A scientific link between a sip of good Scotch whiskey and stronger bones. A magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) machine that fits in a brief case and works without intense magnetic fields. A futuristic effort, dubbed the Helios Project, to create nanotech systems that mimic plants and convert sunlight into renewable fuels that reduce our dependence on imported oil.
Those topics were not among the 10,000 research papers presented at the ACS National Meeting this week. However, they were on the agenda for a select group of reporters who took advantage of an ACS News Service innovation at this meeting. It was a nanotechnology media briefing and tour hosted by the Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory’s Molecular Foundry.
Construction crews have just put the finishing touches on that six-story research center, carved into the rugged hills above the East Bay. The $85 million facility will become the modern version of a foundry for scientists who study and seek applications for ultra-small materials.
About two dozen of us boarded a special bus outside the ACS Press Room in the Moscone Center Tuesday for the ride to LBL. It was a diverse group, with media ranging from dailies like USA Today to Chemical & Engineering News to niche technical publications.
A security escort vehicle met us at the LBL gate, and led the way to briefings from Mark Alper, deputy director of the foundry, and other scientists. Among them was Paul Alivisatos, who heads the Helios Project and is co-editor of the small science’s leading scientific journal, ACS’s Nano Letters.
During the event, we split up into smaller groups for a tour of the labs. Scientists from each of the major research explained their goals and demonstrated instrumentation, some of which is one-of-its-kind in the world.
You could almost sense the excitement of working in this edge-of-the horizon facility. Staffers are still moving into the 95,000 square foot building. Some of the rooms are waiting for occupants. Everywhere is the fresh smell of new paint on walls in an atmosphere almost tingling with new ideas and approaches for understanding and exploring uses for nanomaterials.
As if the science was not enough, we capped the day with food, beverages, and a spectacular view of the sun setting over the bay area. The scientists who gave briefings and led tours joined us to sip wine and field additional questions.
If you missed the tour and have questions about the foundry, drop an email to Ron Kolb (firstname.lastname@example.org) head of the LBL communications office.