DIY Nano

Nanotechnology is all around us, but it's so small, we can't even see it with a microscope. There are ways to simulate it, however, on a macro scale. Watch videos and perform experiments with a fun, interesting, and free app!

2nd - 7th Science 10 Views 7 Downloads NGSS: Adaptable
App Overview


While things on the nano scale are far too small to be observed in a classroom or at home, there are several simple investigations that can mimic the behaviors of nano particles. Each activity has related videos that can be accessed by tapping the button in the bottom-left corner of the activity screen. Scroll through the activity pages by swiping across or using the tabs at the top of each page. Additionally, each activity can be printed or e-mailed with the share button (a rectangle with an up arrow) in the top-right corner.

Size and Properties:

  1. Gravity Fail: Does gravity work the same on the nano scale as it does on a macro scale? Find out with a simple experiment using a regular teacup and a dollhouse teacup.
  2. Ready, Set, Fizz: discover how surface area affects the breakdown of materials; useful for discussing weathering, surface area, and particle behavior on the nano scale.
  3. Smelly Balloons: Are scent molecules small enough to squeeze through the walls of a balloon? Find out with a quick and easy activity. CAUTION: make sure learners do not have latex allergies.


Tools and Techniques:

  1. Mitten Challenge: building something small can be difficult if one is trying to use the wrong equipment. Challenge kids to build a lego structure with oven mitts on, then again without them on.
  2. Gummy Shapes: for the activity here, you will need to purchase sodium alginate (websites that sell it are provided). Once you have it, create shapes using saltwater and a strainer. If you do not have a budget to purchase the materials, simply watch the video.


Nano and Nature: 

  1. Rainbow Film: using black construction paper and clear nail polish, the investigation here is simple and fun. You may be surprised to see how colors react on a nano scale!
  2. See DNA: extract DNA from wheat germ; be prepared by putting the isopropyl alcohol in the refrigerator several hours ahead of time. 
  3. Morphing Butterfly: What color is a Blue Morpho butterfly at the nano level? The answer can be found by obtaining a specimen of the butterfly online, then following the three-step process shown here. 


Nano and Our Lives:

  1. Mystery Sand: Does all sand interact with water in the same way? What might be a benefit to sand that repels water? Discover the answers in an activity suitable for the whole family.
  2. Invisible Sunblock: zinc oxide is the main ingredient in both diaper cream and sunscreen, so why does sunscreen rub in so much easier? 
  3. Draw a Circuit: Can a pencil be a source of energy? You will need some basic circuitry materials for the investigation, as well as a soft drawing pencil. 
  4. Puzzle Blocks: print out the blocks, have kids assemble them, then put them together to find the connections between some seemingly disparate items.


Nano Videos:

For each of the topics listed above, there are several videos of varying length. Some are geared more toward younger children, such as The Amazing Nano Brothers, while others are more suitable for kids up through eighth grade, such as the DFTV videos. It is best to watch each of the videos related to the topic and decide which will work best for your young scientists. 

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Instructional Ideas

  • Have kids perform experiments at home with parents to encourage the home and school connection
  • Divide the videos up; have small groups watch a video and summarize the information on a small poster to share with the class
  • Challenge the class to find nanotechnology in their daily lives or ways that it could be used to improve an existing product
  • Set up stations around the classroom with different experiments; have groups rotate through (some take longer than others, so plan accordingly)
Classroom Considerations

  • If you set up stations around the classroom with different experiments, remember to adjust your plan according to the amount of time that the various experiments require

  • Many videos to help explain nanotechnology and scale in a simple and fun way
  • Examines nano in nature, sports, and other technologies
  • Excellent directions for planning and executing the experiments
  • Great connections to nano in the real world and laboratories

  • None