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As this silica column separated Çağrı Özsan’s reaction mixture, he and his labmate Veselin Nasufović noticed a curious pattern arise. Sitting atop their column, they recognized the flag of Germany, the home of their university, Friedrich Schiller University Jena. The duo’s research in the lab of Hans-Dieter Arndt involves making photoswitchable molecules like azobenzenes, which have nitrogen-nitrogen double bonds that can flip between the trans and cis form when exposed to light and heat (shown in scheme). Because the trans and cis molecules run through silica columns at different rates, the column used to purify this reaction needed to be shielded from light, which is why the column had aluminum foil wrapped around it. And despite the patriotic imagery, Özsan and Nasufović are originally from Turkey and Serbia, respectively.
Submitted by Veselin Nasufović
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