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COLLEGE STATION --

The Texas A&M University Department of Chemistry is putting a new face on the time-honored Halloween tradition of pumpkin carving, casting a decidedly orange glow on the silver anniversary of National Chemistry Week and the department's signature annual event for educational outreach with an interactive display of atomic force microscopy (AFM) that would put Ginsu to shame.

Visitors to the 25th annual Chemistry Open House and Science Exploration Gallery -- set for Saturday (Oct. 27) from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on the Texas A&M campus -- will be encouraged to get into the spirit of both the season and science by picking out a spooky pattern and making their own nanopumpkins in fitting tribute to this year's theme, Nanotechnology -- The Smallest BIG Idea in Science.

The ghoulishly clever creations -- patterned in silicon, as opposed to actual pumpkins -- are the work of Texas A&M chemist James Batteas and his research group, which specializes in using nanoscale materials and devices to develop custom-engineered surfaces and interfaces. All designs, including a new nanoFrankenstein set to debut this weekend, are produced by chemistry graduate student Carrie Carpenter, a member of Batteas' lab who also supervises the group's open-house extravaganza.

"We found it to be a very engaging project for the kids," Batteas tells Chemical & Engineering News' Sophia L. Cai for the magazine's Oct. 22 edition. "It's a very simple chemical reaction that they're watching happen in real time."

Using tools like nanolithography (drawing structures on the nanoscale), Batteas' group not only can create nifty jack-o-lanterns, but also assemble new devices from their fundamental building blocks, molecule by molecule. Roughly 10 of these pumpkins can be printed on a single human hair, Batteas notes. By controlling how materials are assembled on the nanoscale level, he says they hope to create new technologies, from solar cells to faster electronics.

Batteas, who will be hosting the event in his lab for the third consecutive year, says the time-consuming programming required to produce a single design is well worth the educational takeaways that accompany the souvenir printouts and candy.

"The kids and their parents ask a lot of very intuitive questions," he says.

To learn more about Batteas' research, visit http://www.chem.tamu.edu/rgroup/batteas/.

For more information on Saturday's Chemistry Open House and Science Exploration Gallery, go to http://www.chem.tamu.edu/openhouse/.

-aTm-

Contact: Shana K. Hutchins, (979) 862-1237 or shutchins@science.tamu.edu or Dr. James D. Batteas, (979) 458-2965 or batteas@chem.tamu.edu

Hutchins Shana

  • Excellence Illuminated

    A sample nanopumpkin pattern showcasing the Batteas group's precision excellence in atomic force microscopy-based lithography. (Photos courtesy of James Batteas.)

  • Creative Genius

    Carrie Carpenter (maroon t-shirt at center), a graduate student in chemistry and Batteas group member who produces all the nanopumpkin designs, leads a previous Chemistry Open House event within the Batteas Lab.

  • James Batteas

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