Johns Hopkins Will Soon Have a Giant Crystal Farm

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Naica, Chihuahua, MEXICO: Cavers exploring Naica's Los Crystales cave where more than a hundred giant crystals have grown. (Photo Credit: © Speleoresearch & Films/ Oscar Necoechea)
(Photo Credit: © Speleoresearch & Films/ Oscar Necoechea)

Johns Hopkins just announced that it will receive $4.8 million in federal research funds to build a bulk crystal growth facility. (But it probably won’t look like that photo above, alas.)

The university is one of four chosen to participate in a program called PARADIM—Platform for the Accelerated Realization, Analysis and Discovery of Interface Materials–which is essentially an attempt to develop new crystalline materials that can be used in everything from batteries to solar cells to superconductors.

The whole thing sounds like a set up for a high-tech/sci-fi heist film. Per the Hopkins Hub:

A key part of the Johns Hopkins crystal growth center will be a new piece of laboratory equipment now being custom built in Germany. Called an optical floating zone furnace, the contraption—a bit larger than a household refrigerator—will be the first of its kind in the United States, allowing scientists to make materials that have never been made before. The machine will allow researchers to put materials under enormous pressure—up to 300 times normal atmospheric pressure and 30 times the pressure possible at furnaces now in use at Johns Hopkins. Crystals will be grown in the presence of gases that have liquid properties, known as supercritical fluids.

Maybe Brad Pitt should be making a movie about this, too.

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