The feet of the gecko cling to virtually any surface. This scanning electron microscope image shows one of the branching hairs, or setae, on the sole of a gecko's foot. These hairs nestle into nanoscale niches on the contact surface.
The nanoscale structures on a gecko's foot enable it to cling to most surfaces. This scanning electron microscope image shows multiwalled carbon nanotubes attached to a polymer backing, an experiment designed to replicate the gecko foot's adhesive properties.
Red blood cells carry a protein called hemoglobin which has a molecular structure adapted to transport oxygen to body tissues. This scanning electron micrograph shows the cells' characteristic donut-like shapes.
• SIZE: The typical diameter of a human red blood cell is 6-8 µm.
• IMAGING TOOL: Scanning electron microscope
The gecko's amazing ability to cling to vertical or inverted surfaces is due to the interaction between nanoscale structures on its feet and tiny crevices on the wall or ceiling. The soles of gecko feet are made up of overlapping adhesive lamellae covered with millions of superfine hairs, or setae, each of which branches out at the end into hundreds of spatula-shaped structures. These flexible pads—each measuring only a few nanometers across—curve to fit inside unseen cracks and divots on the surface. The combined adhesion of these millions of pads holds the gecko in place.
The orientation of the nickel nanowires shown in this scanning electron microscope can be changed by altering the direction of an applied magnetic field.
Nanowires are a key focus of nanotechnology research due to their potential uses in nanoscale electronic, magnetic, optical, and mechanical devices. Nickel nanowires in particular may play an important role in increasing the memory capacity of computer hard disc drives.
• SIZE: The nanowires are 100-200 nm in diameter and about 20 µm in length.
• IMAGING TOOL: Scanning Electron Microscope (SEM)
This is a scanning electron microscope image of a silica nanowire on a silica aerogel surface. New technologies have made it possible to draw glass in long, ultra-smooth wires with uniform diameters in the nanometer range. Because of their extraordinary uniformity, these nanowires have unique properties important in optics and photonics, both of which require precise control of light.
• SIZE: The nanowire is 530 nm long and the radius of the bent wire is 8 µm.
• IMAGING TOOL: Scanning Electron Microscope
"Exploring Tools - 3D Imaging" is a hands-on activity in which visitors use 3D glasses to discover what ordinary objects look like under magnification. They learn that researchers use special tools and techniques, including 3D imaging, to work on the nanoscale.
The NACK center at Penn State University has set up a remote access to the Instrumentation available in their labs for educators to use in class. This is available free of cost to educators. Traditionally, an engineer from Penn State University orchestrates the instrument's use, while offering additional assistance via audio and visual internet software. However if you are familiar with the equipment (AFM, SEM , UV-Vis) you can control it from your location using your computer, internet connection and Skype.