Discover magazine profiles 17-year-old Philip Streich of Platteville, Wis., in its 5 Promising Scientists Under 20 feature. The homeschooled kid started playing with carbon nanotubes in ninth grade, when he met James Hamilton, a chemistry professor at the University of Wisconsin–Platteville.
Streitch and Hamilton tried to crash through one of the main barriers to marketing nanotubes -- the little buggers tend to clump together. The two tried different kinds of solvents to keep the nanotubes separated without the little guys losing all those superstrong superpowers we all read about. The solution, according to Discover:
Streich custom-built a spectrometer to probe the chemical characteristics of the nanotubes. Using these data, he discovered that the solvent N-Methyl-2-pyrrolidinone would indeed dissolve nanotubes. Streich then went on to find more solvents with the aid of the spectrometer. The project won him more than $100,000 in scholarship money, and he and Hamilton published their results [subscription required] last spring. By June Streich was celebrating an additional $50,000 victory at a state business-plan competition for a nanotech start-up called Graphene Solutions, which he had cofounded with Hamilton. "I never dreamed any of this would be possible," Streich says. “I really credit my parents’ support for allowing me to try homeschooling. If I had been in the regular school system, I doubt any of this would have developed." More here
I'm not so certain I agree with his comments about homeschooling vs. public schools, but I'm impressed with the rest. Gosh, when I was 17 I was reading a lot of Philip Roth and Cervantes, and wondering whether I would grow up to become the world's first Jewish celibate monk.