Science Cafe to feature UNL physicists

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Over the past few years the new term "nano" has been introduced to our vocabulary. We hear the word in movies. It's mentioned on television and in newspapers and magazines. Futurists say it will pave the way for unimaginable new possibilities. There are many different opinions about where this new field will take us, but everyone agrees that this science and the new technologies that come from it have the possibility of significantly impacting our world.

The Nebraska Center for Materials and Nanoscience at UNL will present a Nano Science Cafe, 6:30 p.m., July 22 at Red9, 322 S. Ninth St. Associate professor of physics Christian Binek and physics post-doctoral researcher Steve Michalski will discuss discoveries in the nanosciences, where material is manipulated at an atomic level. Their presentation will let those attending enter the nanoworld while enjoying good food and drinks in a fun and relaxed environment.

"Nano" is the scientific term meaning one-billionth (1/1,000,000,000) - so a nanometer is one one-billionth of a meter. A sheet of paper is about 100,000 nanometers thick. When objects are below 100 nanometers in size or on a nanoscale, they exhibit unexpected chemical and physical properties such as remarkably lower resistance to electricity, or faster chemical reactions.

The exploration of nanotechnology is going on around the world and includes researchers from many different fields including physics, chemistry, material sciences, engineering, biology, and medicine. Nanoscientists study and make very tiny, nanometer-sized objects making possible new applications that could alter everyday items, from the clothes we wear to the cars we drive.

Nanotechnology is already influencing computers, medical treatments, energy efficiency and more.

Nanoparticles are currently used in many different consumer products such as packaging material because of their transparency and increased strength. They are in sunscreens, antiseptics, and used to make unbreakable, scratch resistant glasses. Nanoparticles are the basis for improved ski waxes and tennis rackets, ceramic coatings for solar cells, certain glues, and in kitchen tiles and windows because of their self-cleaning properties.

The Nebraska Center for Materials and Nanoscience is on the forefront of research in one of the highest-priority national programs, the National Nanotechnology Initiative. Founded in 1988, the center supports more than 75 research scientists from the departments of physics, chemistry, electrical engineering, mechanical engineering, engineering mechanics, chemical engineering, and others working in the nanoscience areas at the University of Nebraska. The center also works with state and national industries in support of Nebraska's overall economic development. A new building to house the center is under development near 16th and W streets, planned for completion in spring 2011.

- By Terese Janovec, Nebraska Center for Materials and Nanoscience

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