Cornell University’s Center for Nanoscale Systems introduced atomic force microscopy and nanotechnology to the Stuyvesant community on Friday, December 18. A new lab that simulated atomic force microscopy (AFM) using materials from Cornell University was tested during a junior physics and a freshmen physics class. In addition, a lecture on modern nanotechnology also held by Cornell University took place during 10th period in the library. The event was open to everyone.
An atomic force microscope is used to determine the surface topography of a microsize or nanosize object by touching a laser probe to the surface of individual molecules and atoms. Measurements can be calculated from laser’s deflection onto a position detector. The lab conducted at Stuyvesant demonstrated how the atomic force microscope works.
For the lab, each team of students recorded the changing heights of the surface of an unknown object inside a box. Later another team would try to recreate the exact shape.
Each AFM lab began with a short lecture by Dr. Julie Nucci and Jim Overhiser from Cornell University, who guided the two classes together. Then the teams started to work on the lab. Each team built Lego structures and then used lasers to figure out the topography of the other team’s structure.
“I was able to do the experiment to some degree,” freshman Kori Porosnicu-Rodriguez said. “It was difficult to get a very accurate idea of what was in the box, but I did have a slight idea as to the varying heights of the structure in certain areas.”
Freshman Alex Argyriou did not share the same difficulties. “We got the wrong shape but only by one Lego,” Argyriou said. “The actual physical Lego building and laser pointing was easy.”
Seeing as the lab had gone with minimal issues, Thomas said it was likely the labs would be used in following years for lab experiments.
This was not the only time Stuyvesant received outside aid to introduce its students to modern technology. In 2008, the school received a grant from the Toshiba America Foundation to purchase a scanning electron microscope and scanning tunneling microscope, which now are located in room 817. Assistant Principal Chemistry and Physics Scott Thomas’s freshmen physics class was introduced to the microscopes on the same day of the AFM lab, and the current sophomore research groups sometimes use the microscopes in their research.
The nanotechnology event held in the library during 10th period was titled “A General Introduction to Nanotechnology: Let’s Get Small”. Dr. Julie Nucci, Director of Education Programs at the Center for Nanoscale Systems at Cornell University, was the speaker. Dr. Nucci and Thomas met at a previous event held in New York City. “I decided it’d be fun to talk to you guys about nano,” said Dr. Nucci, so she contacted Thomas and organized the event over phone and e-mail.
Although the event was open to everyone, students currently in or programmed next term for classes such as Intel Physics were informed of the event. Students who attended Nanoday, an unrelated event previously sponsored by The City College of New York, were emailed about the event as well.
According to the presentation, nanotechnology is the “understanding and control of matter” as small as one-billionth of a meter. An overarching theme of the presentation was nanotechnology in nature versus manmade nanotechnology.
“Mother nature is very nano,” Dr. Nucci said. Despite the progress humans have made, “we cannot compare to mother nature yet,” she said.
Current uses of nanotechnology were described. For example, multi-walled nanotubes, which are the strongest material known to man, that extend like a telescope have been built. They are the strongest material and best thermal conductor yet known to man.
Students on the whole enjoyed the presentation. Senior Josef Kushner, who is taking Modern Physics and Nanotechnology 10-tech class in the spring term, said, “I’m normally a biology student [but] the event showed me how nanotechnology is relevant to many fields, such as biology.”
“It’s interesting how nanotechnology could be applied to everyday life,” said junior Saimon Sharif, “The presentations were great. I’ve seen very detailed and poor presentations by researchers. This was not one of them.”
Some students had small complaints about the lecture, but still believed the overall event to be worthwhile.
“As it progressed, it was more interesting,” said senior Emily Wine, “I didn’t know much about nanotechnology to begin with. She went through some of the slides a little fast.”
Sophomore Janan Zhu appreciated the new advanced technology integrated into the school. “It’s always nice to see new technology being installed in the school, especially tools as advanced as the STM and SEM. I feel that they provide a great introduction to how scientists work today,” he said.