Atomic Size Matters

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What's this book about?

Atomic Size Matters is a comic book that explains one way scientists are trying to understand the complexity sometimes found in crystalline compounds. Crystals are solid materials with very neatly organized atoms that form a repeating pattern. Though we know a lot more about crystalline compounds than ever before, we still don't have a great way to predict when a compound should form a simple pattern or a more complicated one. Figuring this out could lead to new materials that we design very precisely to optimize their properties. But we are still at stage one, forming a theory about the advantages of complex arrangements over simple ones.

The comic book takes the reader through these motivations, to the introduction of our theory of Chemical Pressure, all the way to a fascinating case study of a material called a quasicrystal. All this is presented in six short sections:

  • Why we care about solid structures

  • Our idea of chemical pressure, and our understanding of the way atoms interact

  • How we use computers to bring our model into three dimensions

  • Introducing a CaCu5 as a model system to understand chemical pressure

  • Extending our model to a nobel prize winning material: quasicrystals

  • Where this research is going in the future

The book itself is printed on high quality paper, with perfect binding in the style of a trade paperback comic book.

How'd this all begin?

This comic started about one year before I would defend my PhD dissertation in chemistry. I began to think about how much I had put into my graduate school career, and how everything would culminate in a dissertation. But I was disappointed when I realized my non-scientist family and friends would never read it.

I often struggled to explain my work to them, because I knew they were all capable of understanding the ideas, but they just aren't well-versed in the jargon. Over the next eight months, I wrote and drew a comic book version of part of my graduate research. I included the comic itself as the final chapter in my official thesis. 

A short introductory preview: