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Sustainability Lesson Clearinghouse

Nanotubes, Surface Area & NanoSolar Cells

Lesson Description:
This unit takes students through several introductory lessons designed to gain a better understanding of the 'nano' scale as it relates to the creation of a (dye-sensitized) solar cell (dssc). The introductory lessons guide students through activities covering volume, surface area and density and exploration of the relationship between these factors. the unit culminates with students building a gratzel cell, a solar cell employing a layer of nanospheres of tio2 as the semiconductor and blackberry juice as the light absorber in a non-si-based solar cell. Students are able to build a small solar cell and test its efficiency.
Lesson Type:
  • Experiment
  • Other

Sustainability Topic:
  • Energy

Standards Addressed:
Nanotechnology Idea
  • The idea of "nano" - being small
  • Nanomaterials have a high surface area(nanosensors for toxins)
  • Synthesis of nanomaterials and support chemistry (ie. titanium dioxide)
  • Shape memory alloys and smart materials
  • Nanocrystalline solar cells
  • Nanocoatings resistive to bacteria and pollution
  • Nanomaterials, such as mr (magneto-resistive) fluids in security
  • Richard P. Feynman's talk, "There is Plenty of Room at the Bottom". Feynman had a vision.
  • Nanocosmetics and nanoclothing
  • Nanotechnology and science ethics

Standard it can address: 
  • Structure of atoms
  • Structure and properties of matter
  • Personal and community health
  • Chemical reactions
  • Motion and forces
  • Abilities of technological design
  • Understanding about science and technology
  • Conservation of energy and increase in disorder (entropy)
  • Interactions of energy and matter
  • Natural resources
  • Environmental quality
  • Natural and human-induced hazards
  • Science and technology in local, national, and global challenges
  • Science as a human endeavor
  • Nature of scientific knowledge
  • Historical perspective
  • Population growth

Materials Needed:
  • Minimum of four beakers (nano-“tubes”) of various sizes (10 ml – 600 ml)
  • String
  • Scissors
  • Ruler
  • Water
  • Triple beam balance 
  • 100 ml graduated cylinder 

School or Group:
U.S. Department of Energy
Contact Email:
Lesson Documents:
application/pdf acts_amadi_solar_306.pdf
Lesson Documents:
application/pdf acts_amadi_solar_306.pdf
Located in: Science

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