Project M - 1000 samples, 100 schools, one great big experiment

100 schools are taking part in Project M - a novel and exciting research project. In order to help us understand calcium carbonate, each school is making 10 samples, using specially selected additives. Once complete, the samples will be sent back to us to analyse using our laboratory Beamline I11 at Diamond. We are aiming to analyse all 1000 samples in a 24 hour period. This will be used to produce a giant set of results which we hope (fingers crossed) will produce a scientific publication – this research has never been done before.

 

  • 100 schools will be selected to receive a kit
  • Each school will make a specific set of 10 samples (week 1)
  • The samples will be loaded into a capillary by the students (week 2) and sent back to Diamond.
  • Each sample will be tested in a 24 hour experiment in April!
  • The students will be able to analyse their data online!

The Science

Calcium carbonate has three main forms or ‘polymorphs’: vaterite, calcite and aragonite. We are trying to find out which of the polymorphs form for each of the additives. Some of these additives are amino acids, the building blocks which create proteins in the body. We know how to identify the different polymorphs using Diamond – they each have a specific chemical fingerprint which we can detect using X-rays.

 

Calcium carbonate

Calcium carbonate is an important mineral, found in living organisms such as the shells of snails, eggs and shellfish. It also makes up familiar materials such as chalk, limestone and marble. Depending on where you live, you might also find it inside your kettle, as crunchy white lime scale. Calcium carbonate is used in a wide variety of industrial processes, and can take several forms, which all have different properties.
 

Diamond

Diamond Light Source produces one of the brightest lights on planet earth, in the form of X-ray beams which allow us to understand the atomic structure of materials. Scientists come from all over the UK and further afield to use these X-rays to make better drugs, understand the natural world, and create futuristic materials.

Now it’s your turn.

Who is taking part?

Secondary school students from all over the UK are taking part in Diamond's largest citizen science experiment helping us understand calcium carbonate. The experiment is aimed at A-level chemists and science clubs at KS3/4/5, and will be carried out in two sessions of 45 minutes at least one week apart. 
  
Any questions should be directed to: projectm@diamond.ac.uk
 
Please also note that there are opportunities available to visit Diamond as part of our Schools Program