The National Science Foundation-supported Materials Research Science and Engineering Center (MRSEC) on Nanostructured Materials and Interfaces at the University of Wisconsin – Madison has an extensive education and outreach effort. One theme of this effort is the development of instructional materials based on cutting-edge research in nanoscale science and engineering. The Nanoworld Cineplex contains movies and demonstrations that can be brought into classes, and the Nanotechnology Lab Manual contains numerous experiments that can be used for virtual or actual laboratories. Also available are kits, software, teaching modules and articles. A hands-on kit for nontechnical audiences, “Exploring the Nanoworld,” has been produced in collaboration with the Institute for Chemical Education.
In this paper, novel hands-on demonstrations and innovative laboratory experiments aimed at the college level will be highlighted. High-tech devices and materials such as light emitting diodes (LEDs), shape memory alloys, amorphous metal, and ferrofluids are discussed in the classroom and studied in the laboratory as illustrations of nanotechnology and its impact on energy, the environment and our quality of life. These examples illustrate interdisciplinary research that provides connections among materials science, chemistry, physics, engineering, and the life sciences. They also highlight the tools of nanotechnology, such as scanning probe microscopy, electron microscopy, x-ray diffraction, and chemical vapor deposition, which are associated with the preparation and characterization of nanostructured materials. Demonstrations of the incorporation of nanotechnology to teach fundamental materials science principles presented are summarized at http://www.mrsec.wisc.edu/edetc.