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Fourth NanoShow on 12 February

February 6, 2008

The fourth NanoShow will be on Tuesday, February 12, at 1700 GMT, 9am Second Life time (Pacific Time). Dr. JT Janssen will give a talk titled “Nano-Science and the Quantum World.” To find out how to attend, and to read the full abstract of the talk, visit the NanoShow webpage.


Photo taken at the third NanoShow on 29 January

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The Airborne Particle Monitoring Station

January 31, 2008

On the southeast side of the Nanotechnology sim, there’s an Airborne Particle Monitoring Station. It’s a trailer with instruments that NPL uses to measure air quality.

Nearby, there are examples of common sources of air particles: industry, airplanes, vehicles and sea spray.

The main instrument on display inside the trailer is a Scanning/Sequential Mobility Particle Sizer (SMPS). The air (carrying particles of various sizes) first goes through a Differential Mobility Analyser (DMA), which throws away all but the particles of a certain size. (You can adjust the particle size being kept.)

You can click on the numbered squares to get a notecard about the various parts of the DMA. By step 7, the particles of the desired size are all headed to the right, towards the Condensation Particle Counter (CPC).

The CPC counts the particles entering it by coating them in butanol and then using a laser detector to sense the coated particles. Once again, you can click on the numbered squares to learn about the parts of the CPC. There are also signs on the walls giving more explanation, plus an example of how the Airborne Particle Monitoring Station was used to track air quality surrounding the Guy Fawkes celebrations of 2006 (involving the launching of firewords and the burning of effigies).

Click here to visit the exhibit now.

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We Have a Ball

January 27, 2008

The gallery in the main building of Nanotechnology Island has a giant model of buckminsterfullerene.  What’s that?

Buckminsterfullerene is a molecule made of 60 carbon atoms, so it is also called C60 (where the 60 is subscript).  The shorter name ‘buckyball’ is also used, because it resembles a ball.  It’s named after Richard Buckminster Fuller (1895-1983), the scientist, architect, and philosopher who popularized the geodesic dome (which is similar in structure).  Buckyballs were discovered in 1985 by Harold Kroto, James R. Heath, Sean O’Brien, Robert Curl and Richard Smalley.  The distance from the middle of an atom on one side to the middle of an atom on the other side is about 0.7 nanometres.

If you look at the model, you’ll see that there are both pentagons (five-sided) and hexagons (six-sided), and none of the pentagons share an edge… just like a soccer ball.  How many pentagons are there?  One way to find out is by visiting the model in Second Life and counting them.

By the way, we’re leaving room in the gallery for your exhibits – and NPL may even pay you for them!  For more information about that, see the webpage about the NanoLands Challenge.

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Atomic Force Microscopes

January 24, 2008

Atomic Force Microscopes (AFMs) can “see” things that are smaller than a nanometer – which is much better resolution than what’s possible with optical microscopes. How do they do that? How are AFMs used?

In the East Wing of the Main Building on Nanotechnology Island, there’s a Surface and Nano-Analysis Lab with a model of an AFM. (There’s also a model of a SIMS, which I’ll write about some other day.)

If you sit on the stool at the AFM, you can click on various samples to analyze them -an image appears on the computer screen, and you also get a notecard explaining what you see. Samples include a human hair, tungsten nanoparticles on a gold surface, and a PVC/PC polymer blend.

You can also click on the doors of the AFM enclosure, then click on the head of the AFM to see the innards a bit.

Outside the Surface and Nano-Analysis Lab is an exhibit which explains the principles of AFMs. The basic idea is that a needle is dragged across the surface of the sample being analyzed, a bit like a record player. The up-and-down motion of the needle tells you about how the height of the surface varies from place to place. (This is all roughly speaking, for clarity.)

AFMs can actually be operated in a variety of different imaging modes. The exhibit animates four of those modes: constant height, constant force, intermittent contact, and force modulation. Explanations of the modes are also given.

You can check it all out now, at Nanotechnology Island.

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Third NanoShow on 29 January

January 23, 2008

The third NanoShow will be on Tuesday, January 29, at 1700 GMT, 9am Second Life time (Pacific Time). Prof. Leslie Pendrill will give a talk titled “Supporting Growth in Nanoproduction.” To find out how to attend, and to read the full abstract of the January 29 talk, visit the NanoShow webpage.


Photo taken at the second NanoShow on 15 January

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Newton’s Apple Tree

January 20, 2008

I’m going to write some posts highlighting various exhibits and other features on the Nanotechnology sim in Second Life (also called Nanotechnology Island or just Nanoisland).

Today I’ll begin with Newton’s apple tree. If you’re not familiar with the story, it goes something like this… Isaac Netwon, the great English scientist, was struck on the head by a falling apple, and this caused him to contemplate the nature of gravity, leading him to formulate his universal law of gravitation. The story is almost certainly a myth, but if you want to read more, check out the article in Wikipedia.

The current whereabouts of the original apple tree are disputed (see above article), but the tree in the courtyard of the National Physical Lab in Teddington (in the UK) is said to be a descendant. Here’s a photo of the tree in Teddington:

A replica of NPL’s tree can be found in the courtyard of the main building of Nanotechnology sim in Second Life.

If you click on the tree in Second Life, it releases a large number of big red juicy apples!

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Second NanoShow is on Tuesday, January 15

January 8, 2008

The first NanoShow was a great success, with about 50 people attending in Teddington and another 50 or so attending in Second Life.  We’ll be posting an (edited) recording of the first NanoShow soon.  (We’ve been away on holidays.)

The second NanoShow will be on Tuesday, January 15, at 1700 GMT, 9am Second Life time (Pacific Time).  Dr. Richard Leach will give a talk titled “Metrology: A Tool to Enable Micro- to Nanotechonology.”  To find out how to attend, and to read the full abstract of the January 15 talk, visit the NanoShow webpage.


Screenshot from the first NanoShow on 18 December.