Sir Harold Kroto to Deliver Pittcon 2013 Plenary Lecture
- Nobel Laureate Sir Harold (Harry) Kroto (Nobel Prize for Chemistry 1996) will deliver the Pittcon 2013 Plenary Lecture, "Exameter Objects to Nanometer Ones and Back Again". Sir Harry Kroto is currently a Francis Eppes professor of Chemistry at Florida State University, where he is carrying out research in nanoscience and cluster chemistry as well as developing exciting new Internet approaches to STEM educational outreach.
Nobel Laureate Sir Harold (Harry) Kroto (Nobel Prize for Chemistry 1996) will deliver the Pittcon 2013 Wallace H. Coulter Plenary Lecture, "Exameter Objects to Nanometer Ones and Back Again". Harold Kroto will present recent results from his work at Florida State University which has uncovered fascinating new information on how fullerene molecules are created in the laboratory. He will also discuss the way that original studies of carbon chain molecules in the laboratory initiated radioastronomy discoveries in massive interstellar clouds and stars which in turn led to the laboratory experiment that uncovered the totally unsuspected existence the C60 cage molecule. The most recent fascinating breakthrough is the discovery by Canadian astronomers that the molecule is in some stars.
Sunday, March 17, 2013, 4:30 PM
Pennsylvania Convention Center, Ballroom B, Level 300
"Exameter Objects to Nanometer Ones and Back Again"
Science was born out of curiosity, not out of expedience and is still true today that many major breakthroughs are made by the openly curious who generally uncover breakthroughs which those with more focused attitudes tend to overlook. With the development of radiotelescopes during the last half of the 20th Century, the very cold interstellar medium was found to be a veritable Pandora's Box, full to the brim with dust particles, fascinating and exotic molecules as well as some highly puzzling material responsible for a plethora of as yet unidentified optical features. Particularly fascinating, curious and crucial has been the role that the element carbon has played in almost every aspect of the development of our understanding of both the physical and natural sciences. A fairly recent surprise that the element had up its sleeve was the existence of C60, Buckminsterfullerene, the third well-defined form of carbon - the other two being graphite and diamond. Follow-up work from the C60 discovery also led to the re-discovery of the carbon nanotubes which promise paradigm shifting advances in materials engineering at nanoscale dimensions. So curiosity about the chemistry that occurs in objects such as Giant Molecular Clouds in space some with diameters as large as 100ly (~1018 m*) led to the discovery of an object ca 1027 times smaller and which has become an iconic symbol of nanotechnology ie the science of structures at nanoscale (ca 10-9m) dimensions.
The fact that this third form of carbon had been hiding in the shadowy corners of the Universe since time immemorial brings to mind the mysterious character lurking in the dark streets of Vienna, made famous by Orson Welles in the classic movie "The Third Man".
Especially compelling support for the idea that C60 existed in space lay in the fact that the original discovery was made serendipitously during laboratory experiments designed to simulate the atmospheric conditions in cool red giant carbon stars. This is yet another example of the remarkable way in which the fascination with space has catalysed fundamental breakthroughs in general science with major implications for innovative technological applications on Earth. There is food for thought in the fact that C60 is now being made commercially by a relatively simple combustion technique and yet when it was first proposed that it might play some role in combustion, fierce antagonism to this proposal came from some members of the combustion research community.
The history of scientific progress carries a serious health warning for those who think that fundamental science can be steered by bureaucratic decision-making and the story of the discovery of the third form a carbon and its key role in the birth of Nanoscience and Nanotechnology is yet another salutary example.