Nanoscience…What’s the Big Deal?

Joyce Patton, Science, Coulwood STEM Academy

Curriculum Unit (pdf)


With the advent of the scanning tunneling microscope (1981) and the atomic force microscope (1986), the door to a new frontier, was thrown wide. Not only could scientist ‘see” structures at the atomic and molecular level, they could also manipulate them. Building materials from the bottom up, one atom at a time, is the very premise of nanotechnology. In this unit, students will be introduced to the nanoscale. Materials at the nanoscale exhibit very different properties from those we are used to experiencing with bulk materials. Students will discover the science behind some of these seemingly bizarre behaviors. Hands-on activities, interactive websites, computer games and lab experiments will guide student understanding of “nano” concepts, such as scale, size, surface area, light, color and van der Waals forces. The culminating activity in this unit is nanoparticle synthesis. Students will make carbon nanoparticles that will fluoresce, when exposed to UV light.