J. K. Rowling's Harry Potter book series has captured the imaginations of millions of readers of all ages, including many scientists and engineers. The next Sunday with a Scientist for kids and families at the University of Nebraska State Museum of Natural History in Morrill Hall was inspired by the "magical" chemistry of Hogwarts.
"Chemistry-Harry Potter Style" was led by Rebecca Y. Lai, associate professor in UNL Department of Chemistry, along with several graduate students. They introduced visitors to some of the wizardly wonders that exist in the real world.
Topics included the chemistry of gold, food chemistry, plant science, disappearing ink, fireworks, and the invisibility effect.
Featured activities and displays: • Exploring the chemical properties of gold.
• Creating stained glass using gold and silver nanoparticles.
• Making your own Marauder's Map with disappearing ink.
• Discovering how optical effects make objects appear invisible.
• Exploring the lotus effect on waterproof fabric made of nanostructured materials.
• Learning about the chemistry of acid pops and flavored jelly beans.
• Information on the science behind fireworks and sparklers.
While the activities at this event were not directly related to Lai's research, she teaches an undergraduate course entitled, "A Muggle's Guide to Harry Potter's Chemistry (CHEM 192H)." Lai's research focus is on the development of electrochemical biosensors, including sensors for detection of DNA. For more information, visit http://www.chem.unl.edu/faculty/lai.shtml.