Nanotech lab porn


Photographer Dave Bullock shot a totally NSFW* gallery of UCLA nanotech lab photos for Wired. week at UCLA. "I was given a really interesting tour of Dr. Omar M. Yaghi's laboratory where he and his students have created some amazing nanotechnology that has nearly unlimited potential," Dave explains. Shown here:

An array of ZIF, or zeolitic imidazolate framework, crystals that were photographed by a robotic microscope using polarized light to show detail. ZIF crystals are the primary substances that Yaghi and his crew develop. The nicely formed and innately beautiful crystals at left await further testing in the lab. The finer specimens may be individually mounted and imaged using X-ray crystal diffraction.
(* NSFW = Nanotechnology is So Frickin' Wonderful).

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  1. And speaking of technology, are comments going to be down for twelve hours a day for a while? Can we get a statement from the powers?

  2. in addition to looking cool and totally NSFW, i might also point out that certain kinds of these ZIF crystals are able to absorb 80 times their mass/size of carbon dioxide, providing us with another small piece of the puzzle in preventing us from destroying the earth.

    it also seems that there are so many “appz” for these crystals, that students had to be told to stop experimenting with them so that some results could be published.

  3. I’ve noticed the prevalence of the word “porn” in describing things lately. Of course I’m not innocent of it– for years me and friends used to describe catalogs from Guitar Center/Musician’s Friend/Sweetwater/ etc. as “gear porn” which was apt– we would look and fantasize but probably never buy.

    I’m not sure these pics of nano-stuff constitute “porn”; although they are pretty pictures, how many of us are actually fantasizing about them?

  4. After reading Drexler or any number of nano-preachers, it does seem to be the pot of gold that everyone is looking for. I wonder what the price will be? Everything comes with a price, after all. Reminds me of the saying, “Be careful what you wish for…”

  5. Cool pic, but these crystals aren’t on the nano-scale AFAIK.

    The giveaway is the line “The finer specimens may be individually mounted and imaged using X-ray crystal diffraction.” Ideally, to keep your crystallographer happy, you want a crystal that will take up the entire width of his or her beam of x-rays. These are generally on the order of 0.5-1.0 mm, so at least one dimension of your crystal should be in this regime. I’m not entirely sure, since nobody gives a scale in any of the photos (this is bad for scientific publications, btw!) but I’d guess that the crystals are fairly large if they are of x-ray quality. In fact, they are absolutely HUGE compared to anything “nano”.

    At any rate, like I said, nice pics- but we’re not actually seeing “nano-porn” here, just really small stuff that you could see easily with a good pair of 20/20 eyeballs. Then again, you can make anything sound cool if you add “nano” to it.

  6. another give away is “photographed by a robotic microscope using polarized light”. Optical, not so much for nano particles, wavelength is too big. Just because something is small doesn’t imply nano. Anyone remember how high temp super conductors were going to change the world? or cold fusion? biotech? just another hot named band wagon.

  7. The previous couple posters are right, definitely not nano. Although I’m not sure why you want this material as nanocrystals anyway. Being nanoscale isn’t always good.

  8. The work is published in Science 316 268 (2007).

    They are described as ‘nano-scaled’ (or, should be) because the crystals contain structure which is on the nano-scale, not that the bulk crystals are themselves nanoscaled. As far as I can tell from my quick scan of that Science paper, these crystals are constructed from a network of molecular chain structures, which create voids within the bulk crystal (between the atomic chains) with dimensions on the order of 0.5–2.0 nm.

    Although I’m not sure why you want this material as nanocrystals anyway. Being nanoscale isn’t always good.

    Nanoscale houses aren’t good, because people are several orders of magnitude larger than the nanoscale. Nanoscale telephone handsets aren’t good, for similar reasons. But if you have a substance that you are using for gas absorption, building it out of ‘nano-particles’ (ie, powder) might be good since that means it will have a much higher surface (ie, chemically active) area than a bulk crystal a metre along each side.

  9. I, and probably the other two posters, realize that the molecules in the crystals are on the nano scale. But this is exactly what I’m talking about, so allow me to reiterate my point:

    Most molecules are on the “nano scale.” A typical C-C bond is 1.54 angstroms or 0.154 nm. The point is that the word “nano” is used to describe things and instantly ups their cool factor (or fund-ability factor from the DoE, DoD, NSF, NIH, DGS, etc etc etc).

    We’re not looking at a bitchin rad pic of nanos here, as TFA implies. This is a picture of molecules that have recrystallized to form (very nice, I might add) crystals that are suitable for x-ray analysis, meaning they are on the order of MILLImeters, not NANOmeters. Yeah, the molecules that make up the crystals are on the nanometer scale- so are the molecules that make up your shaker of table salt. In fact, get this- the molecules in your table salt are SUBNANO! WOWEE THAT HAS TO BE BETTER, RIGHT?

    But, the common misconception amongst most every John Q. Pubic is either (1) nanos are going to save the world or (b) nanos are going to take over the world and kill all humans.

    Its likely that neither is actually the case.

  10. (1) nanos are going to save the world or (b) nanos are going to take over the world and kill all humans.

    And these are…….contradictory?

  11. I am commenting just so I can mention the Eyeclops bionic eye camera, and how wonderful it is. Thank you.

  12. A typical C-C bond is 1.54 angstroms or 0.154 nm.

    So, you’re saying that the lattice constant of something like diamond is on the order of a few tens of angstroms. Right, so diamond, as an example, isn’t a nanostructure. (“picostructure”? :/ )

    These crystals have lattice constants on the order of a few nanometres. Therefore, they are nanostructures. This large lattice constant is a result of the internal voids (‘pores’) which have sizes on the order of nanometres.

    The pores (and the bulk crystals) are constructed by designing a novel chemical process that takes pre-constructed molecules (containing a few dozen atoms) and which assembles them together (without destroying them) to form the bulk macrostructure. It is that ability to design and engineer nano-scale structures that defines this work as ‘nanotechnology’.

    The Wired article has only one image of these crystals (excluding the one of Yaghi holding a model); it is, in fact, an article about the laboratory and the nanotechnology research that is performed there.

    The Boing Boing article does not say that these are nano-crystals, it says that they are an example of nano-technology… Which, as I’ve explained, they are. In fact, Boing Boing only really uses the construct ‘Nanotech Lab’.

    I think you really need to look more into it.

  13. Okay, so maybe you can call it nanotech, but I still think the word is overused. There are already plenty of materials with nanometer pores (mostly silica and zeolites), where the pore size can be controlled. Does the nanoness of this material really improve the properties? (obviously I haven’t actually read the article).
    If having nanometer dimensions are all that’s required then the polymers and dendrimers I make are nanotechnology (and I might try to sell them that way, but really the nano-ness is of secondary importance).
    As far as nano not always being good, I was thinking of using quantum dots for solar cells. People keep doing it, but I think it is doomed to fail (maybe nanometer sized particles will work, but probably not if they are small enough to exhibit quantum confinement). For one thing quantum dots have band gaps larger than the bulk materials, and solar calls almost always suffer from too large a band gap.

  14. #15 posted by “I haven’t actually read the article” meowdip

    If having nanometer dimensions are all that’s required then the polymers and dendrimers I make are nanotechnology

    No, that would be called butchering the language because you didn’t design or engineer them. Having nanometer dimensions isn’t all that’s required for something to be nanotechnology. Nor do you get credit for the natural activity of your body.

    Perhaps you should read the article? Both the Wired one and the one here on BB. Because if you did you would have saved us all this bit of commentary:

    There are already plenty of materials with nanometer pores (mostly silica and zeolites), where the pore size can be controlled. Does the nanoness of this material really improve the properties? (emphasis added)

    Now scroll up or read the Wired article and see if you can find any mention of zeolitic crystals and how their deliberately engineered nano structures gives them many useful properties.

    I think we should have a name for that shouldn’t we? Let’s call it nanotechnology.

  15. Please, Boing Boing editors. Tiny crystals and cool chemicals are not nanotechnology! Nanotechnology is tiny machines, a manmade analog to biology on the nanoscale level.

    Nanotechnology is mostly still theoretical, and when we do have it, it will be cool. It really takes the thunder away, though, when every new material or funky molecule is hailed as “nanotechnology”.

  16. @Paul D

    That’s what you want nanotechnology to be, but people who work in the field talk about making bulk like things while controlling the nanoscale properties as nanotechnology as well. Noen is pretty spot on here.

  17. We do make things on the nanoscale. transistors in your CPU are on the order of 10’s of nano, with features in the single nanometer scale. If your talking about MEM’s (micro machines, I might have my acronym wrong) then we are still mostly in the micro range, but there has been some nano (i.e. atomic) machine proof of concept work.

  18. The big exciting news here seem to be that these folks are using custom-synthesized zeolites with large pores to selectively capture carbon dioxide, and are using X-ray crystallography to analyze the structure of these zeolites.

    We covered custom-synthesized zeolites for selective capture of molecules including water and specific hydrocarbons in a heterogeneous catalysis class in 1979, and they’d been used that way in oil refineries for many years at that point. And Linus Pauling got his first Nobel prize in the 1954 based in part on using X-ray crystallography to determine protein structures.

    I can see where the information in this article would seem startlingly novel and “nanotech” to people who’ve never encountered it, but to a chemist it’s just part of the normal development of the field. Wired fails to make that clear, which means the article is not so much news as a puff piece.

    As a chemist, what I would find most interesting would be details on the new techniques for zeolite synthesis, but of course in an article for the general public, that’s not there.

    Instead, the article talks about how this academic lab is using “custom-built” robotic sample handling equipment normally used in biotech. Oh, and they have a piece of impressive-looking, commercially-available X-ray diffraction equipment. That just means they got some nice grants.

    I’m not saying these folks aren’t doing good science, they are! It’s just that this article is the scientific equivalent of “Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous” going for a tour of Pamela Anderson’s Malibu beach house. Nothing wrong with that – and I love the porn pix – but don’t mistake it for something it’s not.

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