Touch me, touch me

Benjamin Tee from Zhenan Bao’s group at Stanford recently put out this research article on self-healing electronic “skin”:

Oooh! Ahhh! What might someone use this for? Robots we can torture, obviously! (As illustrated by the fantastic Sci-ence comic blog.) Because I’m working on flexible electronics, my mind goes straight to consumer gadgets too. This sort of material is the sort of thing you bet Apple or Samsung would pay a pretty penny for once they eventually get the roll-up foldable tablet computers into the hands of folks with little kids who would like to pull on them. Or dogs. Not kids pulling dogs, but dogs pulling things, 21st century edition: The Dog Ate My Transparent Rolled Up Data Pad. But not with this baby. Just stick the halves back together, hold for a few seconds, and voila! Good as new, according to the data here. I can see the B-roll on the late night commercials now.

The “skin” part of the work comes from the fact that the material is also pressure sensitive. As a number of folks have pointed out, that could really benefit materials for high tech prostheses too.

Look at these poor robots, with their tough and rigid skin.  So last century.

It’s also worth mentioning that the conductive part of the skin comes from microscopic nickel particles.  Nickel, of course, being the winner of the much under-reported “Allergen of the Year” award in 2008. I can’t see that being an issue for our eventual self-repairing soft-skinned android overlords.


Chemistry of Materials, we have arrived!

The official version of the last paper I wrote about has gone live in Chemistry of Materials!

Emissive Conjugated Polymer Networks with Tunable Band-Gaps via Thiol–Ene Click Chemistry

See those LEDs? Made from plastic. Pretty snazzy stuff. 
Wrapping up publication was really quick and painless this time around, which was nice. After getting the reviewer comments back, we had a really easy time turning it back around to the journal. Just goes to show the importance of doing the science right the first time around so the only things the reviewers have to point out are typos and a missed reference or two. Comments went back to Chemistry of Materials without a hitch, we received the galley proofs around a week later for any last minute formatting/typo/blurry picture fixing, and just sent those back at the start of this week. And two days later: we have officially pushed the boundaries of scientific knowledge outward another tiny step.
Lab-wise, I’ve got some other stuff cooking that is producing some really fascinating data, but it’s probably going to be on the backburner for the next month or so. Most of my science focus is on one of the PhD degree requirements here: writing an Original Research Proposal. It’s one of the few Big Official Check Marks you need before they let you call yourself a doctor (along with qualifying exams, thesis and its defense) and essentially amounts to a grant application. It’s chugging along nicely and should be submitted early December, then its back to becoming Science Famous.

Three cheers for RSC!

This is the RSC.  We’re buds now.

Ok, I’m now officially a huge fan of the Royal Society of Chemistry.  I was recently on the receiving end of an interesting email from them offering a sort of free semi-membership since I published an article in one of their journals not too long ago.  Most researchers in America are probably familiar with the RSC only through the journals they publish (Chemical Communications, Chemical Science, and Chemical Society Reviews being the big ones, but there are plenty others).  They are roughly the UK’s equivalent of our American Chemical Society, organizing conferences, publishing journals, etc.

The email offered a free e-membership, which included “access to one of over 70 RSC subject-based groups allowing to engage with fellow chemists globally, …digital monthly access to Chemisty World [the general RSC chemistry publication…kind of like C&E News as far as I can tell], …and being kept informed about specialist events and conferences”.

Color me impressed!  Go RSC!  This is one of those things that every scientific publication should advocate.  Is it a lot?  Not really.  I’m sure I could engage with international chemists by email just fine, and I’d bet good money I could access Chemistry World through the library.  But the impressive part, to me, is pushing more open access, technologically connected science access.  Basically a message of “Contribute to our network, get official access to a bunch of our stuff”.  Which makes every kind of sense is really pretty awesome.

The sad thing is I haven’t heard of any other science organizations doing this sort of thing (speaking only for chemistry and materials science groups, myself).  I don’t know if this is something ACS does as well.  I know I’ve never received a similar email offering semi-membership for publishing in an ACS journal.  But that may be because I’ve already been an ACS member for the duration of my publishing career so far.  I’m really curious now and sent them an email to find out, so we’ll see.

EDIT 5 NOV. 2012: Got a response from ACS.

“At this time, ACS does not have any such benefits for non-ACS members that publish in ACS journals.”  

And there ya go.  Need to get with the times, guys.