Archive by category | Conference reports

2011 Fall MRS: Stiff storage

What technological innovations will form the car of the future? Carbon fibre composites are increasingly a viable option for the structural components of next-generation cars for improved energy efficiency, particularly as their use in the aerospace industry will undoubtedly bring manufacturing costs down. Energy storage devices such as capacitors and batteries will also be the order of the day.  Read more

2011 Fall MRS: A plug for stem cells

In the field of materials science as applied to regenerative medicine, a common theme is the design of novel scaffold materials as supports for stem cell growth and differentiation. However not all stem cell therapies use scaffolds. In some biomedical research efforts, cells are injected directly into the site of need. Such a strategy has been applied to a variety of different injuries and diseases, for example Parkinson’s disease, stroke, heart attack and spinal-cord injuries. Though the approach has had some successes, a major stumbling block has been simply the ability to deliver a payload of viable cells to the site. Sarah Heilshorn at Stanford University has been investigating how materials science can help and presented her group’s findings in the ‘Biomaterials for Tissue Regeneration’ Symposium at the Fall MRS [The design of hydrogel cell carriers to improve stem cell viability during transplantation by direct injection; Brian Aguado, Sarah Heilshorn; Symposium KK; 2011 MRS Fall Meeting].  Read more

Fall MRS Meeting 2011: Analogies, highlights and trivia

I’ve spent the last week in, as Ros Daw described on Wednesday, a relatively balmy Boston, mooching around the halls of the Hynes Convention Center and the Sheraton diving in to whichever session of the Materials Research Society meeting took my fancy. Unfortunately, there’s now a very cold bite to the air in New England but thankfully I’m on my way home to the Old England.  Read more

Fall MRS Meeting 2011: Bioinspired energy efficiency

At the Fall MRS meeting this year we are enjoying unusually mild weather. I can remember Christmassy snow at MRS’s past where woolly hats were a must. This year, many of the attendees are wandering around without coats and I have even spotted one or two brave individuals wearing T-shirts.  Read more

ICBIC15: Feeling jaded?

Greetings from Vancouver, where I am attending ICBIC15 – the international conference on bio-inorganic chemistry. As the name suggests, this is the 15th instalment of this series of conferences…or is it? There have been quite a few mentions of a mysterious ‘ICBIC zero’, which happened 35 years ago, also here at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver. Chris Orvig, the chair, showed us the programme from that meeting during his welcome address – as organizer, he was interested to see that there were no times for any of the talks, just ‘morning’ or ‘afternoon’! The only speaker at that conference who is also speaking this year is (no prizes for guessing) Harry Gray, who is quite a godfather of this field.  Read more

ICCOSS XX: Growing crystals in all shapes -and sizes

All good things come to an end… Among the many, and varied, aspects discussed at ICCOSS over the past few days, I wanted to bring your attention to halogen–halogen bonding, which seems to be becoming quite popular. When a halogen atom engages in such a bond, its charge distribution changes a little, leading to a ‘polar flattening’ of the atom. The more electronegative side of one atom naturally engages in a halogen–halogen bond with what has become the more electropositive side of the other. Can these interactions be relied on to assemble building blocks? Can they be tuned in a controllable manner by judicious choice of the halogen?  Read more

ICCOSS XX: What’s in a name

In one of the sessions on ‘crystal engineering’, Guy Orpen told us about his hesitation to use this term: is it really engineering? The problem is reproducibility. If an engineer sets out to make a bicycle, and ends up with a submarine, he won’t be happy. Now if a scientist sets out to make a bicycle and finds that he made a submarine, he’ll be delighted. Yes, yes, it’s not quite a bicycle, but hey it is a means of transportation, only in water, right? And now having discovered this one by serendipity, we’ll make better submarines! In fact, the role of serendipity has been widely acknowledged throughout the conference.  Read more

ICCOSS XX: A colourful start

Hello from Bangalore! I  have to say I’m pretty excited to be here, both because of the conference programme and the location. This is my first time in India, and  although, admittedly, I have only been here 2 days, it is easy to see why Bangalore is called the ‘Garden City’ – magnificent trees and luxuriant vegetation everywhere . This is even more true when it comes to our conference venue, the Indian Institute of Science, which has enormous charm. Our Convener, Guru Row, told us yesterday in the opening remarks that the Institute is now becoming a College, and will be welcoming undergraduate students in just three weeks – now, this is a place I wouldn’t mind going to university!  Read more

Pacifichem 2010: Dispersion corrections and gelation

This morning I went to some physical chemistry sessions on computational quantum chemistry. I won’t attempt to summarize the various interesting points raised by the speakers as well as the members of the audience, but I’d like to highlight one conclusion from Stefan Grimme’s presentation: he showed that dispersion corrections should really be used routinely – rather than occasionally – in density functional theory (DFT) methods. Pavel Hobza, who next took the stage, wholeheartedly agreed, saying in particular that these corrections play an extremely important role when it comes to biomolecules.  Read more

Pacifichem 2010: Variety is the spice of life

This past couple of days I have been attending more traditional, ‘core’ areas of chemistry at the inorganic, macromolecular and organic sessions. I first went to “the new age of advanced materials” symposium, and although I was fighting a little bit of jet lag and sleep deprivation (not a good combination) it made for a very interesting morning. Among exciting endeavours on helicity, supramolecular chirality, and controlled assembly and organization, Sam Stupp from Northwestern University showed interesting bioapplications with his supramolecular polymers, such as some neurotherapy studies that look promising against Parkinson’s disease.  Read more