Nobel Prize winner Richard Smalley will speak at Sam Houston State University April 9 at 2 p.m. in the Olson Auditorium of Academic Building 4. His speech will be part of the university’s Distinguished Lecturer Series.
The topic of his presentation at SHSU will be energy, and will pertain to the war in Iraq and the instability of oil prices. He said energy is the single most important problem we have today.
Smalley, a chemistry professor at Rice University, has been involved in many research projects dealing with nanotechnology, fullerenes and energy.
While Smalley was attending the University of Chicago, he and his colleagues developed supersonic beam laser spectroscopy, a powerful technique in chemical physics. In 1996, Smalley received the Nobel Prize in Chemistry for his discovery of fullerenes and his work with nanotechnology.
In a presentation he gave, Smalley said nanotechnology, “holds the answer, to the extent there are answers, to most of our pressing material needs.” Smalley also founded the Center for Nanoscale Science and Technology at Rice University, and he continues to do cutting-edge research there.
Fullerenes are also known as buckyballs or Buckminsterfullerenes. According to the Oak Ridge National Library, fullerenes are clusters of carbon atoms that were discovered in a research laboratory among the by-products of laser-vaporized graphite. Their hollow, spherical structure earned them the name “buckyballs” and “fullerenes” because they resembled the bizarre domes created by architect Buckminster Fuller.
Smalley is chairman of the board and co-founder of Carbon Nanotechnologies, Inc., a company that produces fullerenes for commercial use.
Smalley founded the Smalley Research Group at Rice University, which consists of mostly graduate students and postdoctoral associates. The group’s Web site says its goal is to do research into the science of nanotechnology and to investigate the properties of single walled carbon nanotubes, which are also called buckytubes. The tubes offer electrical, thermal, and mechanical properties that can be used to improve various products and services.
The group works to bring nonotechnology into the stages of production, purification, analysis and assembly so that they can eventually be used to help the problems of the world.
Smalley attended Hope College in Michigan, the University of Michigan and Princeton University. He has worked as a research chemist, a faculty member at Princeton University and he also worked in the James Frank Institute at the University of Chicago before coming to Rice University in 1976.
Smalley said he became interested in science through the influence of his mother.
“We (my mother and I) spent hours together collecting single-celled organisms from a local pond and watching them with a microscope she had received as a gift from my father,” Smalley said in his autobiography. “This play…was a wonderful preparation for my later career as an experimentalist working on the frontiers of chemistry and physics.”
In the autobiography Smalley also said he decided he wanted to pursue a career in science when Sputnik was launched in 1957. He said the excitement of the launch and his belief that “science and technology was going to be where the action was in the coming decades” were what drove him to pursue the field as a career.