Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Science presentation talks nanotechnology

University researchers are hosting a Science Café to inform the public about the benefits of nanotechnology Saturday, according to a UA news release.

The event, organized by Nitin Chopra, assistant professor of metallurgical and materials engineering, will be held at Barnes & Noble on McFarland Boulevard from noon to 7 p.m. and aims to promote community awareness of the technological impact of nanotechnology.

Chopra described the event as not only a learning tool, but a networking opportunity for those interested in entering the nanotechnology field.

“The basic idea is that this is an emerging technology and we’re trying to make the community aware of it,” Chopra said. “Along with the graduate students and undergraduates attending, I would also like to encourage high school students to come visit our booth and do internships this summer.”

Because he received a $300 grant from the American Chemical Society, Chopra plans to serve free coffee to those who attend the event. Along with the coffee, there will be posters about nanotechnology, an ongoing presentation by Chopra himself and presentations by graduate students and faculty.

Nanotechnology is emerging as one of the most important sciences of our generation, Chopra said. An average human hair is 50,000 to 100,000 nanometers, but the science of the small has huge implications.

“Now a scientist cannot just say he’s a mechanical engineer, a civil engineer or a materials engineer, because things are becoming so small that all the sciences are coming together,” Chopra said. “It’s bringing all the sciences together and shedding light on the structure of many materials.”

Some of those materials include stain-resistant fabrics and computers, Chopra said. Nanotechnology is also being used to purify water after an oil spill.

Associate professor of chemistry and Center for Materials for Information Technology Education Coordinator Martin Bakker and his students have been asked to attend the event and demonstrate some of these practical uses for nanotechnology.

“My students and I will be both attending and presenting two demonstrations: one on gold nanoparticles, which will be a static experiment to show the differences in color, and a second hands-on demonstration to show ‘size matters’ and to show how chemistry changes with the size of materials,” Bakker said.

Conferences like this both strengthen the scientific workforce, Bakker said, and promote safer research through knowledge.

“Overall, there are two issues: one is national competitiveness and preparing students to work with nanotechnology,” he said. “The other issue is a public education issue. When new materials come along, there are legitimate safety concerns which need to be addressed in a realistic manner.”

But Bakker said the event isn’t just directed toward those interested in a career in engineering; all kinds of people can benefit by broadening their knowledge of science in general.

“For some younger attendees, it may be learning about career opportunities,” he said. “For all of them it will be learning about how research is done and broadening their understanding of science. I would hope that everyone would benefit from being a more informed citizen.”

Bakker and Chopra both represent the Center for Materials for Information Technology Education. The center combines both research and education in an effort to develop new materials to increase data storage. Its 30-member faculty spans seven disciplines across the University.

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