celebration.
MERI wanted the memento to be attractive in its own right but also to serve a practical purpose and to convey what we do. Our challenge, as engineers and scientists, was to convey in a single object the complexities of the research that we carry out in polymers, nano-composites and mathematical modelling, ceramic-thermo-electric materials, aerospace coatings and thin films, welding and joining, and so on. As a part of the College of Business, Technology and Engineering, we approached our colleagues who work in product design for advice. They suggested we hold a student competition and invited the MA Product Design students to a 'hot house design brief' event where we gave them a series of presentations outlining everything that we do and have done over the past 25 years. The students then had a week to come back to us with their pitches.
The winning design was a cog. The simplicity of the design and its multi-functionality, the care with which they had chosen the shape, their choice of materials, the coatings, the anodising and the manufacturing methods that were needed to produce these bespoke, hand-finished artefacts were all factors which gave this design the winning edge.
The cog was designed with four functions in mind. It acted as a napkin holder, a place marker, a conversation piece for the evening dinner and, when the guests took it away, it became a coaster for their tea or coffee cup at work.
The five teeth of the cog represent the five centres which make up MERI: the four research centres and the consultancy group. The winning design team specified that it should be made in aluminium, a lightweight corrosion resistant alloy, to reflect MERI's work in aerospace and structural integrity. They wanted to represent our thin films group by having the cogs PVD coated in niobium and then anodised to create the vibrant colours.
Three colours were chosen for the cogs: green, blue and purple. The green represents our environmental engineering activity, such as sustainable moisture resistant paper, low cost low tech Photovoltaic cells for use in countries which are solar rich but technology poor, and higher cost higher efficiency Photovoltaic cells for countries like the UK, where we need to collect every photon of energy from what little sunshine that we get. The blue was chosen to represent our blue-sky research for example in the use of hydrogels for the treatment of back injury, the electrically conducting sol gel coatings and our fundamental work on plasma physics. The purple is a nod to the Sheffield Hallam team colours.
The 75 bespoke artefacts for the dinner were manufactured by our industrial partners at Control Water Jet Cutting in Chesterfield which were then hand polished by our metal work and jewellery students, before being coated in 3 micron film of niobium in our Plasma Vapour Deposition coating unit followed by anodising by our Thin Films research centre staff. Finally, the MERI cog was precision laser etched by our multi-award-winning partners at Pryor Marking in Sheffield.
Each cog truly reflects the unique nature of the relationships that we develop with every company, colleague and partner institution that we work with.