Ball-mill containing chemicals for reaction. Image courtesy of James Mack, University of Cincinnati.

Ball-mill containing chemicals for reaction. Image courtesy of James Mack, University of Cincinnati.

By XiaoZhi Lim
New York Times

The timer started, and a middle school student named Tony Mack began his first chemistry experiment. As he weighed chemicals under a graduate student’s supervision, his father, James, a chemist at the University of Cincinnati, assembled glassware next to him, engrossed in his own experiment.

The two were racing to prepare a mix of stilbene molecules used to make dyes, but were employing different methods. For Dr. Mack, the ingredients simmered in a stirred solution in a heated flask. But for Tony, they were crushed with balls that tumbled and hit them as a machine called a ball mill shook them vigorously. Tony crossed the finish line while Dr. Mack was still two hours away, and did so with about 30 percent more stilbene.

“He was so happy he beat me,” Dr. Mack said, laughing.

 

Continue reading at New York Times. Originally published on July 18, 2016.

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