Web Site Demystifies Nanotech

TryNano explains ins and outs of the technology

6 August 2009

Nanotechnology, which refers to the manipulation of all but invisible materials less than 100 nanometers across, is used in more places than you can imagine. And new nanotech products come on the market at the rate of three or four a week. But though it’s an up-and-coming field of engineering, nanotechnology is still a mystery to many who might find it a compelling area of study.

To explain the ins and outs of the technology, IEEE has launched TryNano.org, a Web site developed in conjunction with IBM and the New York Hall of Science. It’s aimed at students, parents, teachers, school counselors, and anyone else wanting to get up to speed on the subject.

“Nanotechnology is an exciting field with an extraordinary potential to impact so many things, including computers, communications, materials and manufacturing, health and medicine, energy, the environment, transportation, and national security,” points out IEEE Fellow Meyya Meyyappan. Meyyappan, who initiated the effort to develop the site, is a past president of the IEEE Nanotechnology Council, which led the initiative in collaboration with the IEEE Educational Activities Board. “Because IEEE societies and councils cover many aspects of nanotechnology, we have the know-how to provide this valuable Web site.”

NAVIGATING NANO In its About section, the site provides an overview of nanotechnology that spells out the scientific disciplines connected to the field and describes how nanotechnology evolved, where it’s headed, and its implications for society. Also included are links to a glossary of 65 nanotech terms.

For preuniversity teachers, the Resources section offers downloadable lesson plans involving hands-on activities so students can understand how small the nanoscale is. Each lesson provides educators with background information, a list of simple materials, step-by-step instructions, and worksheets for students. In addition, the section lists universities that offer nanotechnology programs, including schools in Australia, Canada, India, Spain, Thailand, the United Kingdom, and the United States.

For an idea of what it’s like to work in the field, there’s the Meet Professionals area, which includes interviews with experts such as Sharon Smith, director of advanced technology for Lockheed Martin Corp. in Bethesda, Md. She coordinates the application of nanotechnology across the company’s four business areas. Or learn about Mark Bissett, a Ph.D. student at Flinders University in Adelaide, Australia, whose research focuses on increasing the efficiency of solar cells by incorporating carbon nanotubes. These highly conductive tubes of graphite are being added to photovoltaic structures.

The Applications area offers examples of how nanotechnology is used in everyday products. These include nanocrystals to make stronger car bumpers, nanoparticles embedded in fabric to make it resistant to stains, and carbon nanotubes for lighter tennis rackets. The work of several organizations at the forefront of nanoscale work is described in the Organization Spotlight section. Included are Drexel University, IBM Almaden Research Center, Lockheed Martin, and Zyvex Instruments. So if its nanotechnology you’re after, head for TryNano.org.

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