‘The big deal about nano?’ JSNN’s Dan Herr takes on topic at TEDx talk

Repost from Campus Weekly 

Article by Mike Harris

Daniel Herr, Professor and Nanoscience Department Chair, JSNN

Greensboro’s first TEDx talk is themed “Dreamsboro: Imagine. Design. Build.” Dreaming is what all the nano faculty and students at JSNN do, including Dr. Dan Herr. He will give a talk titled “The language of nature: What’s the big deal about nano?” at the April 16 TEDxGreensboro event, at the Greensboro History Museum.

The event is led by Richard “Skip” Moore, a UNCG trustee. Speakers with UNCG ties include Dr. Spoma Jovanovic (Communication Studies), Preston Lane (Theatre) and former student government president Katie Marshall. Each of the 13 speakers will have no more than 16 minutes.

Herr joined the Joint School of Nanoscience and Nanoengineering – a collaboration between UNCG and NC A&T – in 2011. He is department head. He is also an adjunct faculty member at NC State.

Collaboration is a big part of his vision. For example, he has seen how universities can share use of their sophisticated nano-related equipment with each other, when needed. They also share use with private industry.

Herr started his career as a mechanistic photo-chemist. He spent decades with electronics firms such as Honeywell and Shipley. More recently, he was director of nano-manufacturing sciences for Semiconductor Research Corporation in Research Triangle Park.

“I’m thrilled to see that manufacturing is coming back,” he said. As an example, he cites Kincaid Furniture, a North Carolina manufacturer since the 1930s. As labor costs rise in China, they have returned some jobs to this state.

This state already has the people, infrastructure and know-how for manufacturing, Herr explains. Similarly, the nano capacity is here as well.

Nano refers to the use of materials incredibly tiny – less than 1/1,000th of a page’s edge. A growing number of everyday products are made using nanoengineering.

He advocates even more nano collaboration between the universities – and also with industries such as furniture and textiles. For example, nano can result in better fabrics and upholstery that are more durable, less expensive and even anti-microbial.

As he talks with civic groups and with school children as part of the joint school’s engagement with the community, eyes light up when he speaks of the tangible promise of nano. There is so much potential. Whether ultra-strong materials made of carbon nano-tubes or the use of nano-size gold whose surface properties change at nanoscale, the possibilities are vast.

This particular talk will be quite different, for him. He usually uses a plenty of slides and visuals in his presentation. But he is using just a few for TEDx – he knows the idea is to tell the story and let the listeners use their mind’s eye.

Herr will speak about his upcoming TEDx talk on WUNC Radio’s “The State of Things” this Thursday (April 4) at noon at Triad Stage. UNCG alumna Katie Marshall will join him. Listen at 104.7 FM or 91.5 FM.

Information about the TEDx Conference is at www.tedxgreensboro.com.

Find more information on Herr’s research and background here. Have questions? Email him at djherr@uncg.edu

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