Joong Hwan Bahng, Ph.D., Graduate Student (Kotov Laboratory) Department of Chemical Engineering, University of Michigan College of Engineering
These spiky microscopic particles are made by growing zinc oxide spikes on polystyrene microbeads (the color is artificial). They are hydrophobic (water hating), so the research team was very surprised when they found that the particles easily dispersed in water. Surprise, in science however, is often a good thing. In this case, the team found that these particles actually aid in the dispersion of oily chemicals. The particles can be made “by the bucketful” according to the researchers. Thus, it is easy to envision how they could replace toxic compounds that are now used to dissolve pigment in paints and coatings….or could be used to clean up oil spills. From a laboratory surprise, to an amazing outcome: these beautiful particles will likely soon have a large impact on environmental health!