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Illuminating Discussion

February 1, 2016 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 94, Issue 5

Jan. 18, page 32: The Science & Technology story about fabricating catalyst particles with fine control over their structure mistakenly abbreviated manganese oxide as MgO. The spikes on the outside of the catalyst particles in question are, in fact, made of manganese oxide, not magnesium oxide.

I was quite pleased with Jyllian Kemsley’s article “Lighting Up Chemistry” (C&EN, Oct. 12, 2015, page 13) and its succinct, yet clear, descriptions of principles as well as its two-page portrayal of centuries of discoveries and insights on light. The very broad range of the meaning of light and its significance to chemistry is noteworthy.

My purpose for writing is to suggest that light’s importance in chemistry be further highlighted in a follow-up presentation on the development of lasers following Albert Einstein’s 1917 paper on blackbody radiation. Significant is the decades-long interval that scientists needed to harness matter to manifest the concepts presented by Einstein.

In the 1960s, chemists eagerly attended seminars by visiting speakers on subjects such as optical pumping and stimulated emission of radiation. I included discussion of Einstein’s paper in a course on photochemistry over a few decades. Now lasers are ubiquitous, from checkout scanners to surgery to machining. The Internet describes the applications with appropriate credit to Einstein.

Editor’s note: C&EN published an article celebrating the 50-year anniversary of laser technology in 2010 (C&EN, March 8, 2010, page 13).

James E. Sturm
Hellertown, Pa.


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