ITFreely s02e15: Eating The Elephant
Cutting edge science research need not be purely the domain of commercial laboratories and Universities, many scientific breakthroughs happened in a garage (Primer is a great film based on this premise).
This week we talk to Sacha De’Angeli (twitter), an American Chemical Engineer who is working on a project to create an affordable Arduino based Scanning Tunnelling Electron Microscope. This project, he hopes, will enable those who do not have large financial backing to carry out scientific research in the field of nanotechnology.
Sacha talks to us about his motivations for the project, what he hopes to achieve, and his thoughts on open source hardware.
The project is still young (they have yet to obtain usable results) but it’s potential is vast. Commoditisation of the high end lab equipment market could accelerate scientific discovery, and maybe the next big nanotechnology breakthrough will come from someone in a Los Altos garage.
Update: Sacha mailed me after the show to modify one of his responses. The following is the mail he sent to me.
I finally came up with a good answer for your last question concerning the drug implications of my chemical explorations (hours and hours too late, of course):
The truth is that people like me have much more to fear from society than society has to fear from us basement chemistry tinkerers.
The irrational fear that everyone with a chemistry set is making methamphetamines or bombs has caused a lot of unfounded raids and arrests. This stifles innovation and experimentation. Every time I mention that I have a chemistry lab in my house to anyone, that person immediately jokes about drugs or bombs, and that’s a little scary considering my country’s raid first, ask questions later mentality for chemistry. Hence the tagline I use on my website: Chemistry is Not a Crime.
In my case not only do I not know how to make meth, I honestly have no desire to make pharmaceuticals. Or explosives – both are way too dangerous, not to mention illegal. Turning $1.50 of household chemicals into $30 worth of nanoparticles sounds more than lucrative enough to me, and it has a much lower legal cost.
Anyhow – I really wish I had said all of that instead of what I actually said. Cheers!
The audio of this show is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License (CC-BY-NC).
This show originally aired on Wednesday March 24th on FlirtFM (101.3MHz, Galway) at 12:30pm.