Imagine a submarine. Now shrink that down to one-tenth the size of a human hair. It's not science fiction. Scientists recently made these tiny "microsubmarines" a reality. According to the American Chemical Society journal ACS Nano, scientists have created the first ever self-propelled "microsubmarines" able to pick up and transport droplets of oil from contaminated waters. These tiny machines could play an important role in cleaning up oil spills, like the 2010 Deepwater Horizon incident in the Gulf of Mexico.
It's the 25th anniversary of National Chemistry Week (NCW)! To celebrate, we've got two new videos to kick off this year's NCW right.
In the first video, we visited the Maryland Nanocenter at the University of Maryland (UMD) to check out the latest research in nanotechnology -- this year's theme for NCW. Three UMD researchers explain how their work in the nano-scale could lead to better fuel cells, solar cells, cancer treatments and super strong materials made from carbon nanotubes. It's a first hand look at the exciting applications of nanotechnology available today, and those that are just around the corner.
Our second video highlights 25 years of NCW -- check it out to hear about participant's favorite NCW moments and its 25 year legacy of getting people exciting about chemistry.
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A TV screen as thin and flexible as paper. A cook's pot that flashes a warning if it detects E. coli. Possible treatments for damaged spinal cords. It's not science fiction - these are all possible applications of a material known as graphene.
This so-called "wonder material" is 100 times stronger than steel but thinner than any known solid. And It's the focus of the latest episode of ChemMatters.
The video explains how graphene's incredible properties come from the unique arrangement of its atoms. Graphene, like diamonds and coal, is made up entirely of carbon. But unlike those materials, graphene's carbon atoms are arranged in two-dimensional sheets, making it incredibly strong and flexible. Since graphene also conducts electricity as well as copper, it could lead to flexible cell phone touchscreens and transparent, inexpensive solar cells. Ongoing advances in manufacturing graphene are bringing these and other devices closer to reality.
Animation and motion graphics by Sean Parsons
Directed by Adam Dylewski
Also, please check out the ChemMatters Quiz on Graphene:
Listen up all you ravers out there! Our latest episode breaks down the chemistry behind everybody's favorite party favor, the glow stick. Chemiluminescence is at the heart of how glow sticks (as well as fireflies) give off their otherworldly light. When scientists first tried to make their own glowing material in the 1960s, they realized they needed two components. The first is a molecule that lights up when excited, and the second is an energy source to excite the first molecule. To think of it another way, dancers are needed to "light up" a party and a DJ is needed to kick start the dancing. In a glow stick, the dancer is called oxalate ester and the DJ is hydrogen peroxide. But that's not all the chemistry involved - every unique glow stick color requires a different glowing molecule.
After an epic 354-million-mile trek through space, the Mars Curiosity Rover is zooming along at 13,000 miles per hour toward a scheduled Aug. 6 landing on the Red Planet to search for evidence of extraterrestrial life. We took a visit to NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory to talk to the Mars Science Laboratory Deputy Scienctist, Ashwin Vasavada, who gave us a look "under the hood" of the rover, explaining the role of the analytical chemistry instruments found onboard Curiosity. Curiosity's primary mission goal is to determine the habitability of the Gale Crater, which scientists believe was once filled with water. Curiosity is basically an entire chemistry lab packed into a one mobile unit, equipped with the tools necessary to test the chemical composition of soil. Test results from these instruments will pave the way for future Mars missions, and may provide insight in the search for life on other planets.
The first episode of the 2012 season of Prized Science highlights the work of Robert Langer, Institute Professor at MIT. His influential research on tissue engineering and controlled drug release earned him the 2012 American Chemical Society Priestley Medal, the highest honor given by the world's largest scientific society.
To get a sense of Langer's prolific career, just look at the numbers: He runs one of the largest academic laboratories in the world, with nearly 100 members. He is the author of an unprecedented 1,100 research papers. He has approximately 800 issued and pending patents worldwide. And he has had a hand in creating some 25 companies. All of this is in service of his primary goal— to use chemistry and chemical engineering to help improve people's lives.
Prized Science explains how the research behind American Chemical Society awards impacts everyday life. In the coming weeks, we will release five episodes of Prized Science, highlighting new cancer treatments using gold nanoparticles, theories behind protein folding, the effects of dust particles in the atmosphere, and improving chemistry education.
In our last episode, we learned that tanning can potentially lead to skin cancer or premature aging, so maybe you're weighing your other options. How about some of that tan-in-a-can that gives you all the bronzed results without the UV exposure? The secret of sunless tanner can be found in the active ingredient, a natural three-carbon sugar called dihydroxyacetone, or DHA. DHA's pigment altering effects were discovered in the mid 1950's by researcher Eva Wittgenstein. The browning is caused by the so-called Maillard reaction. Well known to food scientists, this reaction occurs when amino acids interact with sugars to create brown or golden brown compounds, like when you bake bread or cook a steak on the grill. In our latest video, we unravel the chemistry and history behind this popular product and shed light... or maybe the lack of light, on the deep tan that it produces in your skin.
From the sizzle of the fuse to the boom and burst of colors, this video brings you all of the exciting sights and sounds of Fourth of July fireworks, plus a little chemical knowhow. The video features John A. Conkling, Ph.D., who literally wrote the book on fireworks — he is the author of The Chemistry of Pyrotechnics, Basic Principles and Theory. Conkling shows how the familiar rockets and other neat products that light up the night sky all represent chemistry in action.
The first day of summer is June 20th! To celebrate, we're kicking off a trio of summer-themed episodes with a video that explains the chemistry of sunscreen.
Whether you have dark or light skin, the truth is that sun exposure can lead to sunburn, premature aging, and skin cancer. Fortunately, using sunscreen properly can help protect your skin all summer long.
Our latest episode explores materials that mimic the human skin's ability to heal scratches and cuts. For a first-hand look at self-healing plastics, we visited the lab of Nancy Sottos, Ph.D., professor of engineering at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
Inspired by human skin, the plastics repair themselves by "bleeding" healing agents when they are cut or scratched. This research offers the promise of cell phones, laptops, cars, and other products with self-repairing, longer-lasting surfaces.