Purdue News

June 23, 2006

Birck nano exhibit provides learning opportunity for students, adults

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — Fresh from a stop at the Children's Museum of Oak Ridge in Tennessee, a Purdue University-created nanotechnology exhibit is now on display at the Birck Nanotechnology Center's atrium in Discovery Park.

Kids play with a pin-scanner toy
Download photo
caption below

Through the exhibit, visitors can learn firsthand about nanotechnology through video animations, a wall of nano art, hands-on activities, posters and a LEGO scanning probe microscope.

The exhibit, titled "Nanotechnology: The Science of Making Things Smaller," was constructed by a team of Purdue students and faculty as part of the Engineering Projects in Community Service, or EPICS.

The display, which is free and open to school tour groups and the public, will remain at the Birck Center, located at 1205 W. State St., through the summer months. Exhibit tours will be offered from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday. For group scheduling information, contact Deborah Starewich at (765) 494-3509, dstarewi@ecn.purdue.edu.

Purdue physics professor Ronald Reifenberger said a popular stop is the LEGO scanning probe microscope, which "sees" by probing objects with a small, sharp tip.

"Our LEGO scanning probe microscope is a working model that reproduces the various functions of a research-level instrument," he said. "By slowly touching a LEGO surface with a tip, a three-dimensional image can be generated and displayed on a computer."

Reifenberger said the LEGO scanning probe microscope is an ideal educational tool for this subject, effectively demonstrating how real lab instruments provide a window into the nano world.

"Scientists are devising techniques to build nano devices piece by piece in ways that are very similar to the construction of complex LEGO landscapes," he said.

Michael Melloch, a Purdue professor of electrical and computer engineering who assisted Reifenberger on the exhibit, said animations are used to highlight the principles of nanotechnology in a way that youngsters can learn and understand.

"The animations provide a clever and novel approach to explaining some of the basic ideas driving nanotechnology to elementary and middle school kids," Melloch said.

Posters also line the walls of the Birck atrium, providing detailed information for those with a greater interest in the world of nano, which is a prefix meaning one-billionth. A nanometer is one-billionth of a meter, or only about three atoms wide.

Exhibit sponsors are the NASA Institute of Nanoelectronics and Computation, the Network for Computational Nanotechnology and the Birck Nanotechnology Center, all at Purdue.

Before returning to the Purdue campus, the display spent several months during 2005 at the Children's Museum of Oak Ridge located near the Oak Ridge National Laboratories.

The 187,000-square-foot Birck Center, which opened last October, involves Purdue faculty, researchers, staff and graduate students from 27 schools and departments. Birck opened its $10 million cleanroom, the Scifres Nanofabrication Laboratory, to researchers on June 12.

The Birck Nanotechnology Center is a cornerstone for Discovery Park, Purdue's $300 million hub for interdisciplinary research and home to 10 established research centers focusing on endeavors ranging from biosciences and manufacturing to oncological sciences and health-care engineering.

Writer: Phillip Fiorini, (765) 496-3133, pfiorini@purdue.edu

Sources: Ron Reifenberger, (765) 463-6512, reifenbr@purdue.edu

Michael Melloch, (765) 494-3528, michael.r.melloch.1@purdue.edu

Purdue News Service: (765) 494-2096; purduenews@purdue.edu

Note to Journalists: For a schedule of student groups that will be touring the nano exhibit at the Birck Nanotechnology Center during June and July, contact Phillip Fiorini, Purdue News Service, at (765) 496-3133, pfiorini@purdue.edu.



Amani Brown of Indianapolis, from left, Ariel Magallon of Highland, Ind., and Jennifer Pugh of Montgomery, Ala., play with a pin-scanner toy at the "Nanotechnology: The Science of Making Things Smaller" exhibit in Purdue's Birck Nanotechnology Center. The toy is used to demonstrate how a surface measuring 3-D scanning probe microscope works. The three girls were a part of group from the Minority Engineering Camp that toured the exhibit on Wednesday (June 22). The hands-on exhibit, which will remain on display through the summer at the Discovery Park facility, was constructed by a team of Purdue students and faculty as part of Engineering Projects in Community Service, or EPICS. (Purdue News Service photo/David Umberger)

A publication-quality photo is available at http://news.uns.purdue.edu/uns/images/+2006/birck-nanoexhibit.jpg


To the News Service home page

Newsroom Search Newsroom home Newsroom Archive