TICONDEROGA - The middle school students at St. Mary's School have been introduced to an exciting, emerging field of science-the world of nano.
The prefic "nano," meaning one billionth, refers to the extremely small. A nanometer, for example, is about the 100,000 times thinner than the width of a human hair. At this scale, materials start to act very strange.
To illustrate this. Dr P.K. Sudeep, a visiting chemist from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, taught the students how to make gold nanoparticles-spheres of gold suspended in water.
To the students' surprise, the nanoparticles were shades of red, not gold-colored at all. Although the particles were made of elemental gold, they had properties visibly different than the bulk gold found in jewelry.
About the synthesis, eighth grade student Patrick Simpson commented, "It was much easier than I thought it would be, but timing was everything. The size (of the nanoparticles) determines the color."
Scientists and engineers in this field hope that nanomaterials like these will offer solutions in solar energy, cancer treatments, clean water, drug delivery, and many other exciting applications.
"We were very fortunate to be able to make gold nanoparticles," said middle school student Keely Cooper. "It's a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity."