Publication Summary: Designing a Simple, Easy-to-Build Reactor for Making Nanoparticles

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 NanotechnologySam Lohse, the first author on this paper, was a post-doctoral student at the University of Illinois and is now an assistant professor at Colorado Mesa University in Grand Junction, CO.

He says, “Everyone (researchers, industry, etc.) wants nanomaterials, in order to test their fantastic applications and their implications for human health. Unfortunately, it can be difficult and frustrating even for experienced nanotechnology researchers to synthesize high-quality nanomaterials in meaningful quantities. We were hoping to come up with a simple and accessible approach to make nanomaterials in quantities of more than a gram at a time.”

The article was published in May 2013 in the journal ACS Nano.1


The new reactor system (left) and some of the gold nanorods that it helped us produce (right). Image reprinted with permission from Lohse et al. 1

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The Atomic Force Microscope – Probing to “See” at the Nanoscale

Take a look around – do you see a surface that looks a little bumpy?  Now close your eyes, reach out your hand, and feel that surface. Got an idea of what it feels like? Great! Now, could you use what you’ve learned with your sense of touch to draw a picture of this bumpy surface? Probably not. Creating three-dimensional images of surfaces like the one you just touched is a difficult task for a human, but is the specialty of one of the instruments I use, the atomic force microscope!


Figure 1. Here’s a picture of the AFM I work on. Here it’s set up to analyze samples containing flowing fluids, so that we can mimic environmental conditions.

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Celebrating St. Patrick’s Day with Fluorescence

Our last blog post featured lighting technology powered by algae, and this week is all about a different example of green-colored water: the Chicago River.

Every year since 1962, the Chicago River has been dyed green for the downtown St. Patrick’s Day parade. So how does this amazing color transformation relate to the Center for Sustainable Nanotechnology?

The Chicago River dyed green for St. Patrick’s Day, 2009        image by Mike Boehmer

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Sustainable Lamps Powered by Algae

Have you ever thought about lighting up the streets using algae? I know I certainly hadn’t before researching for this post, but there are some scientists who have been working on the idea for a long time. There is even a prototype street lamp that’s been built using algae as its power source! This streetlamp currently helps light up a parking lot in Bordeaux, France.1

Figure 1. Green algae, like the ones shown here, are very abundant and obtain their energy from photosynthesis.   image source

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From Soldier to Scientist: The CSN’s Role in a Veteran’s Return to Civilian Life

With Operations Iraqi Freedom/New Dawn having ended and Enduring Freedom drawing to a close a new push is underway to retrain our returning veterans. The wars have produced 2.5 million veterans and the Center for Sustainable Nanotechnology (CSN) is part of the push to help veterans retool their skillsets for civilian life through participating in the Research Experiences for Veterans program. This is my story of how the CSN is helping me transition to my post-military life.

Baghdad, Iraq ‘Victory Over America Palace’ roof, 2010; Northwestern University Physiology Lab, 2015

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Publication Summary: How Many Molecules Can Fit On the Surface of a Round Nanoparticle?

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. Marco Torelli, a doctoral student at the University of Wisconsin – Madison, was the first author on this paper and collaborated on the study with CSN researchers at the University of Illinois. 

The article was first published online in December 2014 in the journal ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces1


This study describes a better method for figuring out how many molecules will stick to the surface of a round nanoparticle depending on its diameter. image reprinted with permission from Torelli et al. 20151

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Nano in the Movies

Science and engineering topics appear in many movies – think of the gadgets in the James Bond series. Star Trek, Star Wars, and other long-standing science fiction series, of course, are full of futuristic transportation, infrastructure, devices and weapons.


Mmmm… replicated martini.   image from Star Trek: The Next Generation (1988)

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