Archive for the ‘Nanoisland’ Category


What is a Nanometre?

March 7, 2008

I just finished a new exhibit for the main building on Nanotechnology Island, titled “What is a nanometre?”  It’s fairly self-explanatory:


Music Video about Nanoisland

February 28, 2008

I just finished a funky music video showing the highlights of Nanotechnology Island. I’d embed it here, but is ultra-careful about security so they don’t support embedded Animoto videos yet. To see the video, click here.

UPDATE:  Based on some feedback, I made a second video, which you can see if you click here.


The Giants of Nanotechnology Island

February 23, 2008

You may have noticed that many of the exhibits on Nanotechnology Island aren’t life size – they’re much larger than life, so you can see them easily.  It seems that when those exhibits were being enlarged, some poor creatures strayed too close to the enlarging machine…

For example, there’s a giant bacterium with a flagellum (the tail-like thing) that’s currently climbing the outside wall of the main building.  It looks like it got sliced open, so you can see inside – there’s no nucleus!  The DNA just floats around inside the cell.

If you’re brave, there’s also a secret cave under the Tower of Ten…

I should really be more careful around giant hungry ants!


This is Top Level Stuff

February 22, 2008

When you first arrive at the top level of the Tower of Ten, you see a cute blue car.

If you look closely, you’ll see that the driver-side airbag is deployed (on the right side because it’s a British car).  Have you ever wondered what triggers an airbag?  How does the car know when it’s probably in an accident?

The answer is that the car has an accelerometer – a device which senses changes in the car’s speed.  If the speed changes too fast – wooompf!  The airbag deploys.  The accelerometer is typically on a chip that’s about 1 centimetre (10 mm) across.  There’s a model of an accelerometer module near the car model (pictured above).

Modern accelerometers often use tiny “Microelectromechanical Systems” (MEMS) like the one pictured above, which is about 0.1 millimetres across.  A full explanation of how it works is given on the sign beside the exhibit in the Tower of Ten.  (Surely you didn’t think I was just going to reveal everything here!)

The final exhibit is a model of the silicon unit cell.  This pattern of silicon atoms is repeated throughout pure crystals of silicon, which are used in making everything from transistors to solar cells to MEMS.  This concludes my four-part tour of the Tower of Ten.  Click Here to visit the Nanotechnology sim now.


Now Add Water…

February 21, 2008

On the third level of the Tower of Ten, we find exhibits about water at various scales.

The first exhibit you’ll see when you arrive at the top of the stairs is a model of the water molecule, with its central oxygen atom and two hydrogen atoms sticking out at an angle. Interestingly, the water molecule is roughly one nanometre across! To the left of the water molecule are two puffy ice crystal clouds. Cirrus clouds (the wispy ones way way up in the sky) are made of ice crystals.

To the right of the water molecule are some models of snowflakes, which are large intricate ice crystals.

The exhibit on the East side is a set of models of water nanoclusters, which are small groups of water molecules that sometimes form. Different arrangements occur depending on the conditions (e.g. temperature or pressure).


Going Up a Level

February 19, 2008

Last week, we started exploring the Tower of Ten on Nanotechnology Island, starting on the bottom level.  Today, we’ll climb up the stairs to the next level…

…which has exhibits about the human body!  First of all, there’s a full-size human.  He’s about 1.7 metres tall.  Then there’s a cross-section of human skin, which is about 3 millimetres deep (and a millimetre is a thousandth of a metre).

On the other side, there are models of red blood cells, the cells that carry oxygen around the body.  They’re about 7 micrometres across (where a micrometre is a millionth of a metre).

Lastly, there’s an exhibit with a (conceptual) model of a haemoglobin molecule – the molecule which does the actual carrying of oxygen.   (The four oxygen-carrying “haeme groups” are shown in more detail.)  Haemoglobin is about 3 nanometres across (where a nanometre is a billionth of a metre).  Nanotechnology is technology which lives at that scale.

The signs beside the exhibits have interesting facts on them.  (Did you know that the total surface area of all your red blood cells is more than 3/4 of an acre?)  To learn the other cool facts, just teleport there now.


The Tower of Ten

February 13, 2008

Atop a hill in the middle of the Nanotechnology sim sits a magnificent glass structure named the Tower of Ten, created by Shukran Fahid.

The name (Tower of Ten) derives from the exhibits inside. Each exhibit displays a model of matter at a particular length scale – the idea being that different length scales differ in magnitude by powers of ten. I think the idea was inspired by the short film Powers of Ten by Charles and Ray Eames. The tower has four levels, with the main entrance on the first level. The exhibits on the first level are about iron and steel. You can see the structure of steel from the atomic scale all the way up to a model of a suspension bridge (the Humber Bridge).

I’ll cover the other three levels of the tower in future posts. If you can’t wait, then click here to visit the Nanotechnology sim now.