The natural history of a sunbeam – Making light work (1976)

George Porter

Sir George Porter looks at thermodynamics and its role in helping power our lives.

Watch time: 59:39
George Porter spinning a small golden fan in the Ri theatre
Credit: Royal Institution

Lecture 5 – Making light work

Thermodynamics and its role in helping to power our lives are explored in this 1976 CHRISTMAS LECTURE presented by chemist Sir George Porter.  

Porter takes the audience through the laws of thermodynamics with a series of demos that explain how they work in real-life settings, such as a heat pump for a refrigerator and how to warm a swimming pool using sunlight and black screens.    

George uses models to introduce different types of renewable energy sources like wind and wave power.


British scientist and winner of the Nobel Prize for Chemistry Sir George Porter explains the power of light, from the role it plays in stimulating life to supplying energy to our homes, in this selection of engaging and entertaining CHRISTMAS LECTURES from 1976.  

In this series of six videos filmed at the Ri, Sir George Porter, former Director of the Ri and Baron Porter of Luddenham, takes the audience through a plethora of demonstrations and explanations on the importance of sunbeams.