In "NanoKids made in lab," Nature writes that "man-shaped molecules help students learn chemistry."
A team of Texans has created molecules in their own image. The tiny army of human lookalikes is helping Houston kids to learn about chemistry.
The researchers call their molecules the NanoKids. Their bodies are made from carbon and hydrogen, and their eyes are oxygen atoms. Each stands just 2 nanometres tall, a billion times shorter than the average man.
Team leader James Tour, of Rice University in Houston, says it's easier to explain chemical structures when they are "humanized."
"We talk about arms and legs, rather than alkyne and acetyl groups," he says.
The Texan team has produced a DVD filled with the NanoKids to teach chemistry to young students.
Eight Houston schools are using the curriculum-linked disc as a teaching aid for 11-13-year-olds. If the feedback is good and funding is forthcoming, Tour hopes that students across the United States will get to play with his NanoKids.
Please visit this page to discover the NanoKids™ educational outreach program or this one to see the full cast of characters.
Here is the NanoTexan (Image Copyright 2003 NanoKids™). Its chemical composition is C44H50O2.
And here is the NanoTeen, which was chemically synthesized on May 16, 2001 with C42H48O2(Image Copyright 2003 NanoKids™).
For more technical words, the research paper of Stephanie H. Chanteau and James M. Tour, "Synthesis of Anthropomorphic Molecules: The NanoPutians," was published by the Journal of Organic Chemistry. Here is the abstract.
Described here are the synthetic details en route to an array of 2-nm-tall anthropomorphic molecules in monomeric, dimeric, and polymeric form. These anthropomorphic figures are called, as a class, NanoPutians. Using tools of chemical synthesis, the ultimate in designed miniaturization can be attained while preparing the most widely recognized structures: those that resemble humans.
Here is a last picture for your viewing pleasure, the NanoScholar molecules (Image Copyright 2003 NanoKids™).
Sources: Helen R. Pilcher, Nature, October 14, 2003; NanoKids™ website; Journal of Organic Chemistry, September 27, 2003
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