Stories tagged Alecia Beth Moore


Sometimes we here at Nano Headquarters grow weary of reading and attempting to decipher scientific papers in ways that make them easy to understand.

Take, for example, this sentence:

“The as-prepared gold particles showed good catalytic activity for the reduction of 4-nitrophenol to 4-aminophenol by excess NaBH4, and a surface-enhanced Raman scattering (SERS) study suggested that the gold nanoparticles exhibited a high SERS effect on the probe molecule Rhodamine 6G.”

Here’s what we were able to immediately comprehend:

“The as-prepared gold particles showed good BEEEEEEEP for the reduction of BEEEEEEEP to BEEEEEEEP by excess BEEEEEEEP, and a surface-enhanced BEEEEEEEP BEEEEEEEP BEEEEEEEP study suggested that the gold nanoparticles exhibited a high BEEEEEEEP effect on the probe molecule BEEEEEEEP BEEEEEEEP”

On days like this, we like to practice what we call "selective avoidance" and seek out pretty images instead. Pretty nano-related images, mind you – but pretty images nonetheless. They soothe our bleeding brains. And so, for your BEEEEEEEP-free pleasure, we offer you this here compendium of pretty nano images:

Pretty!: Pollen Grains
Pretty!: Pollen GrainsCourtesy Dartmouth Electron Microscope Facility

NOVA - The Art of Nanotech
Remember our friends over at NOVA who made the nanorrific Making Stuff series? This here slideshow was a little buried treasure accompanying it. The images are originally from the Materials Research Society - Science as Art competition. We’re a little partial to the Starry Night knockoff. Van Gogh would be impressed. And if not, then we wouldn’t have wanted to be his friend anyway because apathy gets boring fast and huffy, stuffy artists are tedious.

Sciencescapes Speaking of the Science as Art competition – here are a few more images from competitions in years past. From likenesses of spaghetti and meatballs to a decaying Santa to a creepy Pac-Man to a dotted-dude walking off a cliff to his ultimate doom, there’s a little something here for everyone.
Also Pretty!: Water Droplet on Nasturtium Leaf
Also Pretty!: Water Droplet on Nasturtium LeafCourtesy Stephan Herminghaus

International Science and Engineering Visualization Challenge
A video from the National Science Foundation wherein they invite us to “discover the artistry behind the 2010 International Science & Engineering Visualization Challenge winners as they explain the processes, techniques and thoughts behind their entries.” SPOILER ALERT: The very first fellow we meet tells us right out that there’s “no message” to his work. Awesome.

Silver Saver – nanotech in art preservation Think that the old, old artifacts you see in museums just stay that way because they’re in a fancy, climate-controlled case? Think again!
Equally Pretty!: Silicon Nanomembrane
Equally Pretty!: Silicon NanomembraneCourtesy S. Scott, University of Wisconsin-Madison

NISE Net Viz Lab All the pretty, pretty pictures you’ve seen in this post thus far are from the NISE Net Viz Lab. And guess what? They’re in the public domain! That means you can use them however you like without going through all sorts of crazy legal hoops! Whee! Just remember to give credit where credit it due – ‘cause we’re pretty sure you don’t have a scanning electron microscope at home.

The Periodic Table Printmaking Project We could look at these for DAYS. In fact, we have. Take the Periodic Table of the elements, mix in a few block-print makers, and what do you get? Some seriously killer prints that provide visual intrigue for such favorites as Promethium and Fluorine. We will admit to getting a little googley-eyed over these.

Okay kids, stop swooning. Back to work.


Turn the arrows around, and you've got the right idea!: Feels like clean energy, doesn't it?
Turn the arrows around, and you've got the right idea!: Feels like clean energy, doesn't it?Courtesy bre pettis
Just kidding! The burning sensation is probably just one of the many symptoms you’ll experience during your bout with gonorrhea. It may feel like electric fire, but, really, it’s only inflammation somewhere in your urinary tract.

But while we’re on the subjects of urine, electric fire, and the future, check this out: your bladder is full of rich, savory hydrogen fuel, and some Ohio scientists have found a great way to get at it.

Using urine in power storage/production devices has been explored before, and, naturally, Science Buzz has been all over it. The story that was on Buzz before, however, was about using urine as an electrolyte medium in batteries, so it’s just there to allow the passage of electrons from one material to another. (That’s how I understood it, anyway—I couldn’t get to the original article.)

What we have here is something entirely different. With this technology, it’s the urine itself that could supply power, instead of just activating a chemical reaction in other materials.

Hydrogen, as we all know, is awesome. It’s easy to remember where it is on the periodic table (somewhere near the beginning, I think), it’s light, so it can lift stuff like zeppelins up in the air, it’s super flammable, so it can run the internal combustion engines we love so much, and it can be made to undergo a chemical reaction in a fuel cell, producing electricity. Unfortunately, hydrogen is also kind of... not awesome. Its otherwise delightful explosiveness also means that riding a hydrogen-filled zeppelin isn’t a great idea, it’s tricky to store, and despite being the most common element in the universe, it’s a pain to get a hold of.

We can get hydrogen out of water, because every molecule of water has two hydrogen atoms for each oxygen atom. But those hydrogen and oxygen atoms don’t like splitting apart, so we have to run electricity through water to get them to break up, and depending on how we produced that electricity, it sort of defeats the purpose; we’re using a lot of some other kind of fuel to make hydrogen fuel.

These clever Ohio scientists, however, realized that by using the right materials, they could get hydrogen and nitrogen to split apart from each other with a lot less electricity. (It takes them .037 volts to split hydrogen and nitrogen, compared to 1.23 volts for hydrogen and oxygen.) Where, then, is a cheap plentiful source of nitrogen bound with hydrogen? Where indeed…

You know where this is going: urine, or as I call it, yellow gold. Urea, one of the main components of urine, has four hydrogen atoms bound to two nitrogen atoms. If you put a nickel electrode into some urine and run electricity through it, that hydrogen gets released, and you can do with it what you will.

One cow, claim the scientists, could produce enough hydrogen to supply hot water for 19 houses. A gallon of urine could theoretically power a car with a hydrogen fuel cell for 90 miles. A refrigerator-sized unit, they say, “could produce one kilowatt of energy for about $5,000.” Someone might have to help me out on that last one. That can’t be per kilowatt, or “kilowatt-hour” (how we usually measure electricity usage), because a kilowatt-hour costs about 10 cents these days. I’m assuming that it would cost about $5,000 to build a unit like that, and the cost to run it would largely fall upon your kidneys. (Maybe?) Commercial farms, required to pool their animal waste anyhow, could power themselves with all the spare hydrogen.

It’s a pretty neat idea, and one that I actually had a long time ago. I have to give it to the scientists, though—they definitely advanced on my original idea. See I was just trying to burn urine straight up, and, frankly, it wasn’t working. Nothing about it was working.

I’m wondering, also, what the byproduct of urine-produced hydrogen would be. Fuel cells should just produce water vapor, but what’s happening when the hydrogen is separated from the urea? The chemical formula for urea is (NH2)2CO, so after the hydrogen leaves you’ve got two leftover nitrogen atoms, a carbon atom, and an oxygen atom. Laughing gas, or nitrous oxide, is N2O, but what about that carbon? We don’t like carbon just wandering around unsupervised these days.

Can anyone help me out here? When we remove the hydrogen from (NH2)2CO, what’s left over?