Ivy League Nanoparticles

Climbing ivy is a part of the everyday landscape. For some, it is a nuisance plant which is notoriously difficult to remove from the sides of buildings. For others, it is a welcome verdant addition to the landscape. For recent college graduates and grad students like myself, it is a symbol of the noble pursuits of academia as well as a picturesque addition to the campus landscape. But most of us don’t think about the nanoscale science behind the leafy decoration.


Ivy (I’m not sure what species) scaling the armory at the University of Minnesota (photo by Natalie Hudson-Smith)

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Ep 7. What Do Glaciers Have to Do With Nanoscience?

Why do glaciers sometimes look blue? Hint: it’s not for the same reason we see blue as the color of the sky!

On this episode of the podcast, we have an interview with Dr. Robert Hamers, following up on his recent blog post. Bob is the Director of the Center for Sustainable Nanotechnology, and he tells us about a recent family trip to Alaska that got him wondering about why some glaciers have an amazing blue color.


CSN Director Bob Hamers in front of Holgate Glacier  (photo by Bob Hamers)

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Happy Mole Day 2016!

Happy Mole Day from the CSN! This is our third annual post for Mole Day (check out the posts for 2014 and 2015), so it is starting to become a tradition now. In this post, I will show you an example of a real pen-and-paper calculation involving moles that I do sometimes in my work as a theoretical and computational chemist. This calculation will help us answer a question: How many water molecules do I put in a 70 Å x 70 Å x 70 Å box containing a 4 nm gold nanoparticle?


Cathy Murphy calculated in a previous post that there are ~2,000 gold atoms in a 4-nm-diameter gold nanoparticle. The 4 nm particle on the left has 2,123 atoms to be exact. Keep reading to find out how many water molecules are in the images in the center and the right!   (image by Gene Chong)

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What’s With All Those Flaming Cell Phones? A Primer on Battery Safety

By now you’ve probably heard about Samsung’s recall of all Galaxy Notes 7s. Several years ago the entire worldwide fleet of 787 “Dreamliners” was grounded due to onboard battery fires. You might be wondering, “Why are all these batteries catching on fire? Are lithium ion batteries safe?”

cell with smoke

Why are cell phones bursting into flame?

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Ep 6. Happy National Nanotechnology Day!

October 9, 2016 was the first ever National Nanotechnology Day (10/9 = 10-9 for nano!). On this episode of the Sustainable Nano podcast, we talk with Dr. Lisa Friedersdorf, Deputy Director of the National Nanotechnology Coordination Office, about National Nanotechnology Day, activities like #100BillionNanometers, the Nobel Prize, and this year’s Generation Nano superhero contest.


image by the Hinkle Group

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How to Understand Nobel Science? Food!

Every year the Nobel Prizes bring some extra attention to science in the award categories of medicine, physics, and chemistry. This is a great opportunity for the general public to hear about science, but it can pose some communication challenges. How do you explain, for example, “theoretical discoveries of topological phase transitions and topological phases of matter,” the topic of this year’s physics prize, in a two-minute radio piece (or a blog post)? This year, the answer to that question involves food!

pretzel & bagel

Pretzels and bagels illustrate important principles for this year’s Nobel-Prize-winning science   (L photo by Windell Oskay; R photo by Evan-Amos)

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