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Wheatstone Lectures - Department of Physics


Sir Charles Wheatstone FRS (1802-75) was Professor of Experimental Philosophy at King's and was the first Professor in the Department from 1834 until his death in 1875. Polymath and self-taught son of a London-based musical instrument maker, Wheatstone conducted early experiments into acoustics and the transmission of sound. His greatest achievement was the development of the electric telegraph, which revolutionised communications in the nineteenth century.


Upcoming Event

The 2019 Wheatstone lecture will be held on 20th February.

We are excited to welcome Professor Naomi J. Halas NAS NAE from Rice University, Houston, TX.

She will be presenting a talk entitled;

From Faraday to tomorrow: Nanoscale Optics for Sustainability and Societal Impact.

Metallic nanoparticles, used since antiquity to impart intense, vibrant colour into materials, then brought to scientific attention in the 19th century as “Faraday’s colloid”, have more recently become a central tool in the nanoscale manipulation of light.   While the scientific foundation of this field has been built on nanoparticles consisting of noble and coinage metals, more recently we have begun to question whether the same, or similar properties can also be realised in more sustainable materials.  Aluminum, the most abundant metal on our planet, can support high-quality plasmonic properties spanning the UV-to-IR region of the spectrum.    Coupling a plasmonic nanoantenna directly to catalytic nanoparticles  transforms the entire complex into an efficient light-controlled catalyst capable of driving chemical reactions under surprisingly mild, low temperature conditions. Nanoscale graphene, when reduced to the molecular limit, sustains many plasmonic properties but introduces new ones such as single-electron colour switching, which can be utilised in unique electrochromic devices.  We have previously introduced photothermal effects for biomedical therapeutics; now, years after their initial demonstration, this approach is being utilised in human trials for the precise and highly localised ablation of cancerous regions of the prostate, eliminating the highly deleterious side effects characteristic of conventional prostate cancer therapies.  Photothermal effects can also be harvested for sustainability applications, which we have most recently demonstrated in an off-grid solar thermal desalination system that transforms energy-intensive membrane distillation into a more efficient and scalable water purification process.



The 2020 Wheatstone Lecture will be presented by Prof Stefan Hell on 26th February 2020.


 Past Wheatstone Lectures

2013 - Present

14th February 2018:

Professor Ian Walmsley, FRS

'Building quantum machines out of light.'

1st February 2017:

Professor Miles Padgett, FRS FRSE

'How many pixels does your camera have?'

10th February 2016:

Professor Jenny Nelson, FRS

 'New materials for solar to electric energy conversion: Opportunities and challenges'

18th February 2015:

Professor Nader Engheta

'From Wheatstone Bridge to Optical Nanocircuitry'

12th February 2014:

Professor Peter J Dobson OBE

'Nanotechnology and a legacy of Sir Charles Wheatstone'

13th February 2013:

Professor Sir David N Payne KBE FRS FREng

'Enlightening the World'



programmes from previous years

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