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For us, life unfolds on human scales.
Miles...feet...inches.
But beneath the surface of things is another
realm a billion times smaller than we are. A dimension that holds the secrets to understanding our world.
What makes steel strong...
...why ice cream is delicious...
...what makes life possible.
Secrets that help us create what we imagine.
"The human creativity of chemistry. There's just nothing more beautiful than them."
This is the realm of chemistry and these are it's greatest discoveries.
Ancient Greek philosophers believed there were just four elements; earth, air, fire and water.
And that air was the underlying element.
A single substance responsible for the make up of everything in the world.
Centuries later Leonardo Da Vinci was among the first to suggest that instead of being
an element, air might consist of two different gases. It remained a mystery until our first great discovery.
England, the latter part of the eighteenth century, clergymen and sometimes
scientist Joseph Priestley conducted a series of experiments searching for new 'airs' what today we call gases.
To find out more about what Priestley was up to, I paid a visit to
Arnold Thackray. President and historian at the Chemical Heritage Foundation in Philladelphia Pennsylvania.
"Priestley wrote and wrote and wrote on every subject that you've ever thought of.
He wrote about history, he wrote about religion, he wrote about politics, he wrote..
"Science?" He wrote about science endlessly and Priestley was the man who knew everything.
He would tell you the practice of it, the history of it, the theory of it and he was quite literally
the man who knew everything."
But along with everything else Priestley did this famous experiment right?
"That's exactly correct, and there are two things that go into that experiment.
The one is Mercury. This strange substance that's simultaneously a liquid and metal.
And that's just crazy. Who ever heard of a liquid metal and so it was really puzzling.
What is this thing? People were fascinated by it and so they wanted to explore it. Of
course the other thing that went into it was the technology to deal with gases and here
in Priestley's experiments and observations on different kinds of air we have the technology
of collecting gases over liquids. "In tubes that you can see through." Exactly, so you
can see the gas, you can see what's happening to the gas and now you really are in business.
What Priestley does is he takes a burning glass to give it heat, a lens. He focuses it on
this orange powder, the mercuric calx, he heats it, it changes into this metal mercury
and a gas comes off. But Priestley doesn't really realize what it is that he's found."
The answer would emerge in 1774 after Priestley paid a visit to Paris and shared
the story of his discovery with another scientist... Antoine Lavoisier. "Paris is a marvelous place
for Priestley to visit because Antoine Lavoisier is in Paris, talk of the town, doing the work
that will end up as his elementary text on chemistry. And Lavoisier who is also mucking
about with gases, hears what Priestley has done, is fascinated by the report of this
new air, decides he'll repeat the experiment. He has lots of apparatus, better apparatus.
He's a meticulous experimenter. And among other things he weighs things. Lavoisier, by
weighing says something is being emitted. He calls the thing emitted oxygen. He rewrites
a whole script of chemistry and he creates a list of elements that we still use today;
Oxygen, Hydrogen, Sulfur. You can correctly say Priestley discovered Oxygen but Lavoisier
invented it. So with Priestley's experimental work on gases, with discovery of Oxygen,
with Lavoisier's articulation of a system of language, we have the whole conceptual
scheme in which Nineteenth Century academic work is built. Twentieth Century industrial
innovation. We have pharmaceuticals, we have biotechnology, we have cell phones. "Plastics?"
We have plastics. That's exactly right. And all these things begin with the discovery
of Oxygen. That's where it starts. "That's a lot to breathe in".
In the early Nineteenth Century a British school teacher named John Dalton was hard at work pursuing his fascination
with chemistry which would lead to our next great discovery. Dalton's experiments showed
that the known elements such as Oxygen, Hydrogen, and Carbon combined in definite and constant
proportions. From his calculations he hypothesized that the elements must be made up of smaller
invisible pieces of matter with relative and distinctive weights. He called these pieces
of matter atoms. "So, what did Dalton discover?" Dalton's great discovery was what he called
the 'relative weights of ultimate particles'. "Ultimate particles." That's what he called
it. It's a lovely phrase. Later on when he went public it becomes atomic weights. We
know it as atomic weights. but it was ultimate particles. "So he used the word atoms?" He used the word atoms, the idea
of an atom of course goes back to Democritus, the problem is, it's an idea. Is it any use?
And Dalton was the man who made the idea useful. That was his great contribution. "From his
work, Dalton developed what came to be known as his Atomic Theory. A revolutionary new
system that defined the relationship between atoms and the elements. And it's an enormously
simple system and Dalton thinks very simply, very visually. Here are the elements, here
are the weight of the elements. Here are the complex molecules, and it's a wonderfully
effective system. It connects the thing that chemists can do, weigh things in balances
with the things that you can't see; the ultimate world of atoms and that's genius. How important
was Dalton's discovery? His Atomic Theory helped generations of scientists further unravel
the mysteries of the atomic and molecular world, including our next great discovery.
In the early 1800's French Chemist Joseph Gay-Lussac was conducting a series of experiments
designed to study Dalton's Atomic Theory when he observed something odd. When he combined
equal volumes of different gases, and measured their reactions, the gases often produced
twice the volume than he expected. How was this possible? The answer was provided in
1811 by Amedeo Avogadro; a physics professor at the University of Turin in Italy.
While studying the results of Gay-Lussac's research, Avogadro had an insight. At the
time, it was believed that gases were made of single atoms. Avogadro realized this
assumption was wrong. The gases were made of multiple atoms. What came to be known as
molecules. The realization that atoms could be rearranged to form molecules was the breakthrough
that enabled scientists to move out of the chemistry dark ages and begin systematically
creating new compounds.
Our next great discovery occurred in the Nineteenth Century
when many chemists believed that organic substances from organisms or living things were somehow
different from inorganic substances from non-living things, but that was about to change.
In 1828 Friedrick Wohler was working in his lab when something caught his eye.
Wohler had placed two inorganic chemicals in a beaker; Potassium Cyanate and Ammonium Sulfate.
Now when he looked at the beaker it contained a grams worth of small white needle shaped
crystals. What made this remarkable was that Wolher thought he had seen these exact same
crystals once before, but with an important difference. Those crystals had been organic.
He had crystalized them while studying the chemistry of various substances found in urine.
To make sure he wasn't mistaken, Wolher analyzed the new crystals. There was no mistake.
These crystals were the same as those he had isolated before. He had made urea, which was something
that had come out of a living thing. He had made it out of inorganic substances. Later
he said in a personal letter not in the paper that he wrote about it that I have made
urea without a kidney. He knew what he had done. "Meet Roald Hoffmann, winner of the
1981 Nobel Prize in chemistry for developing a theory to explain organic chemical reactions.
So why is this discovery of artificially making urea? Why is that a great discovery?
You know there comes a time when you need a discovery and it's sometimes a single one to cross a
border, to break down a wall. This is what this discovery was. It's not that it was so
important in and of itself but at the time that it came, the simple making of urea out
of two inorganic chemicals. When it came, it caught people's attention. The whole story
of the discovery is about the underlying basis, the building blocks of all matter, organic
and inorganic being the same; atoms.
If these lego bricks had existed in the early part
of the Nineteenth Century, chemists could have used them to help illustrate something they
were seeing in their experiments. A phenomenon that led to our next great discovery.
The atoms of particular elements such as Sodium and Chlorine seemed to combine with each other
according to fixed ratios. It was this combining power of atoms that inspired German chemist
August Kekule to develop a system for visualizing the chemical structure of various molecules.
Kekule represented the atoms by their symbols, then added marks to indicate how they bonded
with each other. Like links in a chain. It was a simple yet elegant formula. Chemists
now had a device for clearly illustrating the chemical structures of the molecules they
were studying. There was just one problem. Benzene was the only known chemical that would
not fit Kekule's formula. Benzene's chain of Carbon and Hydrogen atoms required more
combining power than the formula would allow.
"And all these organic chemistry professors are puzzling about it and offering different explanations.
And one of them; August Kekule sitting by the fire one evening falls asleep and starts to dream about a snake.
And if you think about a snake, what Kekule dreams of is the snake catches it's own tail.
And if you think about this, maybe the thing is a ring and that gives you an answer to the puzzle.
"The six Carbon atoms of the Benzene molecule weren't linked in a chain.
Like the snake, they formed a ring. Each with a Hydrogen atom attached, with alternating
single and double bonds. Within a short time Kekule's insight was confirmed and its effect
was revolutionary. Chemists knew that all organic substances contained one or more carbon
atoms and their molecules. With Kelkule's discovery they now had the underlying formula
to explain how carbon combined with other molecules
to form a world of chemical compounds. The modern era of organic chemistry was born.
Now with this thing being so simple, that is to say the snake bites its tail.
Why is this considered a great discovery? --Here's a recipe for new drugs, new medicines,
new understanding. If you go back in time in Dalton's day couple of hundred compounds.
Soon it's a couple of thousand, soon it's 10,000. Astonishing. Soon it's a hundred thousand.
Last year 15 million new compounds were registered, all built on this simple template.
This is a work of genius.
In 1869, a Russian chemistry professor named Dmitri Mendeleev was writing
a text book for his students, when he began to wonder how we could best explain to them
the 63 elements that were known at the time. To help formulate his thoughts
he constructed a card for each element. On each card he wrote the name of the element,
its atomic weight, it's typical properties, and its similarities to other elements.
He then laid the cards out like a game of solitaire and began arranging them over and over, searching for patterns.
Then came the moment of discovery.
Before him was something extraordinary. The elements fell into 7 vertical groupings.
Each periodic grouping had members that resembled one another,
both chemically and physically. Mendeleev had discovered the periodic table of the elements,
a map showing how all of the elements related to one another.
A map so precise that Mendeleev believed he could also use it to predict the
existence and properties of three elements no one had yet discovered.
One would be like Boron he said. One like Aluminum, and one like Silicon.
Eventually the elements were discovered and Mendeleev was proven right.
There was actually a little bit of controversy because a German chemist and Lothar Meyer
had come up with roughly the same idea but Meyer didn't quite have as much courage. So
that's actually an interesting thing.
Here's this German who comes up with the same idea of periodicity
of which there were hints already before, but he doesn't make the predictions
that Mendeleev does. So here we see the power of a risky prediction in
having people except a theory. There is nothing more powerful
than making a prediction that's not obvious. --And then have it come true."
And have it come true. The periodic table is our icon. I mean that
it's what we associate with chemistry. You go into any chemistry room and you see it.
Why is the periodic table of elements significant? it forever changed the way that everyone would
learn and understand the elements.
The periodic table of elements is to chemistry as notes of music are to a Beethoven sonata.
In honor of Mendeleev, his name is now literally
attached to the periodic table. The element 101 was named after him. It's called Mendelevium.
It's not only chemists who like the periodic table, I hear you carry one around.
--I do carry one, yes sir. --Show me!
--You never know. And I seem to use it a lot." --Let's see.
--It's a small one. --So I'm going to give you a test. Um what is under Nitrogen on the periodic table?
--Nitrogen is 7. --Yes.
--Well I have to think a second. "Sulfur."
--No you're wrong. Close, you're one off. --That's why I carry it.
--It's Phosphorus. --Oh Phosphorous, Phosphorus. 15.
--Phosphorus is 15? -- Yeah, you have to add 8 at that point.
See that's why I carry it. I can't remember. So it's
seven plus 8. 15, Phosphorus. Okay. There's there's a pattern there. I get it now.
At the turn of the 19th century, electricity was all the rage.
people were busy making batteries and connecting them to just about
anything to see the reaction. Electricity was like a new kind of fire.
One of the great battery junkies of the day was Humphry Davy, the self taught English chemist.
In 1807 Davey was performing a battery experiment in his lab.
He melted some potash; a mineral found in the ground,
that also forms in the ashes of wood. Chemists had speculated that potash was a compound
of several elements, but had not been able to prove it. Davy wanted
to see if electricity might provide the answer.
He ran some wires from one of his biggest batteries to the melted potash.
Pure Potassium began to emerge. Davy had discovered the power of electricity to react with chemicals and transform them.
Eventually electrochemistry led to the rise of the
aluminum industry, the production of semiconductors, solar panels, LED displays, even rechargeable lithium batteries.
In the 1850s Robert Bunsen and his research collaborator Gustav Kirchhoff
conducted a series of experiments to determine why substances
emitted specific colors when placed in a flame. The color they determined, indicates what
elements are present in the substance. For example, if Sodium is
placed in a flame, they observe shades of yellow.
Copper, shades of green. Strontium, shades of red.
That was a good one.
While watching the experiments Kirchoff was reminded of how a prism spreads light into a rainbow of colors.
So, using a prism and the pieces of a small telescope Bunsen and Kirchoff built the first spectroscope,
an analytical device they hoped would help them see the spectra
coming from heated substances. And it worked. As an element
was put into the flame of a bunsen burner, the light from the heated substance passed
through the prism of the spectroscope where it then spread into a
ribbon-like spectrum of colors, riddled with dark lines. The combinations
of bright colors and dark lines were like barcodes, indicating what atoms were present.
When burned, each element produced a completely unique spectrum.
Using their spectroscope, Bunsen and Kirchoff were able to discover two new elements; Cesium and Rubidium.
One day Bunsen and Kirchoff decided to test their invention with sunlight.
It produced a spectrum that featured two lines that were identical to those in the spectrum
produced by sodium. Bunsen and Kirchoff had discovered the presence
of sodium in the sun 93 million miles away.
Suddenly scientists had a tool to help them study the chemistry of the heavens.
[Lift off. We have lift off.]
Today the legacy of this great discovery lives on in the exploration of space.
A form of spectroscopy is being used to study the
atmospheres of planets, to search for signs of water. Signs of life.
Our next great discovery is the story of Joseph Thomson and the electron.
["Here we are."] --So everything that we can see is made of chemicals.
--That's right --What's the future?"
--And they're all bonded through electron interactions. --Thank goodness.
"To find out about it I paid a visit to Harvard University.
Dudley Herschbach is a professor here and winner of the 1986 Nobel Prize in Chemistry...
for his research into the dynamics of chemical elementary processes.
--So Thomson discovered the electron. --Well it is of course said that way, but he didn't discover it in
the sense that he said, "Eureka! I've got this thing. Here it is." He did an experiment
that allowed him to measure the ratio of the charge, the electric charge, the
mass and then later is able to get a rough measurement
of the charge and therefore show the mass was very very small.
It was about one two-thousandth's of the mass of the lightest known atom. The Hydrogen atom.
So it showed that he could extract an experiment, a very small
piece of an atom. Well that was a tremendous shock.
--Pun intended. --Yes, yes...electrical piece from an atom.
It was a very small part of the atom.
At the time of his discovery, Thomson was a professor at England's University of Cambridge.
He was using a device called a crookes tube in his experiments.
I happen to have here a little apparatus that's akin to the one
that JJ Thompson used in 1897. It's called a cathode ray tube. It's an evacuated
little glass cylinder with some electrodes and we can hook this up and show the key points of his experiment.
--A replica of the first CRT --Yeah it's the first cathode ray tube.
It's an ancestor of the television tube as a matter of fact.
You do the last one and we should get a stream of cathode rays or electrons going there and they'll show up.
A few of them bang into this phosphor coated piece of cardboard there. Here, I'll
give you a magnetic field you can use to deflect the electrons.
When Thompson exposed the stream of cathode rays to a magnet the stream would bend. Since
magnets can only affect matter, this meant the stream of rays was composed
of some kind of electrically charged substance called radion matter.
After many hours of observing and measuring
Thompson realized he'd found the first sub-atomic particles.
The ray was a stream of electrons. It was a revolutionary discovery.
Some years later a student of Thompson, Ernest Rutherford was able to show that the positive charge in atoms,
which of course had to be there to balance the negative charges of these little electrons
that were just scooting around, was localized in a tiny tiny nucleus. A hundred
thousand times smaller than the size of the atom. So almost all of the mass was
of course in that nucleus as well... because electrons are so light.
--And that's still the model we have today right?
--That's the basic model for atoms and of course key to understanding everything involving atoms.
--Like Chemistry. --Like Chemistry in particular. That's right.
Scientists were just beginning to discover the anatomy of the atom.
Now they wanted to understand its behavior, specifically
the mechanism that enabled the atoms of certain elements to combine with
the atoms of other elements to form new substances.
In the early 1900s, American chemist Gilbert Lewis, developed a model of the atom that provided an answer.
It is he who explained
that electrons in atoms, and Chemistry's about electrons, it's not about
nuclei, that the electrons in atoms went in shells around the nucleus. in Lewis's model
of the atom each shell allows only a maximum number of electrons. Lewis theorized
that two chemical elements might combine to form
a compound when they give up or accept electrons from their outer shells.
For example, on their own Sodium and Chlorine are hazardous. But when
a single Sodium atom gives up the electron from its outer shell
and a single Chlorine atoms outer shell accepts it this exchange allows the two to bond and
form a compound Sodium chloride- table salt.
Gilbert Lewis's theory was an extraordinary breakthrough that enabled
scientists to begin making chemical compounds, millions of them. Compounds
that have shaped the face of modern life.
Our next great discovery started in the 1890s with the discovery of an unknown radiation called X-rays.
It caused a sensation and scientists immediately began looking for other substances
that emitted strange perhaps valuable forms of radiation.
Over the next several decades, a number of scientists investigated the phenomena, and
together ended up shedding light on one of the great scientific sleuthing episodes of modern science.
French physicist Henri Becquerel made the first significant breakthrough.
In 1896 he conducted a series of experiments to see if various minerals emitted radiation.
One of the minerals he happened to test was Uranium. Becquerel's technique was to place
different objects on top of an unexposed photographic plate, still wrapped in protective black paper.
He would sprinkle Uranium onto another piece of black paper, then enclose the object between
the Uranium and the photographic plate. Later Becquerel
would develop the plate and without fail, a ghostly photographic outline
of the object would appear. From these experiments, Becquerel was able to prove conclusively that
he had found a source for the mysterious radioactive rays that everyone was looking for.
That source was Uranium.
From Becquerel the investigation of radioactivity was taken up by Marie Curie.
Curie and her husband Pierre undertook the job of isolating whatever elements
were responsible for the radioactivity in Uranium ore. For two years the
Curies boiled, sifted, filtered and processed several tons of Uranium ore. Finally, they
succeeded in isolating two new elements
contained in the ore which they called Polonium and Radium.
Marie Curie concluded that radium was a million times more
radioactive than Uranium. More importantly she determined that the mysterious
form of energy which enabled radioactivity to penetrate other materials
was not the result of a chemical process but seemed to be atomic in nature.
Unfortunately, her discoveries came at great cost. The dangers of being exposed to
radioactivity were still unknown at the time, and in 1934 Marie Curie died of leukemia,
believed to have been caused by radiation poisoning.
Even the notebooks that she used to record her observations,
are still considered too radioactive to handle.
It was the atomic nature of radioactivity
that eventually attracted the interest of physicist Ernest Rutherford whom we already
met in the discovery of the electron.
Rutherford found that radioactive material goes through a natural process of decay.
As it moves through the process, the radioactivity
spontaneously emits unstable and highly charged energy particles
with the power to penetrate matter.
Rutheford called them alpha and beta particles, and gamma rays. Since those discoveries
we've learned a lot about radioactivity; the dangers as well as the benefits.
Radioactivity has given us
medical imaging, a treatment for tumors, a method for calculating the age of the earth,
and a power source for our spacecraft to explore the solar system.
Even some smoke detectors contain a small
amount of radioactive material called Americium,
which helps create a steady electrical current.
When smoke particles disrupt that current, it triggers the alarm.
[beep, beep, beep]
Centuries ago Alchemists set their sights high.
They sought infinite wealth and immortality through miraculous transformations of matter.
They came up with useful tools and glassware
but not much else. Chemists on the other hand set their sights a bit lower and
ended up changing the look and feel of the material world,
as did our next great discovery.
In the 1860s, John Hyatt a printer and amateur chemist in Albany, New York
made news when he discovered a way to exploit the long stringy molecules of
cellulose found naturally in plants and created the first plastic.
Fifty years later, Belgium born chemist Leo Baekeland took the next step in the discovery process.
One of the great pioneers was Leo Baekeland who made a polymer called Bakelite.
The usual thing, a chance favoring the prepared mind.
He was mixing things but he, he knew how to explore them. He saw the interesting properties of this.
From two chemicals derived from coal Baekeland discovered the world's first fully synthetic plastic,
and the landscape of the 20th century was forever changed.
--What exactly is a plastic? --Plastics are polymers. So what are polymers?
Polymers are long chain molecules. Not individual molecules that are then plumped up
into any solid of some sort. They're really
molecules that extend out very far. Chains of Carbon atoms sometimes with some
other elements in them. So what are the advantages? Well, it's moldable. You can pour it in some liquid form into some mold.
Strength? Well, that's not bad. You can make bulletproof vests from plastics
and we've certainly seen that in terms of fibers they can mimic
or even surpass the properties of natural fibers.
No fishermen in the world is going to go back to having nets out of cotton, you can bet those nets are going to be out of nylon.
So would you say the discovery of plastics is a great discovery?
We have science, making polymers, making nylon, making rayon,
which has a natural starting point but is modified into a polymer.
...making Plexiglass or polyethylene. Those are the structural materials of our civilization.
I think polymers are in that sense an example of the human creativity of Chemistry.
There's just nothing more beautiful than them.
This single gram of black powder costs five hundred dollars. About thirty times the price of gold.
Remarkably, it's a special kind of soot, made of molecules called Carbon nanotubes.
Each nanotube is about 1 billionth of a meter in diameter.
Thinner than a strand of DNA, yet filled with the world of promise that has a lot of people excited,
including a scientist who helped discover them.
Richard Smalley is a professor of Chemistry at Rice University in Houston Texas.
In 1985 he and fellow chemists, Robert Curl and Harold Kroto
were studying chemical conditions in outer space. Using sophisticated laser
and spectroscopic equipment, they were searching for evidence that might help
reveal the chemical nature of interstellar matter.
Instead, they found something else for which they would share the 1996 Nobel Prize for Chemistry.
What exactly did you discover?
Well in 1985 over a period of week we discovered that there was one special cluster
of carbon atoms that had precisely sixty atoms that was magic
and was especially stable compared to any other cluster,
and we wondered why?
Smalley, Kroto and Curl named the new molecules Bucky Balls after Buckminster Fuller, the
architect who designed the geodesic dome. What they'd really discovered was a whole
new class of large all carbon molecules which came to be called fullerenes.
A molecule is not just when some atoms are stuck together by good bonds.
There's another property of a molecule and
that is when you put the last atom it kinda clicks and it's done... --It's stable.
...and you offer it another atom and it says 'no thanks, I'm happy the way I am.'
Well that's what C60 was. We were offering it other carbon atoms
in the apparatus we built, and it said 'no, I'm gonna stay with 60.' So here's a molecule,
at least it was a molecule in my mind's eye
that seemed to explain the results, which has the most symmetry
of any molecule ever discovered. It's a big thing, this is about a nanometer in diameter.
About 10 Angsroms here. A nanometer, a billionth of a meter.
In 1991 the significance of fullerenes gained
even more momentum when Sumio Iijima, a scientist at the NEC
Corporation discovered yet another category of the cage like wonders.
But these fullerenes were slightly different.
They were made of hollow molecules of pure carbon
that formed a seamless hollow tube called carbon nanotubes... or in honor of Smalley's discovery,
Bucky Tubes. --There's Bucky Balls right?
Right. --and then there's Bucky Tubes.
-- Yeah, I've got a...these things get awfully big now.
A tube of the diameter of this ball
is this big, and this is a fullerene. Same sort of structure. Here are the pentagons
here and there's a hexagon. There's 6 pentagons here 6 pentagon there 12 total and in between all these hexagons
Now this thing is just sorta a bucky capsule, but you can imagine this thing being very long and
in fact these things has been made millions of times longer than their diameter now.
And these objects have incredible properties. --Like what?
Well for one thing if you are holding this plastic object which I can easily rip apart if you held the bucky tube in your hands and you go to pull it,
you'd find it is the stiffest object in the universe.
--Stiffer than steel? --Stiffer than steel.
--Stiffer than diamonds? --Stiffer than diamonds.
But you're a big guy you can pull it. You'd find that you can stretch it out quite a bit before it breaks.
We expect we'll find that it's a hundred times stronger than steel in tension.
The strongest fiber that you could ever make out of anything...ever.
If it means like a million years from now when you ask me what's the strongest thing...same thing.
Something has to be the strongest of all possible objects, this is it.
And it's just carbon so you could take coal or
sewage or old rubber tires and convert them into bucky tubes...
think what we could do with that. So we could rewire the world,
we can make electrical cables that conduct electricity better than copper one-sixth the way.
So, when you think about this do you-- does it seem too good to be true?
Does it seem magical? --It does. I mean what is the chance that you can discover something like this?
But that's one of the fascinating things about our current status of our understanding in chemistry and physics.
In fact we can calculate the behavior of things very well these days.
The big mystery with bucky balls and these
tubes is not that they would be great if you could make em It was finding
out you could actually make em.
Carbon nano tubes are one of the reasons the word nanotechnology has become so well-known.
Some are describing it as a modern-day Industrial Revolution.
Nanotechnology refers to building things from scratch like this nano motor.
It's the ability to assemble the atomic and molecular building blocks of nature, to create a new generation of products and applications
that are stronger and more precise.
--Is this the next realm of Chemistry? Is this the next thing in Chemistry?
I'm glad to see you used the word chemistry about this because that's really what this is.
We can't afford to pick every atom up with our fingers and stick them in, we have to have atoms self-assemble
and they have to come from some source of cheap atoms so we can make these efficiently.
We have a name for that, we call it chemistry. Course these days we call it nanotechnology.
It's the same thing where we make structure of a particular exact form.
To do it hundreds of trillions of times a second, low cost with no environmental impact,
to give us an object that will allow us to do something technologically that we couldn't otherwise do.
Making objects with... if we're really good the ultimate level of finesse.
The way nature has always built the molecules of living cells... will now do this everywhere.
So it keeps you coming to work? Yeah there's a certain romance about it.
It's taken only two centuries to go from a time when atoms were a mere hypothesis
to the brink of being able to snap atoms and molecules together
and build new technology with fantastic possibilities.
The great discoveries that we've just seen helped make it happen.
Exploring beneath the surface of things... inside the realm of Chemistry...
...and changing the world.
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Discovery 100 Greatest Discoveries EP3 Chemistry

19831 Folder Collection
Jason published on May 11, 2014
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