Sarah Weber

Rising Junior
Smith College
CEINT Research Site: Hinton Lab- Duke University

I am was interested in CEINT because I want to get an advanced degree in nanoscale engineering and want to know of the ecological ramifications of nano-pollutants. During my freshman year of college I was introduced to the Scanning Electron Microscope (SEM) and became enamored with the nanoscale. I had read about interesting nanotechnology developments but seeing specimens nanometers in diameter made nanotechnology tangible.

That summer I took part in a lab researching the initial molecular formation of biofilms. Biofilms are highly adhesive molecular films that allow for organisms to grow on smooth aqueous surfaces. I studied how salt affects the amount of the polysaccharide alginate adsorbed to the surface of a charged silica wafer. Alginate is secreted by brown seaweed and forms a film on the hulls of ships allowing for the adhesion of algae.

The SEM and my research on biofilms inspired my interest in nanotechnology. In one of my engineering classes I conducted a Life Cycle Analysis (LCA) of Wind turbines and Solar Panels; the LCA showed me that everything has an ecological impact. I had always assumed “green energy” had no substantial negative impacts on the environment, but at the conclusion of the research I found that about 300,000 Kg CO2 is produced in the production of a 500kW wind turbine. I was shocked by my findings and became curious as to the impacts of nanotechnology.