UNM’s NASCENT and CISTAR ERCs Will Attend Outreach Event at State Fair

September 14, 2018 - CHTM

The University of New Mexico and Center for High Technology Materials will be at the New Mexico State Fair for Oil & Gas Day and Science & Technology Day.

Science and Technology Day is one of two days at the fair that draws a lot of school groups, mostly elementary and some middle school students. So representatives from the School of Engineering and CHTM will have an interactive booth for these students. They are expecting to see over 1,000 kids. The overall purpose is to encourage kids’ natural enthusiasm and curiosity about how the natural world works, and have them interact with UNM students who serve as role models to show them how to become scientists and engineers as they group up. Educational outreach events like this aren’t just good for young students, it’s also good for UNM students as well!  “Having to explain how nature and technology work at relatively simple levels helps them solidify their own understanding, and the energy that the young kids bring to the activities is a great pick-me-up to UNM students who may have forgotten the spark that first ignited them on their own journeys,” said Stefi Weisburd, Education and Outreach Manager at UNM.

The main highlights for the outreach event will be the NSF Nanosystems Engineering Research Centers (NERCs) for Nanomanufacturing Systems for Mobile Computing and Mobile Energy Technologies (NASCENT) and Center for Innovative and Strategic Transformation of Alkane Resources (CISTAR).


One part of the NASCENT outreach event will deal with nanoscience, using nanokits from the NISE network as a base, with students from the NSMSE program who will be helping. “The essential message is that when materials get small, they act in interesting ways, making a butterfly look blue for example, even when it has no blue pigment molecules,” said Stefi Weisburd.

 Researchers continue to use these properties to make all kinds of amazing technologies: cell phones with enormous computing power, to anti-microbial would dressings using nanoparticles. The goal of NASCENT is to print nanoscale electronics on flexible substrates using roll-to-roll technologies so that cell phones and other devices like Fitbit and medical diagnostic devices could one day work like tattoos on, or even inside your body. At UNM and Sandia National Laboratory, Tito Busani and Steven Brueck (2 CHTM faculty) work on metrology. Very simply put, they work on non-destructive ways of making sure the printed circuits stay in register and are printing properly using light, water droplets, and novel atomic force microscope tips. Randy Schunk (Sandia) leads a group of computer scientists who model the printing processes. He oversees a printing lab that joins 500 year-old printing techniques with nano-inks.

At the fair, kids will see a blue Morpho butterfly and will take home a pair of diffraction glasses that interact with light at the nano level in the same way as the butterfly’s coating. They will also get a bracelet made from beads that change color in UV light. They will be challenged to build a LEGO house using oven mitts to show the importance of having the right tools for working on the nano scale, and will have the opportunity to play with hydrophobic sand, among other activities.


For the CISTAR ERC outreach, kids will get to make hydrogen gas by either turning a crank or using a solar cell to perform electrolysis and then use the hydrogen gas to run a fuel cell car.

The aim of CISTAR is to develop catalysts, membranes and electrochemical reactors that use less energy and lower temperatures to convert natural gas (which is mostly methane) into liquid transportation fuels and other important chemicals for plastics, foam and other products right at the wellhead.  Hydrogen fuel cells illustrate all of these research topics (catalysis, membrane separation and electrochemistry). Abhaya Datye, Fernando Garzon, and Jeffrey Brinker are three researchers on this grant developing catalysts, separation membranes and tiny electrochemical reactors. Catalysts and separation membranes are used in fuel cells, which is why they’re used for outreach.


To see more information on NASCENT or CISTAR research, check out their websites!