AMES, Iowa Patricia Thiel of Iowa State University and the Ames Laboratory put a box of tissues to the right, a stack of coasters to the middle and a trinket box to the left.
"Nature," she said of her table-top illustration, "doesn't want lots of little things." So Thiel grabbed the smaller things and slid them into a single pile next to the bigger tissue box. "Nature wants one big thing all together, like this."
Thiel, an Iowa State Distinguished Professor of Chemistry and a faculty scientist for the U.S. Department of Energy's Ames Laboratory, and James Evans, an Iowa State professor of physics and astronomy and a faculty scientist for the Ames Laboratory, describe that process in the Oct. 29 issue of the journal Science.
The paper, "A Little Chemistry Helps the Big Get Bigger," is in the journal's Perspectives section. It describes a process called coarsening. That's when "a group of objects of different sizes transforms into fewer objects with larger average size, such that 'the big get bigger,'" says the paper. Examples of the process include the geologic formation of gemstones, the degradation of pharmaceutical suspensions and the manufacture of structural steels.
Thiel and Evans were invited to write the paper after Thiel delivered a talk at an American Chemical Society meeting about their studies of coarsening, an emerging field in surface chemistry.
Thiel worked with Mingmin Shen, a former Iowa State doctoral student who is now a post-doctoral research associate at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory in Richland, Wash., on the experimental side of the coarsening research. Evans worked with Da-Jiang Liu, an associate scientist at the Ames Laboratory, on the theoretical side of the project.
The researchers, with the support of grants from the National Science Foundation, have been using scanning tunneling microscope technology an instrument that allows them to see individual atoms to st
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Iowa State University