Polly Arnold is the director of Berkeley Lab's Chemical Sciences Division and a faculty professor in UC Berkeley's Chemistry department. Her research is focused on exploratory synthetic chemistry of heavy elements, the f-block of the periodic table, and the development of homogeneous catalysis using the earth-abundant rare earths.
Ting Xu is a faculty senior scientist and professor of chemistry and materials science and engineering at UC Berkeley. Her lab is designing, characterizing, and understanding complex systems of synthetic polymers, nanoparticles, and biomolecules to develop new functional materials that exhibit novel electronic, photonic, and biological properties.
Brett Helms is a staff scientist in the Molecular Foundry's Organic and Macromolecular Synthesis facility. His research focuses on designing and applying organic and polymeric materials to solve problems in energy and sustainability, including next-generation batteries, membrane separations, and more recyclable polymers for the circular economy.
Scientists have measured the highest toughness ever recorded, of any material, while investigating a metallic alloy made of chromium, cobalt, and nickel (CrCoNi). Not only is the metal extremely ductile – which, in materials science, means highly malleable – and impressively strong (meaning it resists permanent deformation), its strength and ductility improve as it gets colder. This runs counter to most other materials in existence.
Berkeley Lab researcher Natalia Molchanova is working on advancing low-cost biotech solutions through synthetic protein molecules called peptoids at the Molecular Foundry.
This episode features three scientists working to manage the planet’s plastic addiction by developing smarter materials that avoid the pitfalls of 20th century plastics. We talk about the challenges of the current recycling and composting systems, philosophies of materials design, why trying to recycle some things is just “wishcycling,” and why we can allow ourselves to feel a little optimism — even though the news paints a pretty bleak picture sometimes.