Gold Nanotechnology Featured on Academic Minute

Last month, I was featured on The Academic Minute, a segment produced by radio station WAMC in the northeastern US. The Academic Minute presents 300-word essays by professors and academics around the world explaining research topics for a non-specialist audience. In my case, that topic was gold nanotechnology.

Gold nanoparticles with hexagonal (I), cubic (II), rectangular (III), star (IV), dog bone (V), and rod (VI) shapes. Adapted with permission from Alkilany, Lohse, & Murphy (2013).1

Continue reading

Why Don’t We Recycle Styrofoam? – Speaking of Chemistry video

This post is part of our occasional “How is that sustainable?” series. You can see our previous post on paper vs. plastic here.

This spring, New York City banned the use of expanded polystyrene (EPS) food and beverage containers, effective July 1. (EPS is often colloquially called styrofoam, after DOW’s trademarked brand.)

Although EPS is technically a recyclable type of plastic, it turns out that using it and then recycling it is really not sustainable, which is why it is becoming less and less common to see the material used for things like takeout containers and packing peanuts.

C&E News‘ series “Speaking of Chemistry” recently posted this video explaining the issue, called “Why Don’t We Recycle Styrofoam?”

For more information on this topic, here are a few interesting resources:

Nanoparticles & Food Part 1: Vitamins

For decades, Americans have spent billions of dollars on vitamin and mineral supplements,1 and despite concerns about effectiveness and safety,2 a 2013 Gallup poll found that half of Americans take a supplement regularly.3 As nanoparticles have made their way into medicine and pharmaceuticals, they have also moved  into the health supplement industry. In this post, I will explore how nanoparticles are being used in vitamins and supplements.

Vitamins!                        image source

Continue reading

Scientists Gather in Minneapolis to Talk Nanoengineering in Biology

A couple weeks ago, over 300 scientists and engineers with an interest in nanotechnology met together in Minneapolis at the American Society for Mechanical Engineering Nanoengineering in Medicine and Biology meeting. If the title seems like a mouthful, that’s because it is. We just called the conference NEMB (prounounced “N-E-M-B”).

Although it seems like I just returned from another conference — the American Chemical Society (ACS) meeting in Denver — I was able to attend NEMB because it was held right on the University of Minnesota campus. Instead of heading one block west from my bus stop to my normal office and lab, I went one block east to the McNamara Alumni Center.


McNamara Alumni Center is a great space for a small conference like NEMB.     image by Bobak Ha’Eri

Continue reading

National Lab Travelogue: A day in the life of a graduate student visiting the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory


Galya Orr, Dehong Hu, Arielle Mensch, yours truly, and Julianne Troiano basking in the glory of a room filled with fluorescent microscopes at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory.

As a life-long nerd and science-lover, it is hard to imagine a laboratory that could get me more excited than Galya Orr’s lab at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL). Galya is a collaborator within the Center for Sustainable Nanotechnology. I had the great opportunity to travel to her lab at the Environmental Molecular Sciences Laboratory (EMSL), which is a scientific national user facility located at PNNL, for two separate research trips in 2014. The trip to Richland, WA is worthwhile because Galya’s is no ordinary lab: it contains a veritable treasure chest of fluorescence microscopes capable of performing super-resolution techniques such as STORM, SIM (see a SIM tutorial here), and single molecule tracking, which are some of the same techniques that were awarded the 2014 Nobel Prize in Chemistry.

Continue reading

Publication Summary: Dark Field Microscopy Makes Nanoparticles Light Up

This post is part of our ongoing series of public-friendly summaries describing research articles that have been published by members of the Center for Sustainable Nanotechnology. Katie Hurley and Nathan Klein, a doctoral mentor/undergraduate mentee team at the University of Minnesota, were co-first authors on this paper. Katie says, “In this post I want to point out how important it can be to have a fresh perspective. Because he had just been introduced to an instrument we use routinely, Nathan had the creativity and inspiration to see how dark field microscopy could be used to help solve a big imaging problem.”

 The article was first published online in April 2015 in Analytical Chemistry1

An illustration showing how nanoparticles are much easier to see using dark field TEM. Reprinted from Klein, Hurley, Feng, & Haynes (2015).1

Continue reading

How Can You See an Atom? – ACS Reactions Video

Here at Sustainable Nano, we’ve published several posts talking about the instrumentation used by researchers in the Center for Sustainable Nanotechnology to visualize nanoparticles and cell membranes, such as atomic force microscopy and super-resolution fluorescence microscopy.

For this week’s post, we’re sharing a video produced by the American Chemical Society‘s Reactions series, called “How Can You See an Atom?” The video includes really nice explanations of tools such as x-ray crystallography and tunneling electron microscopy that allow scientists to “see” at even smaller than nano-scale. (Check out the 0.5 nm scale bar in the image at 5:05 in the video!)