We met with Dr. James Tour to discuss advancements in nanochemistry, his involvement in the development of PPE used during the COVID-19 pandemic, and much more. Enjoy!
Rice University professor, Dr. James Tour shares new advancements in the field of nanochemistry. His latest project includes converting carbon material into graphene. This naturally occurring material becomes a terminal sink for the carbon in almost all human waste. Recently, Tour’s Carbon Quantum Dots have been used in PPE during the COVID-19 pandemic. Follow along as Professor of Chemistry, Professor of Materials Science and NanoEngineering, and Professor of Computer Science at Rice University, Dr. James Tour discusses his recent research projects with Dr. Jed Macosko, academic director of AcademicInfluence.com and professor of physics at Wake Forest University.
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(Editor’s Note: The following transcript has been lightly edited to improve clarity.)
Jed Macosko: Hi, this is Dr. Jed Macosko at Wake Forest University and Academic Influence. And today, I have a person I’ve wanted to interview for a long time, Professor James Tour from Rice University, and Professor Tour, I just wanna ask you, what are like the top three things that you and your students have discovered were created, that you’re just amazed it all worked out as well as it did.
James Tour: We’ve had so many discoveries, the one we’re doing right now is flash graphene where we can take any carbon material, read my lips, any carbon material and turn it into graphene, and then graphene is a naturally occurring compound, it’s a glamorous to the natural mineral graphite, it’s very slow to enter the CO2 cycle again. And so it’s a terminal sink for carbon. If you just take carbon, elemental carbon, carbon, amorphous carbon and throw it out, that’s gonna be taken up by plants. Those plants are gonna die. They’re gonna turn into CO2, lent to the CO2 cycle, not graphene, is much, much slower to enter the CO2 cycle, but what’s interesting is, this is for human waste, in the sense that everything you throw out in your home, if it’s not rocks or metal, it’s carbon, and we turn that into graphene, and we’re really scaling that, and that’s getting really big, the company on that is going wild. I’ve started a bunch of companies around these things, and so that’s going great. We’ve got another thing where we’re taking little nano machines, you shine a light on them, they spin at three million rotations per second, they’re drilling through cell membranes and killing cells. That’s another company that started, and this is a huge advance for us in things that have happened.
James: Our graphene quantum dots are in personal protective equipment all over the world now, the pandemic has caused this thing to go all over the world, we’ve got these COVID tests that are coming out, that’s now a public company, based on this, we can run hundreds of simultaneous COVID test screens that are all color metric-based, so you don’t need any great fancy equipment with this.
We have other companies where we’ve developed computer memory that’s based on oxide memories, so we have these advances. But over the years we’ve done a lot, we were the first to really scale C60 and make it available in large quantities for people. So we’ve had lots of advances that have really come out, our laser induced graphene, we found this in 2013, patented it, published our first papers in 2014. We’ve published about 30 papers since then in that topic, but what’s more telling is there’s about five papers per week coming out in the literature on laser induced graphene where you can draw patterns and it’s huge for making devices. Engineers do lots and lots. Even an engineer can make these things, it’s that simple.
And so we’ve had these advances and we continue on, some of these, others have gone into companies and we’ve backed off at that point, but boy, it’s exciting, and now we’ve learned how to really do recycling of lithium ion batteries cheaply, only 5% of lithium ion batteries are recycled and it’s a huge mess, and it’s really expensive and we found ways to deal with this, we found ways to clean up contaminated soil. So all of these are new things that are gonna be coming out. We’ve learned how to do urban mining where we can take expanded electronics that are thrown out every couple of years and get the precious metals back out of them, and then also get out the toxic metals and doing this without solvents, without water and just very quickly. It’s just amazing what God has dropped in our laps.
Jed: Oh, that is really cool. Well, it sounds like you’re a kid in a candy store with all these great ideas. When you think back on your high school experience, did you know you were gonna go into science back in high school?
James: No, I was gonna be a New York State Trooper.
Jed: Well, I am so glad that your path got diverted and you’ve come up with all of these things. Thank you so much for taking just a brief moment to give us a taste of what you’re working on, and I hope that people who watch this video will go to your website and see all of these amazing projects that you talked about. Thank you so much, Professor Tour.
James: Well, so my website is jmtour.com, the professional website, you can go to my YouTube channel, which is DrJamesTour and welcome to see more things there. Thank you.
Jed: Thank you. Thank you so much, we really appreciate it.
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