Photon Shop shines a light on Southampton research activities at Poole art festival

Researchers from the University of Southampton demonstrated the science of light through a pop-up ‘Photon Shop’ at the Light Up Poole! Art Festival.

Scientists from the Optoelectronics Research Centre (ORC), Physics and Astronomy and Chemistry engaged over 1,000 visitors with hands-on activities at the store on Poole High Street across the three evenings of the digital light art festival.

Hundreds of pupils and teachers at Lytchett Minster and Poole High Schools were also introduced to the world of photonics in two Light Express Roadshow performances delivered by University staff and students.


Pearl John, Public Engagement Leader for the Future Photonics Hub, said: “Working with light plays a pivotal role in a lot of pioneering research at the University of Southampton and it has been exciting to see the enthusiasm from people of all ages who made scientific discoveries in our activities during the Light Up Poole! Art Festival.”

Optical engineers, astrophysicists and chemists contributed to five interactive exhibits from February 21st to 23rd at the Photon Shop, which was funded by an Institute of Physics Public Engagement Grant and supported by the EPSRC-funded Future Photonics Hub, ADEPT, the STFC-funded Planeterrella, the NERC-funded Aurora Zoo research, the Royal Academy of Engineering and the South East Physics Network.


The Light Wave exhibit with ORC PhD students Callum Stirling and Andrei Donko encouraged visitors to send music down a laser beam and learn how the internet sends information from one place to another as researchers demonstrated their application of fibre optics and low-powered lasers.

Visitors identified different types of aurora from the Northern Lights as part of the Aurora Zoo activity with Dr Daniel Whiter, which contributed to a larger study helping researchers better understand the processes of the upper atmosphere and space weather that can damage satellites, GPS and telecommunications.


Dr Jo Corsi’s team introduced visitors to the process of electrodeposition in the creation of semiconductor materials while making their own gold fingerprints. Dr Sadie Jones’s #Sotonastroart hands-on activity enabled visitors to create artwork inspired by research materials and methods used by astrophysicists exploring Dark Energy.

Around 40,000 visitors enjoyed digital light art spectacles in the broader programme of the Light Up Poole! festival. The event, which was produced by Audacious CIC in partnership with several leading cultural organisations, included a Light Art Symposium that explored creative and commercial opportunities with Poole’s business, tourism and technology communities.