High School Nanotechnology Research with 3D Optical Microscope

An Interview with Lisa del Muro at Wheeling High School

Wheeling High School (WHS) in Wheeling, Illinois created a Nanotechnology Lab for workforce development. The Nanotechnology program allows for interdisciplinary work across all core science courses: biology, chemistry and physics. For students interested in applying to top tier universities, a research project is required for college application.

Realizing that hands-on experiences are critical to engage students, WHS equipped the lab with a several instruments from Nanoscience Instruments. One of these is the Zeta 3D optical profiler, allowing students to “learn by doing” as opposed to “learning about” behind a desk. Projects are designed for science curriculum, science fairs, and collaborations with local companies. Here are a few examples:

Ohm's Law and nano-Ink
Tablet Coating Dissolution
Water Purification
Highly Moist Cupcakes

Ohm’s Law and Nano-Ink

The Zeta is used to investigate Ohm’s law by analyzing circuits that are created with nano-ink. The circuits have different thicknesses of nano-ink that can quickly be quantified using the Zeta 3D optical profiler. (teacher bonus – requires cursive handwriting)

Do it yourself: http://boingboing.net/2011/10/17/how-to-make-silver-ink-that-conducts-electricity.html

Or buy the kit you need for your application: http://www.electroninks.com/

Coating Dissolution

The Zeta 3D optical profiler is used to follow the dissolution of tablet coatings on over-the-counter medications. The coating thickness is measured with the optical profiler. These thicknesses are then compared to the dissolution times for medication.

Water Purification

For an environmental science project, the Zeta 3D optical profiler is used as a complementary technique with a colorimeter to study metal extraction from water. Calcium alginate beads are used to absorb copper sulfate from solution.

The results show that calcium alginate beads absorb the copper sulfate from the four different concentrations tested. The colorimeter provided light absorbance data of the concentrations before and after bead treatment, showing that after a period of 24 hours every concentration dropped more than 43%. In addition, the Zeta 3D optical profiler shows physical evidence of the copper sulfates presence inside and outside the beads. This provides enough visual evidence to conclude that calcium alginate beads absorb copper sulfate, and the copper sulfate once inside crystallizes and creates a copper sulfate core.

Crystallized copper sulfate observed by Zeta 3D optical profiler, FOV 948 x 711 microns

Crystallized copper sulfate observed by Zeta 3D optical profiler, FOV 948 x 711 microns

Highly Moist Cupcakes

No one likes a dry cupcake. The Zeta 3D optical profiler is used to measure the effect of a citrus fiber product, Citri-Fi®. The purpose is to evaluate the ability to hold in moisture and correlate moisture retention with roughness.

Zeta optical profiler 3D image of cupcake surface

Zeta optical profiler 3D image of cupcake surface

Cupcakes with increasing amounts of Citri-Fi were baked. The cupcakes were weighed to determine which batch held the most moisture. Cupcakes are imaged with Zeta 3D optical profiler to measure nanoscale roughness (Rpv) and volume changes with moisture.

The citrus fiber product does hold in moisture. Cupcakes with more Citri-Fi have more weight. Roughness decreases with more moisture retention as water fills the cupcake holes. Surface roughness is easily measured with the Zeta 3D optical profiler, as shown on the 2D image with markers for a cupcake surface.

Zeta optical profiler image with markers for roughness of cupcake surface

Zeta optical profiler image with markers for roughness of cupcake surface

The Rpv value between markers 1-2 is 197.5 for this sample. Samples with lower amounts of Citri-Fi had rougher texture and lower weight.