Magazine article Technology and Children

Thinking Small: Nano Small

Magazine article Technology and Children

Thinking Small: Nano Small

Article excerpt

Daily, we enjoy the increasing efficiency, utility, elegance, and the convenience of mobile phones and computers. It is hard to imagine how we could function without them. Clearly, their speed and ease of use endear them to us and might explain why we reach for them almost unconsciously for work or play. Indeed, as a result of their ergonomically efficient design and ever-shrinking size and weight, our use of these products has become routine if not habitual.

For nearly twenty years, nanotechnologies--the deliberate manipulation of matter at size scales of less than 100 nanometers--are gaining in commercial use (Waldron, Douglas, and Batt, 2006). Scientists have discovered that materials at this small dimension, or at the nanoscale, can have significantly different properties than the same materials at larger scale. It is these materials that are being used to engineer devices so small they are measured on a molecular scale. These nano materials are not only responsible for the capabilities of the electronic devices we enjoy, but have become commonplace in products ranging from cosmetics to automotive batteries. So, from wet wipes to stuffed animals to videogame systems, the use of nanotechnology in common products permeates our lives today.

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Engineers, technologists, and scientists from the disciplines of physics, chemistry, biology, material science, and information technology are embracing this ability to "think small" and design small by harnessing nanotechnology's potential for improving devices, structures, and materials. Since this technology exists at the molecular level and is still considered to be emerging, it is understandable that very few of us are aware of the current impact it has on our lives. Furthermore, many in our society may not be considering nanotechnology's effects--both positive and negative--on sustainable energy, materials, electronics, chemicals, aeronautics, and molecular medicine. This column will feature resources that could be used in your classroom to help you and your students explore the emerging issues in nanotechnology.

thinking small-nanotechnology resources

Nanooze! is a magazine resource that can be mailed free of charge to classroom teachers just by emailing a request for copies to info@nanooze.org. Nanooze! is supported by the National Science Foundation through the National Nanoscale Infrastructure Network and the Cornell Nanoscale Science and Technology Facility. Its primary audiences, as can be deduced from its kid-friendly style and graphics, are elementary and early middle school children. It features informative and age-appropriate articles that cover not only the basics of nanotechnology, but their application in the areas of medicine, the human body, biology, energy, materials, daily life, microscopy, electronics, and space. Examining just a few of the available titles below reveals not only the diversity of information covered, but the appealing nature in which it is explored:

* Swing Your Racket ...

... like Vitas Gerulaitis, the world famous tennis pro. All you need is a little help from carbon nanotubes!

* Liquid Armor

Can nanotechnology help to protect soldiers in combat? Maybe someday.

* Smart Medicine

Using nanotechnology, we can create tiny vehicles that can deliver medicine to the exact area where it is needed.

* Nanobots--The Reality

So, you see on the Internet little robot things that swim around your blood and kill germs ... where can I get some?

* Going up!

Some scientists are currently thinking about a space elevator. …

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