VIDEO: The Nanostructure Problem

Only a highly inventive applied physicist—Simon Billinge—would use the example of a 19th-century painting to explain how an engineer analyzes the atomic structure of nanomaterials. With a joint position at Columbia Engineering and Brookhaven National Laboratory (BNL), Billinge tackles the nanostructure problem with the help of the world’s newest and brightest synchrotron light source—BNL’s National Synchrotron Light Source II.

In this video, Billinge takes us behind the scenes to show how he applies the synchrotron’s ultra-bright, ultra-concentrated x-ray beams to analyze the structure of nanomaterials. The goal? Fundamental to solving societal problems is the ability to predictively design innovative materials, whether for photovoltaics or pharmaceuticals.

“The whole thing that we are trying to do is link structure to behavior, because the behavior of a material depends very sensitively on the atomic arrangement,” says Billinge. “By having such a good understanding of how structure relates to properties, we can try to design a material with specified properties.”

“The Nanostructure Problem” is the latest installment in a new video series profiling the School's leading nanomaterial research.

500 W. 120th St., Mudd 200, MC 4701 New York, NY 10027 / Phone: 212-854-4457 / Fax: 212-854-8257 / Email:

©2012 Columbia University