Some of the biggest scientific breakthroughs in recent years involve things that are actually very, very small. The science of nanotechnology deals with the smallest structures, in the range of one to 100 nanometers in size. That’s as small as just a few atoms in a row (one atom corresponds to about one nanometer)! With this kit, the intangible, nanoscopic world becomes accessible with hands-on experiments using both scaled-up models and real nanomaterials.
Nanoparticles can be made of different materials and exist in a wide variety of forms —thin layers, tubes, balls, and tree-like structures. These particles can be coated onto surfaces, they can enhance other materials such as paint, they can be used as a delivery method for pharmaceuticals in the body, and much more. Specific applications include, for example, self-cleaning house paints and water-repellent clothes, anti-fog coatings on glasses, UV protection components in sunscreen, environmentally friendly antifouling coatings for ships (to prevent algae growth, thereby reducing fuel consumption), antibacterial coatings for medical devices, and materials to more effectively filter dirty water.
Start out by conducting experiments concerning size, scale, and orders of magnitude in the International System of Units, to get a feel for just how small a nanometer really is. Explore how charcoal is like a nanoscale sponge with filtering experiments. Conduct experiments with the hydrophilic (water-loving) and hydrophobic (water-hating) properties of different surfaces, which illustrate nanoscale properties. Stir up some mixtures and suspensions, and then examine exotic mixtures to learn about the nanoscopic particles suspended in them. Shine a laser through a colloidal gold — a suspension of nanoscale particles of gold! Learn about the electromagnetic spectrum, laser light, electron microscopy, and atomic force microscopy to begin to grasp how we can make nanomaterials visible. Experiment with a special material that mimics the nanostructures on a gecko’s footpads that allow it to climb straight up a vertical pane of glass with ease!