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NanoDays at Explorit

This article appeared in the April 6, 2012 edition of the Davis Enterprise.

NanoDays at Explorit

Join us for NanoDays April 9 - 13 from 1:00 to 5:00 p.m.

By Lisa Justice

Special to the Enterprise

Explorit invites you to join us in investigating the most minute aspects of life with NanoDays, a festival of hands-on activities about nanoscience and its potential impacts on our lives.  The NanoDays Festival is organized each year by participants in the NanoScale Informal Science Education Network (NISE Net).

From butterfly wings to the graphite in your pencil, nano is all around us.  “Nano” means really, really small.  So nanoscience is really, really small science, studying the smallest things there are.

A nanometer is one billionth of a meter.  That’s like comparing the planet earth to a marble!  That’s also the length that your fingernails grow every second.

Nanoparticles and other tiny objects that exist on the nanoscale are too small for us to see with our eyes, but we can witness their effects on our larger world.  Many substances like gold and aluminum behave differently when broken down to the nanoscale.  The aluminum that your soda can is made of is explosive when broken down into nanoparticles.

Gold also changes its appearance and behavior when it gets really small.  The gold that we can see with our eyes is shiny and yellow in color.  But at the NanoDays Festival you’ll see gold that is so small that it reacts differently with light and changes its appearance.  

What do you think nanogold might look like?  Will it still be shiny?  What color might it be?  Remember, we can’t see nano-sized objects with our eyes.  What could we do to be able to see nanogold?

At NanoDays you can also experiment with salt water, static electricity and polymers to observe more changes at the nanolevel and see how other nanoparticles look and act differently than their larger counterparts.  You can even recreate the experiment that won a Nobel Prize in Physics in 2010!

Researchers Andre Geim and Konstantin Novoselov developed a technique for making graphene, the thinnest substance on earth, from the graphite in a pencil and a piece of tape.  

What we call pencil lead, the dark center of a pencil that allows us to write, isn’t really lead at all.  It’s graphite, a mineral made of lots of layers of graphene stacked on top of each other.  Graphene is a thin layer of carbon (only one atom thick!) laid out in a honeycomb pattern.

Geim and Novoselov succeeded in peeling apart the layers of graphite to produce a single layer of graphene.  You can too at NanoDays, and then use your graphene in an experiment to light a lightbulb.

Explorit will be hosting NanoDays from Monday, April 9 to Friday, April 13.  Admission to NanoDays is free with paid admission to our Forces of Nature exhibit.  Come discover the smallest stuff in a big way at NanoDays!

 

Explorit’s coming events:

• Remembers to sign up for Explorit Summer Camp on-line at www.explorit.org

• NanoDays Festival - April 9 – 13 from 1:00 to 5:00 p.m.  Join us for hands-on nanoscale science and engineering activities and find out about the potential impact of nano science  on the future.  Events are organized by participants in the Nanoscale Informal Science Education Network (NISE Net).  

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Explorit Science Center is located at 3141 5th St. and open to the public the first full weekend of every month. For more information call (530) 756-0191 or visit http://www.explorit.org, or “like” us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/explorit.fb.

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