Stories / The Man Behind the Magic of Chemistry Show
The Man Behind the Magic of Chemistry Show
May 28, 2018, 4:31 PM

Someone who isn’t into science, will become into it after talking to this man. Who is this man? It’s Marcel Bus. He who works for the section Advanced Soft Matter, Department of Chemical Engineering. With his expertise in scanning probe microscopy he supports the Chemical Engineering Department. That’s his serious job.

When we talk, Marcel explains the working of the scanning probe microscopy. It’s a measuring instrument that forms images of surfaces by using a physical probe that scans it, delivering a height profile. You could compare it with playing a vinyl record. Only on a much smaller scale, down to nanometer resolution and even a bit smaller. With this method you can study all kinds of materials. When you apply molecules on a smooth surface, you could ‘feel’ the molecules and see its individual shape. The section Advanced Soft Matter develops molecules and by looking very close at them, they can study them even better.

Scanning probe microscopy is also used for measuring mechanical properties, but on a nano scale. For example in single molecule force spectroscopy. In this method you have an extreme small strip, which functions as a leaf spring. At the tip you put some molecules. When the tip is directed to a surface area, the molecules can attach to this surface for example by physical forces or by a chemical reaction. When you pull at the surface, the spring will bend, and you can measure how much force is needed to separate the molecules from the surface. When you pull at more complex molecules step by step, like DNA-molecules, or protein molecules, you can see how they unfold and how much force is needed to do so.

So, now we know what Marcel Bus is doing, why are we talking about this man? Well, besides his very serious job, he is also a performing artist at the International Festival of Technology with his Magic of Chemistry Show. This man is so enthusiastic and passionate when he talks about his work, I can imagine that his show will be as energetic as himself.

He actually developed some experiments for his own kids at their birthday party. Later, the teacher of his kids asked him to give a show in the class, but Marcel decided to give a show for the whole school. One thing led to another, and before he knew he was performing at Carnivale, a magic festival in The Hague. Marcel tells that his show is about the beginning of chemistry, from the alchemists and the quacksalvers, until the modern chemistry as we know it today. For the show he has designed and developed all kinds of experiments which he performs on stage, experiments you absolutely shouldn’t try at home… The show is not only chemistry, but also a bit of theater. Something Marcel enjoys to do a lot, he says.

During the International Festival of Technology Marcel Bus will perform at Friday at 5 pm, 6.30 pm, and 8 pm in the NU NULLSPACE and one show lasts 45 minutes. If you have become curious, see the event here, and don't hesitate to visit! It will be spectacular.


More about Marcel Bus: Marcel studied chemistry in Alkmaar where he enjoyed the practical side of it: building molecules. Today he is supporting staff at the Department of Chemical Engineering. He also designs experiments for television (kids) shows and is performing artist with his show The Magic of Chemistry.

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