The National Center for Earth and Environmental Science (NanoEarth) hosted 25 11th and 12th graders and three teachers from the Roanoke Valley Governor’s School (RVGS) this November. Students spent the morning touring Virginia Tech’s Nanoscale Characterization and Fabrication Laboratory (NCFL) and then headed to Jeff Park, Ph.D.’s Environmental and Water Resources Engineering lab, James Westwood, Ph.D.’s parasitic plants lab, and Eva Colla’kova, Ph.D.’s plant metabolism lab.

Students experienced lightning round demonstrations in four rotations. They heard about the academic backgrounds of the instrument specialists, were introduced to instruments used to conduct science at the nanoscale, and discovered nanotechnology properties in everyday items. Instruments included the Focused Ion Beam (FIB), the Scanning Electron Microscope (SEM), and the Transmission Electron Microscope (TEM). Students and staff participated in hands-on NanoDays activities where they explored how nanoscale features affect macroscale properties. Students compared two sets of fabrics by color, feel, and overall look. Then, they placed water droplets on the two fabrics and observed how one let the water soak in and the other the water beaded on top. The fabric with the beaded water was made out of nano coated fibers to make them water and stain resistant. This type of fabric and clothing can be currently found in stores! Students then explored the magnetic properties of ferrofluid. By placing a magnet on a tube of black sand and ferrofluid, they observed how ferrofluid was attracted to the magnet and moved with it. When placing a magnet on a United States dollar bill, the magnet attracted the bill where it had highly concentrated areas of ink with ferrofluid. This aids in detecting counterfeit bills.