A citizen science experiment has seen more than 1,000 scientists and 110 UK secondary schools, including one in Didcot, work together to produce findings set to be published in a Royal Society of Chemistry journal.

The study involved students and teachers making different samples of calcium carbonate under various conditions, with 800 samples analysed in just 24 hours in April 2017.

Didcot Girl's School were heavily involved in the project, with lead authors Claire Murray, visiting scientist at Diamond Light Source, and Julia Parker, Diamond principal beamline scientist, from the start.

Gry E. Christensen, a former student and Project M scientist at Didcot Girls' School, hailed the experience as "an amazing journey" and a "once in a lifetime opportunity for the students".

Ms Murray said: "Nature uses molecules like amino acids and proteins to direct the formation of calcium carbonate.

"We were interested in discovering how some of these molecules affect the calcium carbonate that we make in the lab."

Using the X-ray powder diffraction technique at the Diamond Light Source, the UK's national synchrotron, a particle accelerator, scientists produced an enormous set of results in record time.

Calcium's three main forms, called polymorphs, are vaterite, calcite, and aragonite, and can be identified using Diamond's beamline l11.

Understanding how additives impact the production of the different forms of the mineral has vast implications across various industries, from manufacturing and medical applications to cosmetics.

Ms Murray said: "The project was led by a scientific question we had."

"The contribution that student citizen scientists can make to research should not be underestimated.

"These projects can provide a powerful way for researchers to access volumes of data they might struggle to collect otherwise."

Participating students assessed their results, identifying the type of polymorphs they produced, and comparing their findings with those of other schools throughout the UK.

Claire Murray said: "The fact that we didn’t know the answer yet was a motivational factor for the students."

Teachers reported the students' excitement to apply their lab skills to the real-world experiment, with Matthew Wainwright, a teacher and Project M scientist at Kettlethorpe High School, Wakefield, adding that the venture served as "a blueprint for future projects that aim to engage young people in science beyond the classroom".

Julia Parker said: “In our work we see how we can draw novel scientific conclusions regarding the effect of amino acids on the structure of calcite and vaterite calcium carbonate polymorphs.

"This ability to explore a wide parameter space in sample conditions, whilst providing continued educational and scientific engagement benefits for the students and teachers involved, can we hope in future be applied to other materials synthesis investigations.”