The Carbon Playground, Discovery Center Museum, Rockford IL, various science people

My chemist heart skipped a beat when I heard about the new Carbon Playground at the Discovery Center Museum in Rockford, IL, the first  place in the world where children can experience the atomic-level structure of carbon, writ large as playground climbers in C60, nanotube, and graphene forms!

C60, aka the ‘buckyball’  is already a familiar form on the playground, forming the basis for the geodesic dome climbers based upon the structural imaginings of Buckminster Fuller (thus the buckyball name) and popular since the 1960s.  But while those vintage climbers look molecular, they aren’t true to the actual structure.  This climber is, because it was designed from, yes, X-ray Crystallography Data!  Be still my heart.

The twisting nanotube is a 5 feet long rope tunnel woven into the pattern of a carbon nanotube, and the graphene sheet–which you can think of as a flat single layer of hexagons–is currently being installed as a climbing wall.

The playground pieces are approximately 2.7 billion times larger than the actual molecules.

“The Carbon Playground Project has generated much interest and is being disseminated through theNanoscale Informal Science Education Network. We are considering building additional sets of the three basic models as well as adding additional structures in the future, such as screw dislocation “trees”, a diamond network solid, graphite, and a C70 buckyball; other possibilities are conical micro-point sections of carbon and metal oxide tetrapods.”   I cannot wait.

And this is an appropriate time to say, because I know you were wondering, that my new company has synthesized its first nanoparticles, yayhooray!  They look like brown sludge. Everyone expects them to sparkle or spin or something.  (Aside to the google people who read the blog:  I know how to power your contact lens without that fiddly wireless power.  Get in touch.)

[See also previous post on the interesting geodesic climber by South Korean Sehwah Oh]

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