It is said that the excitement of learning separates youth from old age, and that we stay young as long as we are learning. A true testament to this statement was the recent “Nanotechnology Day,” cohosted by the Clemson Nanomaterials Center (CNC) and the Roper Mountain Science Center (RMSC) in Greenville, South Carolina. On March 14, 2015, “Pi Day,” as it is called (for its similarity to the ubiquitous irrational number π), attracted about 800 visitors aged 7 to 70 years, who attended the Nanotechnology Day event despite the pouring rain. While it was raining outside, it was enthusiasm and curiosity that was pouring inside the RMSC. The enthusiasm of kids and senior citizens alike reaffirmed the fact that no matter Clemson Nanomaterials Center Faculty and Research Group how old you are, learning about about things at the nanoscale is definitely fun.
To captivate the enthusiasm and unleash the imagination of its young visitors, CNC brought its nanolab to the doorstep and illustrated intriguing physics phenomena through simple experiments. Some such activities included: the art of levitation, which demonstrated a floating piece of graphene on magnets, (much like the magic carpet of the Arabian nights); the extraction of graphene from graphite in pencil that won the Nobel prize (pencil to Nobel); and, the magic of ferro fluids, the power of nano-sponges, the nano -movers and shakers (nano diving-board like cantilevers), just to name a few. Other nano activities using the RMSC’s Network Nano Days Physical Kit from the Nanoscale Informal Science Education (NISE) grant were also included. The audience was awed by the possibility of delivering nanomedicine and storing energy using nanomaterials. Indeed, many of them truly learned, despite its size, that nanotechnology is no small thing. “It was a really fun and exciting experience to teach kids about nanoscience,” remarked Dr. Sriparna Bhattacharya, Research Assistant Professor at CNC, “I believe learning went both ways. We learned as much as they did.”
Anthony Childress, a Physics and Astronomy graduate student, and a member of CNC, presented “The Magic of Nanomaterials,” a thirty-minute talk where he introduced the interesting physical phenomena at the nano-level. The audience, which included both kids and seniors, was thrilled and asked him many interesting questions. He concluded his talk with a live demonstration of making nanosweets (nanocarbons from sugar and drain cleaner) that undoubtedly piqued the interest of everyone. “Clemson is being recognized as an international center of excellence for nanomanufacturing,” said Dr. Apparao M. Rao, Director of CNC, “One of our goals is to convey the excitement of cutting-edge research developed at CNC to K-12 and undergraduate students through programs such as the Nanotechnology Day.”
“We intend to develop a larger workforce in South Carolina and the nation,” explained Dr. Ramakrishna Podila, Assistant Professor of Physics at Clemson. “We want to train the next generation scientist to solve future challenges in the fields of energy and biomedicine through innovations in nanoscience.”