Nanotechnology lab renamed


Gannon University’s nanotechnology research lab was renamed in honor of a charitable donation made by retired chemistry professor Carl Hultman, Ph.D.

Hultman began teaching at Gannon in 1976, and taught a score of chemistry classes from analytical chemistry to inorganic chemistry. He was also the instructor for a nanotechnology course open to all majors.

“When I began reading what’s happening in nanotech, it was like reading science fiction books,” Hultman said. “It’s going to change human history real fast.”

New technologies like dirt-resistant clothes and windows, car batteries the size of a soup can, and even cell phones are all backed by nanotechnology.

The biggest applications are in the health sciences in the diagnosis and treatment process, but all fields should be aware of it, Hultman said.

The lab has been in operation for nearly seven years, but the introduction of major equipment in recent years allowed students and faculty to do more.

An atomic force microscope (AFM), a microscope that allows users to see individual molecules, came from alumni donations, and is unique to Gannon. Nobody else in the area has one in use, Hultman said.

Besides being able to zoom in with nanometer resolution, the AFM also has dip pen nano-lithography capabilities, meaning it can print things so small you would need a microscope to see it.

Hultman said the printing feature is like an old-fashioned ink pen, but instead of dipping it in ink, the machine uses an extra tiny tip that can drag microscopic particles across a surface and prints as small as a five nanometer resolution.

In what instance would you need to print particles? Drug companies use similar technology to print codes on pills as a type of barcode or watermark to prevent generic companies from replicating the drug and marketing it as authentic.

The marks are so small it would be like placing a basketball anywhere on Earth and asking someone to go find it, Hultman said.

“The fact we have that instrument on campus, that is really rare,” Hultman said. “It makes it possible for Gannon students and faculty to do interesting things.”

For example, Lisa Nogaj, Ph.D., an associate professor in the chemistry department, is able to do research with carbon-nano tubes in the nanotechnology lab.

Timothy Laher, Ph.D., also an associate chemistry professor, studies virtual molecules as if they are real and has the option to study real molecules in the lab.

Iziah Waugh, a junior chemistry major, had Hultman as a freshman and said he learned the most in his class compared with some of the other courses in chemistry.

Waugh said the renaming of the lab is an utmost honor to Hultman.

“He is the main reason why we have the nanotechnology lab here at Gannon,” Waugh said.

Hultman said he was very happy with the lab’s dedication and it was nice to see his name outside the door.

“But I am more pleased that they are acknowledging Gannon has nanotechnology,” Hultman said. “It proves Gannon offers its students the latest technology and the best opportunities as they go out the door.

“I always stepped up and tried to make that available for students.”

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