Chemistry occupies a unique place in the university curriculum and is required by a wide variety of other disciplines because of its general utility. Unfortunately, the laboratory portion of the course does not always reflect the diversity and excitement of new research in and interesting applications of chemistry since the laboratory experience is designed to help the student master fundamental concepts. At Armstrong Atlantic State University (AASU) we are attacking this problem with the implementation of two series of nanotechnology based “vertical threads” throughout our chemistry curriculum. The vertical threads begin in the freshman year and provide continuity throughout the rest of the curriculum. Experiments direct the student's attention towards modern applications of chemical technology while providing chemical fundamentals expected in traditional laboratory exercises. By seeing these recurring threads at ever increasing levels of complexity, students build upon knowledge gained about nanotechnology with each additional laboratory course.
The approach used at AASU created two experimental “vertical threads” which are woven into the educational experience from the bottom-up in both the curriculum and the chemical methodology. Experiments performed in the freshman chemistry lab reappear in expanded forms in subsequent years as part of new experiments that mimic the biological, industrial and medical applications of nanotechnology.
We have concentrated our efforts in two areas: magnetite nanoparticles thread, and the chalcogenide nanoparticles thread. Magnetite nanoparticles are prepared by freshmen students while more advanced students modify these nanoparticles for real-world applications. Chalcogenide nanoparticles are synthesized by junior and senior level students and their spectroscopic properties are studied. Senior and undergraduate research students are involved in green synthesis of silver and gold nanoparticles as well as the use of ZnS, CdS and ceria nanoparticles for photocatalysis applications. The upper division students learn numerous instrumental techniques (i.e. UV-VIS, Fluorescence, FT-IR) within the context of nanotechnology. All students are presented with pre-laboratory and background materials that address the needs for new materials, new techniques for biomedical analysis and drug delivery as well as the environmental impacts of nanotechnology.