When I was a kid, I had a junior detective wristband. (Maybe you did, too.) It was colorful and plastic, the kind of toy you’d find in a cereal box. And it had a tiny plastic magnifying glass, because every junior detective needs to be able to see tiny things in detail. That’s how you solve mysteries.

I magnified ants. And flower pollen. And feathers. I magnified almost everything I could find. And the close-up views from that tiny magnifying glass offered some amazing lessons about the world. (Wow — butterfly wings have scales!)

In nanotechnology, scientists do the same thing, but they have much better toys.

Nanotechnology is the study of things at the atomic and molecular levels. Very, very, very tiny things. Scientists use specialized microscopes and other laboratory instruments for nanotechnology research. They’re solving mysteries.

nanotubeTake this model of a nanotube, for example. It represents one way that carbon atoms can be structured. Nanotubes are very strong, maybe one hundred times as strong as steel. They’re very tiny, just a fraction of the width of a human hair. They conduct heat and electricity. Scientists are still learning about the properties of carbon nanotubes and about the ways we can use these structures.

If you’re curious, you’ll have a rare opportunity this weekend to take a behind-the-scenes peek into nanotechnology research on the UNC campus. Morehead is hosting NanoDays on Saturday, March 27.

You can learn more about nanotechnology with hands-on activities for the family. Discover where you can find examples of nanotechnology in your own home. Tour research labs with scientists from the UNC Department of Physics and Astronomy (that’s where the cool research toys — I mean, laboratory instruments — live).

It’s fun, and it’s free. Come check out NanoDays.

Junior detective wristbands might be the coolest cereal box toy ever.



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