Nano-Rocks and Mega-Molecules (Session 1)
Instructor: Udo Becker
Did you ever wonder what the ingredients are that rocks and minerals are made of, what causes the color of a certain mineral, or how we know how old a certain mineral is? After learning the basics of what these ingredients are and what properties minerals have, we will look into their properties at a large scale (cm to miles), small scale (what you can see with a microscope), and submicroscopic or atomic scale. Some features that we see at the atomic scale reveal the age of a mineral, some reveal why they are magnetic, dissolve or grow. Students will be introduced to techniques that can be used to analyze microscopic properties that tell us something about reactivity in the environment, age, radioactive decay, color, magnetic properties and so on. In fact, we will not only look at rocks but use the same techniques to examine similar properties of magnetic tapes, CDs, bugs etc. Thus, we will go back and forth between the scale that you are used to (rocks as building materials, mines …) and one that is about a billion times smaller (atoms and the nanoworld).
Some examples: Some mineral hand samples look perfectly crystalline, though we can visualize traces of radioactive decay (invisible to the naked eye), which is one method to determine the age of the rock. You may think that a piece of rock in your hand may just sit there and not do anything. However, even at room temperature, atoms are wiggling about quite vigorously. Crystals can have beautiful symmetry – can we find the same symmetry in our daily life?