Carbon and Nanoparticles

This section of the syllabus looks specifically at the allotropes of carbon in terms of understanding the differences in structure, and the way that the structural motifs can be used to explain the macroscopic properties of each form of carbon. Students will often meet diamond and graphite first as examples of giant covalent structures. This is then extended to look at graphene, which in essence, is a single layer of graphite but has quite different properties, and this can be difficult for students to understand.

Students need to appreciate that whilst fullerenes are another allotrope of carbon, their solids have a simple covalent (molecular) structure and not a giant covalent structure, since fullerenes are molecules, albeit large molecules. This is another common source of confusion for students and molecular modeling software can be very helpful in enabling students to visualise the difference between the fullerenes and other allotropes of carbon.

Other aspects relating to the bonding of carbon and the richness it displays in terms of the enormous structural variety of organic molecules is addressed in the lists on organic chemistry.

This list also covers nanoparticles, their nature, applications and potential risks. Students need to appreciate that the extremely small size of nanoparticles gives them a very large surface area to volume ratio and that this can mean that their properties differ form those of the bulk material from which they are formed.

A number of interesting resources are included to reflect the huge range of applications of nanoparticles. The included resources do not necessarily reflect the examples chosen by any particular syllabus and are illustrative of the richness of this area of technology.

Whilst this list provides a source of information and ideas for experimental work, it is important to note that recommendations can date very quickly. Do NOT follow suggestions which conflict with current advice from CLEAPSS, SSERC or other recent safety guides. eLibrary users are responsible for ensuring that any activity, including practical work, which they carry out is consistent with current regulations related to Health and Safety and that they carry an appropriate risk assessment. Further information is provided in our Health and Safety guidance 

Links and Resources

New Materials and Nanotechnology

Strictly speaking this resource is not about nanotechnology since it talks about the uses and applications of glass microspheres. These are glass beads which have diameters in the range 30 to 40 micrometres whist the largest nanoparticle is 0.1 micrometres (100 nm).

Nevertheless the particles can be considered as related to nanoparticles and a  number of interesting applications are discussed including using the microspheres for cancer treatment, timed drug delivery, and in hip replacement and Sensodyne toothpaste. The resource could be usefully used as an introduction to microparticles generally, before developing a more specific focus on nanoparticles and nanotechnology.

The resource includes a number of videos plus transcripts and a game related to the use of the particles in delivering targeted radiotherapy to cancer patients.

publication year
2010 to 2019

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Quick Guide: Nanotechnology

This guide on nanotechnology gives teachers a quick overview of the topic area. This would be useful reading for teachers preparing to teach this part of the syllabus for the first time who are unfamiliar with the key ideas in this area. The resource includes links to several websites for further information and greater detail.

publication year
2000 - 2009

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Super-Skinny Material That Could Transform Electronics

This is a short article on the discovery and some of the properties of graphene which could be used to enrich a discussion focusing on allotropes of carbon, or in particular the nature of the structure of graphite.

publication year
2000 - 2009

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Carbon *suitable for home teaching*

In this short (3 minute) video from the Royal Institution Professor Stephen Curry surveys the different allotropes of carbon and discusses the importance of the element to life. Included are some nice images of the structures of the allotropes and which could be used as a starter for a lesson looking at carbon as an element.

publication year
2010 to 2019

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Carbon and Phosphorus

In this short video  Nobel prizewinner Sir Harry Kroto discusses his discovery of buckminsterfullerene, and the C60 molecules from which it is composed, perhaps better and more affectionately known as bucky balls.

publication year
2010 to 2019

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The Melting Temperature of Carbon *suitable for home teaching*

This activity challenges students to use data on the melting temperature of a number of non-metallic elements to predict the melting temperature of carbon. Information is then provided to show that the logical prediction based on trends in data is very inaccurate.

The resource goes on to link the seemingly anomalously high melting temperature of carbon with its structure as a giant covalent solid whereas the other elements have simple molecular structures. This reinforces students' understanding of the crucial difference between these two types of covalent solid.

This activity would be suitable for more able students and encourages independent learning and an understanding of the importance, strength and weaknesses of predictions in scientific modeling.

publication year
2000 - 2009

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Carbon - the Element With Several Identities

This resource gives some background information of Sir Harry Kroto and his discovery of buckminsterfullerene and compares the structures of diamond, graphite and buckminsterfullerene.

It contains a useful visualisation to enable students to picture the size of buckminsterfullerene molecules and asks a series of questions to encourage students to learn and think about the structure and properties of carbon allotropes. This would form a useful class activity or could be used to introduce and stimulate interest in a project on the allotropes of carbon, perhaps combined with the short videos about carbon included in this list.

publication year
2000 - 2009

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Nanotechnology *suitable for home teaching*

This article provides a colourful and interesting, short introduction to nanotechnology. It discusses the topic of nanotechnology at a level and in a language suitable for GCSE students and includes many examples of actual and futuristic applications of this technology in an engaging and accessible way without being over technical. Could be used as a class handout for homework reading prior to a first lesson on nanotechnology or as an in class resource.

publication year
2000 - 2009

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Professional Knowledge: Chemistry

This fascinating 30 minute video is directed at improving teachers' professional knowledge, but sections of it would be suitable for showing to students. The first half of the video covers various aspects of nanotechnology, explaining what it is and showcasing some interesting aspects of nanotechnology, including the use of graphene in microcircuits and its potential to render silicon based technology obsolete. This is a very useful resource for those teaching nanotechnology for the first time and wanting more background, and particularly applications and anecdotes.

publication year
2000 - 2009

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