Border Crossings
: A Case for Interdisciplinary Practice in Physics and Craft

  • Karen Westland

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


There is substantial research in how science and art theoretically compare, contrast and aid society, with many projects highlighting the benefits of working between these disciplines. Despite this, little is documented on the collaborative process during such projects to highlight the factors influencing decision making. This lack of knowledge brings great uncertainty to those considering collaboration between these disciplines which are polarized in western society. This experimental and practice-based study initially brought together physics and craft to develop the power and efficiency of solar lasers, which later developed into an open enquiry to locate collaborative opportunities between these disciplines. In the first phase, custom Compound Parabolic Concentrators (CPCs) were developed using craft processing and scientific characterization to improve the efficiency of a solid state Nd:YAG solar laser. In the second phase, a Fresnel lens was adopted to concentrate solar light to process materials for craft purposes. Solar sintering and enamelling were developed through a series of experiments including a workshop with professional enamellers. Lastly, grounded theory was developed through data collected to form a case study on the collaborative process: including 4 focus groups with 11 participants in total, who were collaborators in the research. The findings in this thesis confirm that there are benefits to working collaboratively between the physics and craft disciplines as highlighted in the 54% ±0.1 increase in solar concentration using custom fabricated CPCs. Additionally, the research demonstrates how knowledge exchange can develop new processes, namely solar enamelling, which has broad implications for the sustainable processing of materials. Finally, the grounded theory created from this research, outlines how individuals currently collaborate in interdisciplinary projects and offers future direction for interdisciplinary opportunities between the scientific and creative fields.
Date of Award2022
Original languageEnglish
SponsorsEngineering and Physical Sciences Research Council
SupervisorKeith Wilcox (Supervisor) & Sandra Wilson (Supervisor)


  • Solar PV
  • solar physics
  • Optics
  • Craft
  • Physics
  • Collaborative practice
  • Practice-based research
  • grounded theory
  • Laser materials processing
  • Laser

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