Tag Archives: Canadian Light Source (CLS)

Reusable ‘sponge’ for soaking up marine oil spills—even in northern waters

A May 28, 2024 news item on phys.org announces some new research into sponges, a topic of some interest where oil spill cleanups are concerned,

Oil spills, if not cleaned up quickly and effectively, can cause lasting damage to marine and coastal environments. That’s why a team of North American researchers are developing a new sponge-like material that is not only effective at grabbing and holding oil on its surface (adsorption), but can be reused again and again—even in icy Canadian waters….

A May 27, 2024 Canadian Light Source (CLS) news release (also received via email) by Rowan Hollinger provides some details, Note: CNF can be cellulose nanofibers, cellulose nanofibrils, or, it’s sometimes called, nanofibrillated cellulose (NFC) (see Nanocellulose Wikipedia entry),,

The special material – called CNF-SP aerogel — combines a biodegradable cellulose-based material with a substance called spiropyran, a light-sensitive material. Spiropyran has a unique ‘switchable’ property that allows the aerogel to go between being oil-sorbent and oil-repellent, just like a kitchen sponge that can be used to soak up and squeeze out water.

“Once spiropyran has been added to the aerogel, after each usage we just switch the light condition,” explains Dr. Baiyu Helen Zhang, professor and Canada Research Chair at Memorial University, Newfoundland. “We used the aerogel as an oil sorbent under visible light. After oil adsorption, we switched the light condition to UV light. This switch helped the sponge to release the oil.”

And the material continues soaking up and releasing oil, even when the water temperature drops, according to Dr. Xiujuan Chen, an assistant professor at University of Texas – Arlington.

“We found that when we tested the oil sorbent’s performance under different kinds of environmental conditions, it had a very good performance in a cold environment. This is quite useful for cold winter seasons, particularly for Canada.”

The researchers used the CLS’s Mid-IR beamline to examine the characteristics of the aerogel before and after exposing it to visible and UV light. From here, the researchers are looking to scale up their research with large pilot studies and even testing the material in the field.

“The CLS has very unique infrastructure that supports students and researchers like us to conduct many kinds of very exciting research and to contribute to scientific knowledge and engineering applications,” says Zhang.

Here’s a link to and a citation for the paper,

Development of a spiropyran-assisted cellulose aerogel with switchable wettability as oil sorbent for oil spill cleanup by Hongjie Wang, Xiujuan Chen, Bing Chen, Yuming Zhao, Baiyu Zhang. Science of The Total Environment Volume 923, 1 May 2024, 171451 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.scitotenv.2024.171451 Available online: 2 March 2024 Version of Record: 8 March 2024

This paper is behind a paywall.

The CLS has made this video of the researchers available,

For the curious, I have many posts about sponges and, in particular, sponges for use in environmental cleanups.

Pulp and paper waste for scrubbing carbon from emissions

This first news release is a little short but the next one is one of the shortest I can recall seeing. First, a February 1, 2024 Canadian Light Source (CLS) news release by Victoria Martinez,

Researchers at McGill University have come up with an innovative approach to improve the energy efficiency of carbon conversion, using waste material from pulp and paper production. The technique they’ve pioneered using the Canadian Light Source at the University of Saskatchewan not only reduces the energy required to convert carbon into useful products, but also reduces overall waste in the environment.

“This is a new field,” says Roger Lin, a graduate student in chemical engineering “We are one of the first groups to combine biomass recycling or utilization with CO2 capture.” The research team, from McGill’s Electrocatalysis Lab, published their findings in the journal RSC [Royal Society of Chemistry] Sustainability.

Capturing carbon emissions is one of the most exciting emerging tools to fight climate change. The biggest challenge is figuring out what to do with the carbon once the emissions have been removed, especially since capturing CO2 can be expensive. The next hurdle is that transforming CO2 into useful products takes energy. Researchers want to make the conversion process as efficient and profitable as possible.

“For these reactions, it really matters that we target energy efficiency,” says Amirhossein Farzi, a PhD student in chemical engineering at McGill. “The highest burden on the profitability of these reactions and these processes is usually how energy efficient they are.”

Farzi, Lin, and their research team focused their efforts on changing out one of the most energy-intensive parts of the carbon conversion process.

Because the approach is so new, there are many questions to answer about how to get the purest outputs and best efficiency. The team used CLS beamlines to observe chemical reactions in real-time, mimicking industrial processes as closely as possible.

The researchers hope to expand the range of products that can be made with CO2, and help develop a truly green technology.

“If we use a renewable energy source like hydro, wind, or solar …then in the end, we have really a carbon negative process,” says Lin.

Then, there was a March 27, 2024 McGill University news release (also on EurekAlert but published April 8, 2024), which is more succinct,

Researchers at McGill University have come up with an innovative approach to improve the energy efficiency of carbon conversion, using waste material from pulp and paper production. The technique they’ve pioneered using the Canadian Light Source at the University of Saskatchewan not only reduces the energy required to convert carbon into useful products, but also reduces overall waste in the environment.

“We are one of the first groups to combine biomass recycling or utilization with CO2 capture,” said Ali Seifitokaldani, Assistant Professor in the Department of Chemical Engineering and Canada Research Chair (Tier II) in Electrocatalysis for Renewable Energy Production and Conversion. The research team, from McGill’s Electrocatalysis Lab, published their findings in the journal RSC Sustainability.

Capturing carbon emissions is one of the most exciting emerging tools to fight climate change. The biggest challenge is figuring out what to do with the carbon once the emissions have been removed, especially since capturing CO2 can be expensive. The next hurdle is that transforming CO2 into useful products takes energy. Researchers want to make the conversion process as efficient and profitable as possible.

Here’s a link to and a citation for the paper,

Efficient integration of carbon dioxide reduction and 5-hydroxymethylfurfural oxidation at high current density by Roger Lin, Haoyan Yang, Hanyu Zheng, Mahdi Salehi, Amirhossein Farzi, Poojan Patel, Xiao Wang, Jiaxun Guo, Kefang Liu, Zhengyuan Gao, Xiaojia Li, Ali Seifitokaldani. RSC Sustainability, 2024; 2 (2): 445 DOI: 10.1039/D3SU00379E First published online: 13 Dec 2023

This paper is open access.

H/t April 8, 2024 news item on ScienceDaily

Better vaccines for park producers?

From a February 27, 2024 Canadian Light Source (CLS) news release (also received via email) by Erin Matthews,

A long-term, international collaboration between researchers at the University of Manitoba and the Leiden University Medical Centre in the Netherlands has uncovered vital information about the porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome virus (PRRSV). This pathogen causes severe disease in pigs, leading to significant economic losses for pork producers across the globe.

“This disease in pigs is important worldwide and is economically fairly significant,” says Marjolein Kikkert, Associate Professor of Virology at Leiden University Medical Centre. “The aim of the project was to improve vaccines for this disease, and it turned out that it was very difficult.” It’s estimated that PRRS costs the Canadian pork industry $130M annually.

Kikkert and collaborator Brian Mark, Dean of the Faculty of Science at the University of Manitoba, looked at targeting a type of protein called a protease. PRRSV uses these proteins to suppress a host’s immune system, causing severe illness. By changing the structure, researchers can design altered viruses upon which to base new vaccines.

With the help of the Canadian Light Source (CLS) at the University of Saskatchewan (USask), Mark and Kikkert were able to visualize the unique structure of the PRRSV protease. What they learned in their study is valuable for developing new vaccines against PRRSV and also helps inform development of vaccines against emerging human viruses.

The team has conducted similar research on coronaviruses —which also use proteases to suppress human and animal immune systems — and has successfully designed new vaccines.

“The trick and hypothesis we had for improving the PRRSV vaccine didn’t quite work.” Says Kikkert. “However, we did learn a lot about how these viruses work. And it may certainly be a basis for further work into possibilities for improving vaccines against these viruses and coronaviruses.”

The team’s findings also unlock new doors to understanding how viruses like PRRSV use proteins to replicate, making this a significant academic discovery.

“The Canadian Light Source provided the technology we needed to determine the structures of these proteases, and this knowledge has provided tremendous insight into the biochemistry of these viruses, which is the cornerstone of modern vaccine development,” says Mark.

Here’s a link to and a citation for the paper,

Demonstrating the importance of porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome virus papain-like protease 2 deubiquitinating activity in viral replication by structure-guided mutagenesis by Ben A. Bailey-Elkin, Robert C. M. Knaap, Anuradha De Silva, Ilse M. Boekhoud, Sandra Mous, Niek van Vught, Mazdak Khajehpour, Erwin van den Born, Marjolein Kikkert, Brian L. Mark. PLOS DOI: https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.ppat.1011872 Published: December 14, 2023

This paper is open access.

(nano) Rust and magnets from the Canadian Light Source

An October 5, 2023 news item on phys.org highlights research from the Canadian Light Source (CLS, also known as, the synchrotron located in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan), Note: A link has been removed,

Every motor we use needs a magnet. University of Manitoba researcher Rachel Nickel is studying how rust could make those magnets cheaper and easier to produce.

Her most recent paper, published in the journal Nano Letters, explores a unique type of iron oxide nanoparticle. This material has special magnetic and electric features that could make it useful. It even has potential as a permanent magnet, which we use in car and airplane motors.

What sets it apart from other magnets is that it’s made from two of the most common elements found on earth: iron and oxygen. Right now, we use magnets made out of some of the rarest elements on the planet.

An October 5, 2023 CLS news release (also received via email) by Victoria Martinez, which originated the news item, provides more detail,

“The ability to produce magnets without rare earth elements [emphasis mine] is incredibly exciting,” says Nickel. “Almost everything that we use that has a motor where we need to start a motion relies on a permanent magnet”.

Researchers only started to understand this unique type of rust, called epsilon iron oxide, in the last 20 years.

“Now, what’s special about epsilon iron oxide is it only exists in the nanoscale,” says Nickel. “It’s basically fancy dust. But it is fancy dust with such incredible potential.”

In order to use it in everyday technology, researchers like Nickel need to understand its structure. To study epsilon iron oxide’s structure in different sizes, Nickel and colleagues collected data at the Advanced Photon Source (APS) in Illinois, thanks to the facility’s partnership with the Canadian Light Source (CLS) at the University of Saskatchewan. As the particle sizes change, the magnetic and electric traits of epsilon iron oxide change; the researchers began to see unusual electronic behaviour in their samples at larger sizes.

Nickel hopes to continue research on these particles, pursuing some of the stranger magnetic and electric properties.

“The more we are able to investigate these systems and the more we have access to facilities to investigate these systems, the more we can learn about the world around us and develop it into new and transformative technologies,” she says.

This work was funded through the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada and the Canada Foundation for Innovation.

For anyone not familiar with the rare earths situation, they’re not all that rare but they are difficult to mine in most regions of the world. China has some of the most accessible rare earth sites in the world. Consequently, they hold a dominant position in the market. Regardless of who has dominance, this is never a good situation and many countries and their researchers are looking at alternatives to rare earths.

Here’s a link to and a citation for the paper,

Nanoscale Size Effects on Push–Pull Fe–O Hybridization through the Multiferroic Transition of Perovskite ϵ-Fe2O3 by Rachel Nickel, Josh Gibbs, Jacob Burgess, Padraic Shafer, Debora Motta Meira, Chengjun Sun, and Johan van Lierop. Nano Lett. 2023, 23, 17, 7845–7851 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1021/acs.nanolett.3c01512 Publication Date: August 25, 2023 Copyright © 2023 American Chemical Society

This paper is behind a paywall.

Students from Nakoda Oyade Education Centre and scientists at the Canadian Light Source (CLS) use science to help bison

It’s known as Paskwâwimostos – ᐸᐢᑳᐧᐃᐧᒧᐢᑐᐢ – The Bison Project and is being conducted at Canada’s only synchrotron, the Canadian Light Source (CLS) in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. Here’s more from a November 24, 2022 CLS news release (also received via email), Note: Links have been removed,

Bison have long held a prominent place in the culture of the Carry the Kettle Nakoda Nation, located about 100 kms east of Regina. The once-abundant animals were a vital source of food and furs for the ancestors of today’s Carry the Kettle people.

Now, high school students from Nakoda Oyade Education Centre at Carry the Kettle are using synchrotron imaging to study the health of a local bison herd, with an eye to protecting and growing their numbers.

Armin Eashappie, a student involved in the Bison Project, says the work she and her classmates are doing is a chance to give back to an animal that was once integral to the very existence of her community. “We don’t want them to go extinct, says Eashappie. “They helped us with everything. We got our tools, our clothes, our food from them. We used every single part of the buffalo, nothing was left behind…they
even helped us make our homes – the teepees – we used the hides to cover them up.”

Eashappie’s classmate, Leslie Kaysaywaysemat, says that if their team can identify items the bison are eating that are not good for their health, these could potentially be replaced by other, healthier items. “We want to preserve them and make sure all generations can see how magnificent these creatures are,” he says.

The students, who are participating in the CLS’s Bison Project, gathered samples of bison hair, soil from where the animals graze, and plants they feed on, then analyzed them using the IDEAS beamline at the CLS. The Bison Project, coordinated by the Education group of the CLS, integrates Traditional Knowledge and mainstream science in a transformative research experience for First Nation, Métis, and Inuit
students.

Timothy Eashappie, Elder for the Bison Project, says it’s “awesome” that the students can use the Canadian Light Source machine to learn more about an animal that his people have long taken care of on the prairies. “That’s how we define ourselves – as
Buffalo People,” says Eashappie. “Since the beginning of time, they gave themselves to us, and now these young people are finding out how important these buffalo are to them, because it preserves their language, their culture, and their way of life. And now it’s our turn to take care of the bison.”

Once they’ve completed their analysis, the students will share their findings with the Chief and Council for Carry the Kettle.

The Canadian Light Source (CLS) is a national research facility of the University of Saskatchewan and one of the largest science projects in Canada’s history. More than 1,000 academic, government and industry scientists from around the world use the CLS every year in innovative health, agriculture, environment, and advanced materials research.

The Canada Foundation for Innovation [CFI], Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council [NSERC], Canadian Institutes of Health Research [CIHR], the Government of Saskatchewan, and the University of Saskatchewan fund CLS operations.

You can find more about the CLS Bison Project here,

The Bison Project integrates Traditional Knowledge (TK) and mainstream Science in an experience that engages First Nation, Métis, and Inuit (FNMI) teachers, students, and communities. The Bison Project creates a unique opportunity to incorporate land-based hunting and herd management, synchrotron science, mainstream science principles and TK.

I found a bit more information about bison and their return in a November 23, 2020 article by Mark A. Bonta for The Daylighter,

For ecologists and environmentalists, it’s more than just a story about the return of a keystone species. 

The bison, it turns out, is an animal that maintains and restores the prairie.

Ecological restoration

Unlike cattle, bison are wallowers, so these powerful animals’ efforts to rid themselves of insect parasites, by rubbing their hide and rolling around on the ground, actually create permanent depressions, called bison wallows, in the landscape. 

These create fertile ground for diverse plant species — and the animals that rely on them. 

Bison also rub against woody plants and kill them off, keeping the prairies open, while their dung fertilizes the soil.

Iconic species like the greater prairie-chicken and the prairie dog all benefit from the restoration of bison. 

Bison herds have also proved highly adaptive to the “new,” post-colonial ecology of the Great Plains.

They are adapting to hunting season, for example, by delaying their migration. This keeps them out of harm’s way — but also increases the risk of human-bison conflicts.

Bonta’s article provides a little more detail about the mixed feelings that the return of the bison have engendered.

FrogHeart’s 2022 comes to an end as 2023 comes into view

I look forward to 2023 and hope it will be as stimulating as 2022 proved to be. Here’s an overview of the year that was on this blog:

Sounds of science

It seems 2022 was the year that science discovered the importance of sound and the possibilities of data sonification. Neither is new but this year seemed to signal a surge of interest or maybe I just happened to stumble onto more of the stories than usual.

This is not an exhaustive list, you can check out my ‘Music’ category for more here. I have tried to include audio files with the postings but it all depends on how accessible the researchers have made them.

Aliens on earth: machinic biology and/or biological machinery?

When I first started following stories in 2008 (?) about technology or machinery being integrated with the human body, it was mostly about assistive technologies such as neuroprosthetics. You’ll find most of this year’s material in the ‘Human Enhancement’ category or you can search the tag ‘machine/flesh’.

However, the line between biology and machine became a bit more blurry for me this year. You can see what’s happening in the titles listed below (you may recognize the zenobot story; there was an earlier version of xenobots featured here in 2021):

This was the story that shook me,

Are the aliens going to come from outer space or are we becoming the aliens?

Brains (biological and otherwise), AI, & our latest age of anxiety

As we integrate machines into our bodies, including our brains, there are new issues to consider:

  • Going blind when your neural implant company flirts with bankruptcy (long read) April 5, 2022 posting
  • US National Academies Sept. 22-23, 2022 workshop on techno, legal & ethical issues of brain-machine interfaces (BMIs) September 21, 2022 posting

I hope the US National Academies issues a report on their “Brain-Machine and Related Neural Interface Technologies: Scientific, Technical, Ethical, and Regulatory Issues – A Workshop” for 2023.

Meanwhile the race to create brainlike computers continues and I have a number of posts which can be found under the category of ‘neuromorphic engineering’ or you can use these search terms ‘brainlike computing’ and ‘memristors’.

On the artificial intelligence (AI) side of things, I finally broke down and added an ‘artificial intelligence (AI) category to this blog sometime between May and August 2021. Previously, I had used the ‘robots’ category as a catchall. There are other stories but these ones feature public engagement and policy (btw, it’s a Canadian Science Policy Centre event), respectively,

  • “The “We are AI” series gives citizens a primer on AI” March 23, 2022 posting
  • “Age of AI and Big Data – Impact on Justice, Human Rights and Privacy Zoom event on September 28, 2022 at 12 – 1:30 pm EDT” September 16, 2022 posting

These stories feature problems, which aren’t new but seem to be getting more attention,

While there have been issues over AI, the arts, and creativity previously, this year they sprang into high relief. The list starts with my two-part review of the Vancouver Art Gallery’s AI show; I share most of my concerns in part two. The third post covers intellectual property issues (mostly visual arts but literary arts get a nod too). The fourth post upends the discussion,

  • “Mad, bad, and dangerous to know? Artificial Intelligence at the Vancouver (Canada) Art Gallery (1 of 2): The Objects” July 28, 2022 posting
  • “Mad, bad, and dangerous to know? Artificial Intelligence at the Vancouver (Canada) Art Gallery (2 of 2): Meditations” July 28, 2022 posting
  • “AI (artificial intelligence) and art ethics: a debate + a Botto (AI artist) October 2022 exhibition in the Uk” October 24, 2022 posting
  • Should AI algorithms get patents for their inventions and is anyone talking about copyright for texts written by AI algorithms? August 30, 2022 posting

Interestingly, most of the concerns seem to be coming from the visual and literary arts communities; I haven’t come across major concerns from the music community. (The curious can check out Vancouver’s Metacreation Lab for Artificial Intelligence [located on a Simon Fraser University campus]. I haven’t seen any cautionary or warning essays there; it’s run by an AI and creativity enthusiast [professor Philippe Pasquier]. The dominant but not sole focus is art, i.e., music and AI.)

There is a ‘new kid on the block’ which has been attracting a lot of attention this month. If you’re curious about the latest and greatest AI anxiety,

  • Peter Csathy’s December 21, 2022 Yahoo News article (originally published in The WRAP) makes this proclamation in the headline “Chat GPT Proves That AI Could Be a Major Threat to Hollywood Creatives – and Not Just Below the Line | PRO Insight”
  • Mouhamad Rachini’s December 15, 2022 article for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation’s (CBC) online news overs a more generalized overview of the ‘new kid’ along with an embedded CBC Radio file which runs approximately 19 mins. 30 secs. It’s titled “ChatGPT a ‘landmark event’ for AI, but what does it mean for the future of human labour and disinformation?” The chat bot’s developer, OpenAI, has been mentioned here many times including the previously listed July 28, 2022 posting (part two of the VAG review) and the October 24, 2022 posting.

Opposite world (quantum physics in Canada)

Quantum computing made more of an impact here (my blog) than usual. it started in 2021 with the announcement of a National Quantum Strategy in the Canadian federal government budget for that year and gained some momentum in 2022:

  • “Quantum Mechanics & Gravity conference (August 15 – 19, 2022) launches Vancouver (Canada)-based Quantum Gravity Institute and more” July 26, 2022 posting Note: This turned into one of my ‘in depth’ pieces where I comment on the ‘Canadian quantum scene’ and highlight the appointment of an expert panel for the Council of Canada Academies’ report on Quantum Technologies.
  • “Bank of Canada and Multiverse Computing model complex networks & cryptocurrencies with quantum computing” July 25, 2022 posting
  • “Canada, quantum technology, and a public relations campaign?” December 29, 2022 posting

This one was a bit of a puzzle with regard to placement in this end-of-year review, it’s quantum but it’s also about brainlike computing

It’s getting hot in here

Fusion energy made some news this year.

There’s a Vancouver area company, General Fusion, highlighted in both postings and the October posting includes an embedded video of Canadian-born rapper Baba Brinkman’s “You Must LENR” [L ow E nergy N uclear R eactions or sometimes L attice E nabled N anoscale R eactions or Cold Fusion or CANR (C hemically A ssisted N uclear R eactions)].

BTW, fusion energy can generate temperatures up to 150 million degrees Celsius.

Ukraine, science, war, and unintended consequences

Here’s what you might expect,

These are the unintended consequences (from Rachel Kyte’s, Dean of the Fletcher School, Tufts University, December 26, 2022 essay on The Conversation [h/t December 27, 2022 news item on phys.org]), Note: Links have been removed,

Russian President Vladimir Putin’s war on Ukraine has reverberated through Europe and spread to other countries that have long been dependent on the region for natural gas. But while oil-producing countries and gas lobbyists are arguing for more drilling, global energy investments reflect a quickening transition to cleaner energy. [emphasis mine]

Call it the Putin effect – Russia’s war is speeding up the global shift away from fossil fuels.

In December [2022?], the International Energy Agency [IEA] published two important reports that point to the future of renewable energy.

First, the IEA revised its projection of renewable energy growth upward by 30%. It now expects the world to install as much solar and wind power in the next five years as it installed in the past 50 years.

The second report showed that energy use is becoming more efficient globally, with efficiency increasing by about 2% per year. As energy analyst Kingsmill Bond at the energy research group RMI noted, the two reports together suggest that fossil fuel demand may have peaked. While some low-income countries have been eager for deals to tap their fossil fuel resources, the IEA warns that new fossil fuel production risks becoming stranded, or uneconomic, in the next 20 years.

Kyte’s essay is not all ‘sweetness and light’ but it does provide a little optimism.

Kudos, nanotechnology, culture (pop & otherwise), fun, and a farewell in 2022

This one was a surprise for me,

Sometimes I like to know where the money comes from and I was delighted to learn of the Ărramăt Project funded through the federal government’s New Frontiers in Research Fund (NFRF). Here’s more about the Ărramăt Project from the February 14, 2022 posting,

“The Ărramăt Project is about respecting the inherent dignity and interconnectedness of peoples and Mother Earth, life and livelihood, identity and expression, biodiversity and sustainability, and stewardship and well-being. Arramăt is a word from the Tamasheq language spoken by the Tuareg people of the Sahel and Sahara regions which reflects this holistic worldview.” (Mariam Wallet Aboubakrine)

Over 150 Indigenous organizations, universities, and other partners will work together to highlight the complex problems of biodiversity loss and its implications for health and well-being. The project Team will take a broad approach and be inclusive of many different worldviews and methods for research (i.e., intersectionality, interdisciplinary, transdisciplinary). Activities will occur in 70 different kinds of ecosystems that are also spiritually, culturally, and economically important to Indigenous Peoples.

The project is led by Indigenous scholars and activists …

Kudos to the federal government and all those involved in the Salmon science camps, the Ărramăt Project, and other NFRF projects.

There are many other nanotechnology posts here but this appeals to my need for something lighter at this point,

  • “Say goodbye to crunchy (ice crystal-laden) in ice cream thanks to cellulose nanocrystals (CNC)” August 22, 2022 posting

The following posts tend to be culture-related, high and/or low but always with a science/nanotechnology edge,

Sadly, it looks like 2022 is the last year that Ada Lovelace Day is to be celebrated.

… this year’s Ada Lovelace Day is the final such event due to lack of financial backing. Suw Charman-Anderson told the BBC [British Broadcasting Corporation] the reason it was now coming to an end was:

You can read more about it here:

In the rearview mirror

A few things that didn’t fit under the previous heads but stood out for me this year. Science podcasts, which were a big feature in 2021, also proliferated in 2022. I think they might have peaked and now (in 2023) we’ll see what survives.

Nanotechnology, the main subject on this blog, continues to be investigated and increasingly integrated into products. You can search the ‘nanotechnology’ category here for posts of interest something I just tried. It surprises even me (I should know better) how broadly nanotechnology is researched and applied.

If you want a nice tidy list, Hamish Johnston in a December 29, 2022 posting on the Physics World Materials blog has this “Materials and nanotechnology: our favourite research in 2022,” Note: Links have been removed,

“Inherited nanobionics” makes its debut

The integration of nanomaterials with living organisms is a hot topic, which is why this research on “inherited nanobionics” is on our list. Ardemis Boghossian at EPFL [École polytechnique fédérale de Lausanne] in Switzerland and colleagues have shown that certain bacteria will take up single-walled carbon nanotubes (SWCNTs). What is more, when the bacteria cells split, the SWCNTs are distributed amongst the daughter cells. The team also found that bacteria containing SWCNTs produce a significantly more electricity when illuminated with light than do bacteria without nanotubes. As a result, the technique could be used to grow living solar cells, which as well as generating clean energy, also have a negative carbon footprint when it comes to manufacturing.

Getting to back to Canada, I’m finding Saskatchewan featured more prominently here. They do a good job of promoting their science, especially the folks at the Canadian Light Source (CLS), Canada’s synchrotron, in Saskatoon. Canadian live science outreach events seeming to be coming back (slowly). Cautious organizers (who have a few dollars to spare) are also enthusiastic about hybrid events which combine online and live outreach.

After what seems like a long pause, I’m stumbling across more international news, e.g. “Nigeria and its nanotechnology research” published December 19, 2022 and “China and nanotechnology” published September 6, 2022. I think there’s also an Iran piece here somewhere.

With that …

Making resolutions in the dark

Hopefully this year I will catch up with the Council of Canadian Academies (CCA) output and finally review a few of their 2021 reports such as Leaps and Boundaries; a report on artificial intelligence applied to science inquiry and, perhaps, Powering Discovery; a report on research funding and Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada.

Given what appears to a renewed campaign to have germline editing (gene editing which affects all of your descendants) approved in Canada, I might even reach back to a late 2020 CCA report, Research to Reality; somatic gene and engineered cell therapies. it’s not the same as germline editing but gene editing exists on a continuum.

For anyone who wants to see the CCA reports for themselves they can be found here (both in progress and completed).

I’m also going to be paying more attention to how public relations and special interests influence what science is covered and how it’s covered. In doing this 2022 roundup, I noticed that I featured an overview of fusion energy not long before the breakthrough. Indirect influence on this blog?

My post was precipitated by an article by Alex Pasternak in Fast Company. I’m wondering what precipitated Alex Pasternack’s interest in fusion energy since his self-description on the Huffington Post website states this “… focus on the intersections of science, technology, media, politics, and culture. My writing about those and other topics—transportation, design, media, architecture, environment, psychology, art, music … .”

He might simply have received a press release that stimulated his imagination and/or been approached by a communications specialist or publicists with an idea. There’s a reason for why there are so many public relations/media relations jobs and agencies.

Que sera, sera (Whatever will be, will be)

I can confidently predict that 2023 has some surprises in store. I can also confidently predict that the European Union’s big research projects (1B Euros each in funding for the Graphene Flagship and Human Brain Project over a ten year period) will sunset in 2023, ten years after they were first announced in 2013. Unless, the powers that be extend the funding past 2023.

I expect the Canadian quantum community to provide more fodder for me in the form of a 2023 report on Quantum Technologies from the Council of Canadian academies, if nothing else otherwise.

I’ve already featured these 2023 science events but just in case you missed them,

  • 2023 Preview: Bill Nye the Science Guy’s live show and Marvel Avengers S.T.A.T.I.O.N. (Scientific Training And Tactical Intelligence Operative Network) coming to Vancouver (Canada) November 24, 2022 posting
  • September 2023: Auckland, Aotearoa New Zealand set to welcome women in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) November 15, 2022 posting

Getting back to this blog, it may not seem like a new year during the first few weeks of 2023 as I have quite the stockpile of draft posts. At this point I have drafts that are dated from June 2022 and expect to be burning through them so as not to fall further behind but will be interspersing them, occasionally, with more current posts.

Most importantly: a big thank you to everyone who drops by and reads (and sometimes even comments) on my posts!!! it’s very much appreciated and on that note: I wish you all the best for 2023.

Gerhard Herzberg , the University of Saskatchewan, and the 1971 Nobel Prize for Chemistry

Half a century ago, a scientist won a Nobel Prize for Chemistry for work he’d done at the University of Saskatchewan and, later, at a National Research Council of Canada laboratory. The Nobel Prize was an unlikely event for more than one reason.

The history description I like the best is also the clunkiest (due to links and citations). From the essay by Denisa Popa for the Defining Moments Canada website (Note 1: I have removed the links; Note 2: NSERC is the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada),

Gerhard Herzberg was born in Hamburg, Germany on December 25th, 1904. From an early age Herzberg developed a keen interest in the sciences, particularly astronomy, physics and chemistry (Stoicheff, 2002). … Herzberg initially considered a career in astronomy, but lacked the funds to pursue it any further (NSERC). In 1924, he ultimately decided to pursue engineering physics and enrolled in the Technical University at Darmstadt (NSERC). By the time he was 24 years old, he was well established in his field, publishing a number of academic papers on the topics of atomic and molecular physics, as well as obtaining a Doctorate in Engineering Physics in 1928 (NSERC).

Following his graduation, he entered a postdoctoral fellowship at the University of Göttingen (University of Saskatchewan). Following that, Herzberg returned to Darmstadt where he spent five years conducting research on spectroscopy (University of Saskatchewan).  Spectroscopy is used to analyze the ability of molecules and compounds to emit and absorb different wavelengths of light and electromagnetic radiation (Herschbach, 1999). Through understanding the properties of the light/radiation that is emitted (or absorbed) scientists can learn more about the characteristics of molecules and compounds, including their structure and the types of chemical bonds they contain (Herschbach, 1999). 

While completing his postdoctoral fellowship, Herzberg met Luise Hedwig Oettinger, a university student also focusing on spectroscopic research (Stoicheff, 2002). The pair grew close and eventually married on December 30th, 1929 (Stoicheff, 2002). Over the years Luise, who received her Ph.D from the University of Frankfurt in 1933, co-authored a number of scientific papers with her husband (Stoicheff, 2002). The Herzbergs’ academic life in Germany would soon end in 1934 when the Nazi regime rose to power and began implementing new restrictions against Jewish scholars in academic institutions (Stoicheff, 2002). Herzberg received notice that he would no longer be permitted to teach at Darmstadt because of Luise’s Jewish heritage (Stoicheff, 2002; University of Saskatchewan). With the help of John W. T. Spinks (a chemist who visited and became closely acquainted with Herzberg in Darmstadt) and Walter C. Murray at the University of Saskatchewan, as well as funding from the Carnegie Foundation (as the university’s budget was limited during the depression era), the Herzbergs moved to Saskatoon that following year (NSERC). 

From 1935 to 1945 Herzberg established himself at the University of Saskatchewan, where he continued his research on molecular and atomic spectroscopy, publishing three new books (NSERC). He then spent the following three years at the University of Chicago’s Yerkes Observatory investigating “the absorption spectra of many molecules of astrophysical interest.” (NSERC) In 1948, the Herzbergs relocated back to Canada when Herzberg was invited to “establish a laboratory for fundamental research in spectroscopy” at the National Research Council (NRC) of Canada. (NSERC) It was during his time at the NRC that one of his key discoveries was made–the observation of the spectra of methylene radical (CH2) (Stoicheff, 2002). Scientists describe free radicals as chemical species that have an unpaired electron in the outer valence shell (Winnewisser, 2004). Free radicals can be found as intermediates in a variety of chemical reactions (Herschbach, 1999). It was Herzberg’s contribution to the understanding of free radicals that contributed to his Nobel Prize win in 1971 (NSERC). Dr. Gerhard Herzberg had two children and passed away on March 3rd, 1999 at the age of 94 (Herschbach, 1999). 

Kathryn Warden’s Saskatechwan-forward article was first published in August 2021 in the University of Saskatchewan’s Green & White magazine (Note: A link has been removed),

When Gerhard Herzberg was awarded the Nobel Prize in chemistry 50 years ago for ground-breaking discoveries in a lifelong exploration of the structure of matter, he publicly thanked the University of Saskatchewan.

“It is obvious that the work that has earned me the Nobel Prize was not done without a great deal of help,” Herzberg said in his acceptance speech, acknowledging “the full and understanding support” of successive USask presidents and faculty who “did their utmost to make it possible for me to proceed with my scientific work.”

Herzberg’s brilliance in studying the spectra of atoms and molecules to understand their physical properties significantly advanced astronomy, chemistry and physics—enhancing knowledge of the atmospheres of stars and planets and determining the existence of some molecules never before imagined.

“He was certainly a pioneer,” said USask PhD student Natasha Vetter, winner of both the 2014 Herzberg Scholarship and the 2018 Herzberg Fellowship. “Without his work, the fundamental tools we use as chemists and biochemists wouldn’t exist. I feel pretty honoured to be part of that legacy and to have received those awards.”

While at USask from 1935 to 1945, Herzberg made discoveries that laid the groundwork for his work at Chicago’s Yerkes Observatory and then at the National Research Council (NRC), culminating in his celebrated work on free radicals—highly unstable, short-lived molecules that are everywhere: in our bodies, in materials and in space. They help important reactions take place but an imbalance can cause damage such as cancer or age-related illness. Knowledge of their structure is now used to make pharmaceuticals, medical radiation tests, light sensors, and a wide range of innovative materials.

“This was the beginning of molecular spectroscopy, and it was an exciting time because it was all so new,” said Alexander Moewes, Canada Research Chair in Materials Science with Synchrotron Radiation.

“Herzberg was unravelling the structure of molecules, specifically free radicals. Many of today’s drugs and human biochemistry processes are governed by these molecules. So much that we have developed today would not have been discovered if Herzberg hadn’t done this fundamental research. This can’t be overstated.”

In honour of Herzberg, the University of Saskatchewan is naming both a hall and a lecture theatre at the Canadian Light Source (CLS), Canada’s synchrotron facility, after Herzberg, from a November 10, 2021 University of Saskatchewan news release,

As part of a national initiative to mark the 50th anniversary of Gerhard Herzberg’s Nobel Prize, the University of Saskatchewan (USask) is naming the main experimental hall of the Canadian Light Source (CLS) and a prominent physics lecture theatre on campus after the renowned scientist.

“Canada and the University of Saskatchewan welcomed Herzberg and his wife when no other country or university did,” said Stoicheff [USask President Peter Stoicheff]. “His legacy is evident today in so many ways, including at our Canadian Light Source where scientists from across Canada and around the world continue to unravel the mysteries of atomic structure.”

The Herzberg Experimental Hall is at the heart of the CLS, “the brightest light in Canada.” The enormous hall the size of a football field houses the synchrotron which supplies light to the many beamlines where wide-ranging experiments are conducted. The naming was endorsed by both the CLS board of directors and the CLS Users’ Executive Committee, and subsequently approved by the President’s Advisory Committee on Naming University Assets.

“As the father of modern spectroscopy, Herzberg conducted experiments that fundamentally changed scientific understanding of how molecules absorb and emit light,” said CLS board chair Pierre Lapointe.

“So it is very fitting that we honour his legacy at the Canadian Light Source where scientists from across Canada and around the world carry on the important work of using light to investigate the structure of matter—work that is leading to discoveries in fields as diverse as health, environment and new materials.” 

In his 2020 co-authored book on the history of the CLS, former CLS director Michael Bancroft said Herzberg’s fundamental research program in spectroscopy at USask in the 1930s paved the way for Canada’s only synchrotron.  He states that the close friendship that developed between USask chemistry researcher John Spinks and Herzberg in 1933 and 1934 in Germany, along with Herzberg’s subsequent hiring by USask President Walter Murray in 1935, “were the most important events in eventually landing the Canadian Light Source over 60 years later.” 

As Herzberg was a member of the USask physics department for a decade, the Physics 107 Lecture Theatre, across from a display dedicated to Herzberg, will be named the Dr. Gerhard Herzberg Lecture Theatre.

Chris Putnam’s December 10, 2021 article for the University of Saskatchewan highlights Herzberg’s other interests such as music and humanitarian work.

Finally, Herzberg gave an interview to Mary Christine King on May 5, 1986 (audio file and text) for the Science History Institute. Here’s a little more about Ms. King who died months after the interview,

“… born in China and educated in Ireland. She obtained a BSc degree in chemistry from the University of London in 1968, which was followed by an MSc in polymer and fiber science (1970) and a PhD for a thesis on the hydrodynamic properties of paraffins in solution (1973), both from the University of Manchester Institute of Science and Technology. After working with Joseph Needham at Cambridge, she received a PhD in the history and philosophy of science from the Open University (1980) and thereafter worked at the University of California, Berkeley, and at the University of Ottawa, … King died in an automobile accident in late 1987 …”

The interview is an oral history as recounted by Herzberg.

Chocolate at Canada’s synchrotron (Canadian Light Source; CLS)

An August 31, 2021 Canadian Light Source (CLS) news release by Erin Matthews describes research which could change how chocolate is made,

Scientists used synchrotron technology to show a key ingredient can create the ideal chocolate structure and could revolutionize the chocolate industry.

Structure is key when it comes creating the best quality of chocolate. An ideal internal structure will be smooth and continuous, not crumbly, and result in glossy, delicious, melt-in-your-mouth decadence. However, this sweet bliss is not easy to achieve.

Researchers from the University of Guelph had their first look at the detailed structure of dark chocolate using the Canadian Light Source (CLS) at the University of Saskatchewan. Their results were published today in Nature Communications.

“One of the major problems in chocolate making is tempering,” said Alejandro Marangoni, a professor at the University of Guelph and Canada Research Chair in Food, Health and Aging. “Very much like when you temper steel, you have to achieve a certain crystalline structure in the cocoa butter.”

Skilled chocolate makers [emphasis mine] use specialized tools and training to manipulate cocoa butter for gourmet chocolate. However, Marangoni wondered if adding a special ingredient to chocolate could drive the formation of the correct crystal structure without the complex cooling and mixing procedures typically used by chocolatiers during tempering.

“Imagine if you could add a component that directs the entire crystallization process to a high-quality finished product. You wouldn’t need fancy tempering protocols or industrial machines — you could easily achieve the desired crystalline form just by the addition of this component,” Marangoni said.

His team went to the CLS to see if their secret ingredient, a specific phospholipid, could drive the formation of an ideal chocolate structure. The facility’s bright light, which is millions of times brighter than the sun, allowed the team to get images of the interior structure of their dark chocolate in exquisite detail.

“We have some of the most beautiful micrographs of the finished chocolate that were only possible because we did this work at the CLS,” said Marangoni.

In a world first, the researchers were able to get detailed imaging of the internal structure of dark chocolate, thanks to the synchrotron’s state of the art BMIT beamline.

“Working with the CLS, I would call it a next level interaction,” Marangoni added. “It was extremely easy to set up a project and we had enormous support from beamline scientists.”

In collaboration with CLS Plant Imaging Lead Jarvis Stobbs, Marangoni and colleagues were able to confirm the positive effect their ingredient had on obtaining the ideal structure for chocolate.

“We screened many minor lipid components that would naturally be present in chocolate and identified one preferred group. We then added a very specific molecule, a saturated phospholipid, to the chocolate mass and obtained the desired effect. This phospholipid formed a specific liquid crystal structure that would ‘seed’ the formation of cocoa butter crystals,” said Marangoni.

Their discovery that this phospholipid ingredient will drive the formation of ideal cocoa butter crystals could have a big impact on the way that chocolate is made.

“It could potentially revolutionize the chocolate industry, because we would not need very complex tempering machines,” Marangoni said. “This could open up the possibility for smaller manufacturers to produce chocolate without having the big capital investment for tempering machinery.”

Synchrotron research allows scientists to identify important details that are not possible to find with other techniques. Marangoni said that any small improvement on current manufacturing methods can have a very large impact on the food industry and can potentially save money for companies.

He added that while chocolate research pales in comparison to global problems, he emphasizes the impact food can have on our everyday lives.

“We have more serious problems like climate change and alternative energies and maybe even vegan foods, which we’re working on as well, but chocolate gives us that psychological pleasure. It’s one of these foods that makes us feel happy.”

This video shows the researcher’s delight,

Here’s a link to and a citation for the paper,

Tempering of cocoa butter and chocolate using minor lipidic components by Jay Chen, Saeed M. Ghazani, Jarvis A. Stobbs & Alejandro G. Marangoni. Nature Communications volume 12, Article number: 5018 (2021) DOI: https://doi.org/10.1038/s41467-021-25206-1 Published 31 August 2021

This paper is open access.

According to a Sept. 2, 2021 article by Marc Fawcett-Atkinson for Canada’s National Observer, this work could lead to making chocolate production more sustainable

What happens to the skilled chocolate makers?

That’s one of my big questions. The other is what happens to us? In all these ‘improvements’ of which there are many being touted these days, what I notice is a lack of sensuality. In this particular case, no touch and no smell.

Longer lasting N95 masks thanks to a synchrotron in Saskatchewan (Canada)

A Nov. 3, 2020 Canadian Light Sources (CLS; also known as a synchrotron) news release by Erin Matthews (also on the University of Saskatchewan website), received via email, announces a technique that may make N95 masks last longer,

Through a collaboration between the Canadian Light Source (CLS) and the Vaccine and Infectious Disease Organization-International Vaccine Centre (VIDO-InterVac)—both national research facilities at the University of Saskatchewan (USask) —scientists hope to understand the structural changes happening inside N95 respirator masks after being sterilized for reuse.  

Cutting-edge techniques unique to the CLS enable the team to analyze minute details in the masks that would be impossible to see with other methods. CLS Industrial Scientist Toby Bond is using X-rays produced by the synchrotron to see the tightly woven, microscopic fibres that are crucial to the filtering power of N95 respirators.  

N95 respirators get their name from their ability to filter at least 95 per cent of particles circulating in the air. These particular masks are used by frontline health-care workers for protection against COVID-19.  

However, N95 masks that were intended for one-time use were in short supply globally during the height of the pandemic this spring, and continue to be chronically unavailable in most parts of the world. As a result, health-care agencies and researchers have been looking for ways to sterilize masks for reuse to help ensure an emergency supply. 

While previous research has found that certain methods work better at maintaining the integrity of the masks following decontamination, Bond and colleagues want to understand why this happens and how to extend the lifespan of these critical masks. 

“We want to use the unique tools we have at the CLS to look at the fibres that actually do the filtering,” Bond said. “We use a specialized X-ray microscope to take tiny CT scans before and after exposing the N95 masks to different decontamination protocols. Previous research has shown that certain methods work better than others, but we don’t currently know what’s going on inside the mask at a microscopic level.”  

Bond is working to determine why the N95 mask fibres degrade. This information would enable manufacturers to design more resilient masks and help the medical industry move towards personal protective equipment that is designed to be reusable. 

“One thing that’s unique about a synchrotron CT scan is that we can scan a tiny fraction of the mask at high magnification without having to cut small pieces out of it. This is what allows us to do before-and-after imaging, since we can decontaminate the mask in its real-world environment without altering it,” Bond added. 

One method for decontaminating N95 masks, called vaporized hydrogen peroxide (VHP), is used to sterilize rooms and equipment in VIDO-InterVac.  

“With the outbreak of the pandemic and the recognized potential worldwide shortage of respirators, we were approached by the Saskatchewan Health Authority (SHA) to investigate the possibility of using VHP decontamination on N95 respirators to mitigate a potential shortage,” said VIDO-InterVac Biosafety Officer Tracey Thue.  

To date, VIDO-InterVac has sterilized more than 13,000 masks. Studies have demonstrated that N95 masks can undergo multiple VHP decontamination cycles without affecting mask integrity. 

When CLS Laboratory Co-ordinator Burke Barlow suggested that the two groups collaborate, Thue offered to run three styles of N95 respirators through their VHP system for Bond’s research. Bond compared the VHP-treated masks to others that he had treated with Moist Heat Incubation (MHI) and autoclaving. 

Autoclaving is a common decontamination method that uses hot pressurized steam to sterilize medical devices, however it is the most damaging method and certain masks do not survive even one autoclave sterilization cycle. MHI is gentler than the autoclave, but the masks still become less effective after repeated cycles. VHP is considered to be the best method for decontamination of N95s, but it requires specialized equipment that is not widely available in hospitals. 

Bond and his colleagues are using the BMIT beamline at the CLS, a one-of-a-kind tool in North America, to image the inside of the masks in three dimensions without damaging them. The researchers can then look at the structure of individual fibres in the masks to see how they change during decontamination. They can identify shifts in mask fibres as small as a few microns, which is a measurement much smaller than the width of a human hair.  

Analyses over the next few weeks will help clarify what effect these shifts have on the performance of the mask. Aerodynamic and fluid simulations conducted at the CLS will help show how the changes in mask fibre structure affect air flow.   

“Preliminary results show there is a gradual unravelling of the fibres during repeated exposure to MHI in some masks,” said Bond. “This is in contrast to autoclaving the masks, which immediately causes a very significant unravelling after a single decontamination.” 

“In some cases, this unravelling doesn’t affect the filtration, but it does affect the overall structure of the mask, causing it to fit poorly and no longer seal properly to the user’s face,” he added. “This indicates that manufacturers could potentially make an autoclavable mask by changing the structural parts of the mask and leaving the filtration layer as it is.” 

“In terms of Toby’s research at the CLS, being able to go down to the microscopic level and visualize changes in the material or lack there-of is another valuable piece of information,” Thue said. 

Bond emphasized that it’s not just tools and equipment that makes this kind of research possible at the CLS, but also the access to the vast research network at USask.  

“The CLS is a fantastic place to do research like this, since we’re a national facility with a broad network of researchers,” said Bond. “We’ve been able to work with our colleagues at VIDO-InterVac (which is just down the road on the USask campus), and we also have contacts in industry and academia who work in this sector that have helped us with the experiments.” 

Oddly, there is no reference to a published paper for this work or mention of future research into how manufacturers might make use of this information.

Blue quantum dots and your television screen

Scientists used equipment at the Canadian Light Source (CLS; synchrotron in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada) in the quest for better glowing dots on your television (maybe computers and telephones, too?) screen. From an August 20, 2020 news item on Nanowerk,

There are many things quantum dots could do, but the most obvious place they could change our lives is to make the colours on our TVs and screens more pristine. Research using the Canadian Light Source (CLS) at the University of Saskatchewan is helping to bring this technology closer to our living rooms.

An August 19, 2020 CLS news release (also received via email) by Victoria Martinez, which originated the news item, explains what quantum dots are and fills in with technical details about this research,

Quantum dots are nanocrystals that glow, a property that scientists have been working with to develop next-generation LEDs. When a quantum dot glows, it creates very pure light in a precise wavelength of red, blue or green. Conventional LEDs, found in our TV screens today, produce white light that is filtered to achieve desired colours, a process that leads to less bright and muddier colours.

Until now, blue-glowing quantum dots, which are crucial for creating a full range of colour, have proved particularly challenging for researchers to develop. However, University of Toronto (U of T) researcher Dr. Yitong Dong and collaborators have made a huge leap in blue quantum dot fluorescence, results they recently published in Nature Nanotechnology.

“The idea is that if you have a blue LED, you have everything. We can always down convert the light from blue to green and red,” says Dong. “Let’s say you have green, then you cannot use this lower-energy light to make blue.”

The team’s breakthrough has led to quantum dots that produce green light at an external quantum efficiency (EQE) of 22% and blue at 12.3%. The theoretical maximum efficiency is not far off at 25%, and this is the first blue perovskite LED reported as achieving an EQE higher than 10%.

The Science

Dong has been working in the field of quantum dots for two years in Dr. Edward Sargent’s research group at the U of T. This astonishing increase in efficiency took time, an unusual production approach, and overcoming several scientific hurdles to achieve.

CLS techniques, particularly GIWAXS [grazing incidence wide-angle X-ray scattering] on the HXMA beamline [hard X-ray micro-analysis (HXMA)], allowed the researchers to verify the structures achieved in their quantum dot films. This validated their results and helped clarify what the structural changes achieve in terms of LED performance.

“The CLS was very helpful. GIWAXS is a fascinating technique,” says Dong.

The first challenge was uniformity, important to ensuring a clear blue colour and to prevent the LED from moving towards producing green light.

“We used a special synthetic approach to achieve a very uniform assembly, so every single particle has the same size and shape. The overall film is nearly perfect and maintains the blue emission conditions all the way through,” says Dong.

Next, the team needed to tackle the charge injection needed to excite the dots into luminescence. Since the crystals are not very stable, they need stabilizing molecules to act as scaffolding and support them. These are typically long molecule chains, with up to 18 carbon-non-conductive molecules at the surface, making it hard to get the energy to produce light.

“We used a special surface structure to stabilize the quantum dot. Compared to the films made with long chain molecules capped quantum dots, our film has 100 times higher conductivity, sometimes even 1000 times higher.”

This remarkable performance is a key benchmark in bringing these nanocrystal LEDs to market. However, stability remains an issue and quantum dot LEDs suffer from short lifetimes. Dong is excited about the potential for the field and adds, “I like photons, these are interesting materials, and, well, these glowing crystals are just beautiful.”

Here’s a link to and a citation for the paper,

Bipolar-shell resurfacing for blue LEDs based on strongly confined perovskite quantum dots by Yitong Dong, Ya-Kun Wang, Fanglong Yuan, Andrew Johnston, Yuan Liu, Dongxin Ma, Min-Jae Choi, Bin Chen, Mahshid Chekini, Se-Woong Baek, Laxmi Kishore Sagar, James Fan, Yi Hou, Mingjian Wu, Seungjin Lee, Bin Sun, Sjoerd Hoogland, Rafael Quintero-Bermudez, Hinako Ebe, Petar Todorovic, Filip Dinic, Peicheng Li, Hao Ting Kung, Makhsud I. Saidaminov, Eugenia Kumacheva, Erdmann Spiecker, Liang-Sheng Liao, Oleksandr Voznyy, Zheng-Hong Lu, Edward H. Sargent. Nature Nanotechnology volume 15, pages668–674(2020) DOI: https://doi.org/10.1038/s41565-020-0714-5 Published: 06 July 2020 Issue Date: August 2020

This paper is behind a paywall.

If you search “Edward Sargent,” he’s the last author listed in the citation, here on this blog, you will find a number of postings that feature work from his laboratory at the University of Toronto.