by Andrew Crisp
Materials science has given us some everyday items: bulletproof vests, ceramics, PVC pipe. But in the laboratory, scientists are applying advancements at the molecular level to create things out of science fiction movies.
"I think we’re developing quite a reputation in materials science across the nation," says Mark Rudin, Vice President of Research at Boise State. "[We're] really doing cutting edge stuff."
Scientists like Boise State’s Dr. Amy Moll, an engineering professor (remember our Citizen on Moll?) are tackling that next level of technology. By exploring structures on the molecular and atomic level, we can make some surprising “stuff.”
Making Stuff is a four part television series created by NOVA in partnership with Moll, Boise State, Discovery Center of Idaho, the Micron Foundation, Idaho Public Television (IdahoPTV), and Idaho National Laboratory.
"It’s one of those situations where we were lucky to land a number of good, key faculty members that sort of served as a magnet to attract other great talent to the university," says Rudin of hires like Moll.
Moll’s work helped fund the series, with a $1 million grant from the U.S. Department of Energy for education and outreach, and a $2.5 million gift from the National Science Foundation. She also served as technical expert by scripting, reviewing scripts and pitching ideas for filming.
Armed with federal and state endowments, molecular science experts are using the molecular properties of materials to create self-healing vehicles, containers that don’t absorb bullets (instead of repel them) and plastics made of sugar that dissolve in landfills.
The partnerships that helped create Making Stuff are hosting statewide events for hands-on experiences with the science in the documentary. Moll and DCI Education Director Woody Sobey will perform demos as part of a road show around the state. Catch it at one of the following locations:
Wednesday, Jan. 19—Making Stuff Road Show Kick-Off, 3-4 p.m. in the Idaho State Capitol Auditorium, 700 W. Jefferson St., Boise.
Saturday, Jan. 29 —Discover Engineering Day, 1375 University Drive. Boise (free parking in the Lincoln Parking Garage on the corner of University and Lincoln).
Wednesday, Feb. 2—Sun Valley Science Cafe, 6-9 p.m. nexStage Theatre, 120 S. Main St., Ketchum.
Wednesday, March 16—Idaho Falls Science Cafe, 995 University Blvd., Idaho Falls.