Scanning Probe Microscopy: "Feeling What You Can't See at the Nanometer Scale" (Elementary, Middle, and High School curriculum lesson)

Students simulate the function of a scanning probe microscope.This activity works best in groups of 3 students. Scanning Probe Microscopes (SPMs) of various types trace surface features by movement of a very fine pointed tip mounted on a flexible arm across a surface. SPM enables resolution of features down to ~1 nm in height, allowing imaging of single atoms under ideal conditions. In this activity, students will use their index finger as a probe to scan unseen objects.

Solar Ovens - Understanding Energy Transfer (Middle and High School curriculum lesson)

At the end of this lesson, students will understand that solar energy radiates from the sun to the Earth and gets trapped within the oven. Students will be able to explain how the thermal energy flows from the hot air to the cold water via conduction and will indicate that this would continue to happen until the water sample reaches the same temperature as the oven air. The students will also answer questions about how heat could be lost in the oven through conduction and convection, as well as how to get more solar radiation into the oven.

Nanobacteria (Middle School curriculum lesson)

Students will calculate surface area, draw graphs, and approximate the populations of bacteria and nanobes. Before starting this lab, the student should understand how to 1) calculate the surface area of a circle, 2) draw and label a graph, 3) define circumference and radius. This activity works well after students have covered linear functions—students expecting a linear graph may find the nonlinear (exponential) relationship as a pleasant surprise.

How Big is a Nanometer? (Middle and High School curriculum lesson)

The purpose of this activity is to help students conceptualize the magnitude of a nanometer compared to other metric units of length. At the end of this activity, students will be able to state the size of a nanometer, convert between nanometers and other metric units of length, and give concrete examples of nanotechnology use in everyday life. At the conclusion of this unit, students will create a 7-10 minute class presentation to demonstrate their learning.

Quantum Dots (Middle and High School curriculum lesson)

The purpose of this activity is to show that nanosize particles of a given substance often exhibit different properties and behavior than macro or micro size particles of the same material. The property studied in this activity is the absorption and reflection of light which is based on energy levels that are determined by size and bonding arrangements of the materials.

Changing Conductive Properties by Diffusion (Middle and High School curriculum lesson)

In the semiconductor industry scientists take advantage of diffusion to “dope” or introduce atoms into a silicon wafer to change its conductive properties. The lesson simulates the diffusion of a gas phase substance (ammonia) into a solid substrate (gelatin) and compares the lab model of diffusion to the doping process of silicon wafers. Students will examine how diffusion occurs and explore how the electrical properties of semiconductors are developed. This lesson uses only commonly available substances.

Design Challenge: Incorporating Shape Memory Alloys into Rube Goldberg Devices (Middle and High School curriculum lesson)

To encourage students to compare and contrast science and technology; experimental design and industrial design; and physics and its impact on nanotechnology. The students will be able to analyze and reflect on the forces, motion and energy transformations that can be shown by a Rube Goldberg Device and to experience the impact that Nitinol wire has on the device.


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