A Love Letter for Black History Month: St. Elmo Brady, the first Black Ph.D. chemist in the United States

Orange banner showing a portrait of young Black man with text "The Power of I"

As we come to the end of Black History Month for 2022, I find myself contemplating the banner that hangs year-round in front of Noyes Chemistry Lab to celebrate one of the shining stars of my own department at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC): St. Elmo Brady. Dr. Brady was the first African-American …

Celebrating the 150th Anniversary of the Periodic Table: Nano-Style!

Did you know that 2019 is the International Year of the Periodic Table? We chemists in the Center for Sustainable Nanotechnology are happy to celebrate this all year long! A particularly delicious example of the Periodic Table (image from the Science History Institute) The periodic table as we know it was first published 150 years …

Electrocuting a Pickle: Demonstrating Major Concepts in Science

pickle

Have you ever made lightning in a pickle? I have. It involves putting two iron nails in a pickle and applying 110 volts of electricity. It’s pretty smelly, but it is worth it to see what looks like yellow-orange lightning in the pickle. What’s going on? The principle of “put in electricity – get out …

How can you calculate how many atoms are in a nanoparticle?

Two years ago, I wrote a blog post called Two Ways to Make Nanoparticles, describing the difference between top-down and bottom-up methods for making nanoparticles. In the post I commented, "we can estimate, knowing how gold atoms pack into crystals, that there are about 2000 gold atoms in one 4 nm diameter gold nanoparticle." Recently, a Sustainable Nano reader wrote in to ask about …

Nanotechnology and Climate Change: Finding Connections

A couple of weeks ago I was fortunate enough to go the Hanse Institute for Advanced Study (“HWK”) in Delmenhorst, Germany, for a round-table discussion called “Finding Common Ground: Interdisciplinary Teaching of Climate Change and Energy Research and Policy Decision Making.” The HWK is a beautiful facility that hosts small conferences and has apartments for …

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. This opportunity arose when I received an …

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.   The word “nanotechnology” was coined in 1974 by Norio Taniguchi1, and it began appearing in …

The Atomic Difference Between Diamonds and Graphite

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 …

Art as Inspiration for Science

What inspires people to do science? Perhaps you, Dear Reader, are interested in understanding how the physical world works.  Maybe you saw a rainbow, or ocean waves on the beach, when you were a kid, and therefore have a love for optics, physics, or oceanography. Human-made objects can also inspire scientists.  Quite a few people …