I was surprised to learn recently that plastic bags can be turned into a new material called carbon nanotubes. Prior to this, all I had heard about plastic bags was about the environmental threat that they potentially pose, either by accumulating in wildlife or clogging landfills with slow-to-break-down waste. Many recycling techniques have been developed to reduce plastic bag waste, but there were very few ways to convert it into a new technologies–until a recent study on carbon nanotubes came on the scene.
Bassam Z. Shakhashiri
Professor of Chemistry
The William T. Evjue Distinguished Chair for the Wisconsin Idea
Director, Wisconsin Initiative for Science Literacy
Department of Chemistry
University of Wisconsin-Madison
It was a privilege and a great honor to serve as president of the American Chemical Society in 2012. Only two other UW-Madison faculty members have served as ACS president—Farrington Daniels in 1953 and Charles Casey in 2004. Perhaps one day soon, one or more of the readers of this essay will become ACS president and lead the world’s largest scientific organization. I am proud to be a 50-year ACS member, and am grateful for all that the ACS continues to offer to its members, to the chemical enterprise, and to society. The success of the ACS depends on the creativity and dedication of members who are eager to enhance its offerings and accomplishments.
Science and society face grand global challenges, and it is through research, education, and innovation that progress can be made to achieve good solutions. ACS and its members can make significant contributions in advancing science and communicating science to benefit the human condition and to protect the Planet. However, proficiency or technical skill alone does not ensure responsibility and stewardship. We must ensure that the next generation of chemical scientists is both highly skilled technically and properly educated to carry on their scientific and educational work for the common good of society. In a free and civil society, people must be virtuous as well as skilled. Continue reading
Everything is made of atoms. Usually these atoms are strongly connected to one another, in an amazing variety of configurations. But atoms are so tiny, how can we possibly understand the structure of matter at the atomic level?
You probably have seen pictures of molecules or materials, zoomed in to the atomic level, which show spheres of different colors connected by lines.
In pictures like this, the colored balls represent different kinds of atoms or ions (ions being atoms that have either lost or gained some electrons), one for each color; and the lines represent the chemical bonds that keep the atoms together.
After looking at pictures like this, you might wonder – how real is this? Do we really know the three-dimensional position of atoms in a solid substance? And, does it matter how atoms are connected to each other? Continue reading
Picture yourself eating a juicy fish filet or a delicious shrimp cocktail. You might be surprised to discover the diverse array of technologies that are used to raise the fish or shrimp you ordered.
In the past, that fish or shrimp landed on your plate after spending it’s life in the ocean or rivers. However, farmers are increasingly responsible for raising the seafood we eat—in an industry known as aquaculture. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), production of fish products coming from aquaculture facilities has already surpassed traditional capture fisheries . Although the aquaculture industry is considered fairly new when compared to other livestock production activities such as the poultry or cattle industry, it has proven to constantly reshape itself when facing real threats like virulent disease outbreaks or natural disasters such as typhoons. Workers in the aquaculture industry have rapidly adopted new state-of-the-art technologies to overcome daunting situations.
Nanotechnology is one of those areas that many aquaculture experts are turning to . There are three primary areas I would like to highlight. Feeding, disease control, and biofouling control processes are being reengineered to get the maximum benefit from nanotechnology. Continue reading
If you are exposed to nanoparticles, you might think they would move around inside your body unchanged. However, it would be more accurate to think of them as tiny chameleons, constantly changing their properties as they move from one biological environment to another.
Nanoparticles’ large surface area-to-mass ratio, which causes them to be highly reactive, together with their tiny size, makes them great candidates for shuttling drug molecules into tissues and cells. But at the same time, this property also causes the nanoparticles to readily interact with their environment and, therefore, change their physical and chemical properties as they move from one environment to another.
This is part one of a two (maybe three…definitely four at the most) part series
What motivated me to explore the chemical world of cleaning?
Is it possible to have nice smelling armpits without lathering up some soap in the shower? Can we permanently get rid of those traditional cleaning chemicals that almost everyone has under their kitchen sinks? I began pondering these and many other questions when my wife, Gwen, received a simple pink cloth as a gift from my mother-in-law, CP.
It turns out that this was no ordinary pink cloth. CP told us that it is a cloth that can be used to wash your face without any soap. She also mentioned that the company markets several other cleaning products that “clean without chemicals”. CP knows my love of science and understanding how things work, so she included a product list and description booklet from the company, Norwex. I immediately checked out the booklet and company website, where there was a clear company goal of “cleaning without chemicals.” Continue reading
Half a century ago, a Soviet scientist was tucked away in a top-secret facility. The results of his experiments are critical to our work here the Center for Sustainable Nanotechnology. Find it hard to believe? Read on!
Why We Use Nanodiamonds
One of the materials that we are using in our research is nano-sized diamond. We also call them diamond nanoparticles, or nanodiamond. One of the unique properties of diamond is that it is extremely stable, which allows us to study the behavior of diamond nanoparticles without having to worry about them decomposing.
We can also intentionally modify the surfaces of diamond nanoparticles and investigate how they interact with different types of cells and aquatic life. Do the nanoparticles stick to the cells? Do they pass through the cells?
A collection of pure diamond nanoparticles is a grayish looking powder – nothing like the gleaming diamond you might have imagined. Continue reading