Q: Why will the successor to the world's cheapest car be called Sodium Nitrite?

A: Because it's NaNo2!


Ahmed Hassan Zewail

In a little town called Damanhur, Egypt, a little boy was very fond of learning science. His family dreamed that he would become a great professor some day. So they posted a small sign "Dr. Ahmed" outside his study to encourage him. He grew up to be one of the greatest chemists of our times - Prof. Ahmed Zewail.

Femtochemistry

Prof. Zewail has many achievements to his name. He is best known for femtochemistry, for which he got the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1999. So what is this science?

Many chemical reactions occur so fast, that we have no idea what is going on. Many of them, like that of sodium with chlorine, are over in just a million-billionth of a second. That iscalled a femtosecond. Knowing how these reactions proceed is important, especially when they are useful for us.

Dr. Zewail worked out that if you used laser light flashes that happen for just a few femtoseconds, you can figure out what goes on in these reactions. You keep the reaction tube in the path of the laser and turn it on. Add the reacting chemicals in the tube. The reaction starts, and the light hits the chemicals. They take up the light, and emit light at a different wavelength (this is called spectroscopy). This light can be studied to tell us about what is going on.

It's not an easy science, but takes years and years of patient, repeated study. Over the years, Dr. Zewail has built a team of dedicated research workers, who have helped solve many puzzles.

Early Days

Ahmed Zewail was born in Damanhur, Egypt on February 26th, 1946. His family was very supportive as he grew up, and encouraged his love of science.

He finished his MSc in Chemistry from the University of Alexandria, and moved to the United States, where he finished his PhD in 1973. In 1976 he became professor of Chemistry at the California Institute of Technology, where he still is. In 1999, he was awarded the Golden Collar of the Nile, Egypt's highest honour. They even made a postage stamp in his honour!

Femtochemistry

Prof. Zewail has many achievements to his name. He is best known for femtochemistry, for which he got the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1999. So what is this science?

Many chemical reactions occur so fast, that we have no idea what is going on. Many of them, like that of sodium with chlorine, are over in just a million-billionth of a second. That iscalled a femtosecond. Knowing how these reactions proceed is important, especially when they are useful for us.

Dr. Zewail worked out that if you used laser light flashes that happen for just a few femtoseconds, you can figure out what goes on in these reactions. You keep the reaction tube in the path of the laser and turn it on. Add the reacting chemicals in the tube. The reaction starts, and the light hits the chemicals. They take up the light, and emit light at a different wavelength (this is called spectroscopy). This light can be studied to tell us about what is going on.

It's not an easy science, but takes years and years of patient, repeated study. Over the years, Dr. Zewail has built a team of dedicated research workers, who have helped solve many puzzles.

Early Days

Ahmed Zewail was born in Damanhur, Egypt on February 26th, 1946. His family was very supportive as he grew up, and encouraged his love of science.

He finished his MSc in Chemistry from the University of Alexandria, and moved to the United States, where he finished his PhD in 1973. In 1976 he became professor of Chemistry at the California Institute of Technology, where he still is. In 1999, he was awarded the Golden Collar of the Nile, Egypt's highest honour. They even made a postage stamp in his honour!

Tags :     Famous Scientists     Ahmed Hassan Zewail     femtochemistry     Egypt    


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