Bubbles, sound, extraterrestrial sound, dolphins and antimicrobial resistance | University of Oxford

Bubbles, sound, extraterrestrial sound, dolphins and antimicrobial resistance

Prof Leighton
Event date
Event time
18:00 - 19:30
Clarendon Laboratory
Parks Road
Event type
Lectures and seminars
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Not required

Abstract: This lecture explains how the question of why brooks make a babbling noise led to the construction of a 100-person team to tackle the impending global catastrophe of Anti-Microbial Resistance (AMR). The babble of a brook that has intrigued poets was found to come from the bubbles produced by the stream, which ring like small bells. Capturing the physics of this allowed the invention of devices used by the oil and gas industry for leak detection from undersea pipes, but also allowed the prediction of the sounds of waterfalls on other worlds, such as Saturn’s moon, Titan. As with any musical instrument that can make sound, bubbles will vibrate and scatter sound projected at them at the appropriate frequencies, and whilst such strong acoustic scattering can be exploited to look at how the oceans contribute to the global carbon dioxide budget, it also reveals mysteries as to how whales and dolphins use sound underwater. Acoustically-induced vibration on the bubble wall also led to the invention of StarStream, a device for cleaning with cold water, without soap. This in turn led to the formation of a 100-person strong team to combat AMR, which by 2050 (unless stopped) will be responsible for more deaths than cancer, and cost the global economy more than the current size of the global economy.

Professor Timothy Leighton FREng FRS is Professor of Ultrasonics and Underwater Acoustics at the University of Southampton, UK. He is founder and Chair of the Network for AntiMicrobial Resistance and Infection Prevention (NAMRIP) and the Health Effects of Ultrasound in Air (HEFUA) group. He has pioneered fundamental research in a range of topics, then advanced this research through innovation to products. His inventions include biomedical devices, new sonar and radar, and industrial ultrasonic devices. He has received 7 medals from the Institute of Physics, the Acoustical Society of America, the International Commission of Acoustics, the Institute of Acoustics etc. and received 6 International Prizes in recognition of Innovation from the Institute of Chemical Engineering, S-lab, and the Royal Society etc. For further details see http://www.southampton.ac.uk/engineering/about/staff/tgl.page#background