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The kind of matter and energy we can see and touch – whether it is in the form of atoms and molecules, or heat and light, only forms a tiny proportion of the content of the Universe, only about 5%. Over a quarter is dark matter, which is totally invisible but whose gravitational attraction can be detected; while over two thirds is dark energy, a force that pushes the Universe to expand ever faster.
Using Lego to build a nanoscope
16 September 2013
The world’s first low cost Atomic Force Microscope (AFM) has been developed in Beijing by a group of PhD students from UCL, Tsinghua University and Peking University – using Lego.
In the first event of its kind, LEGO2NANO brought together students, experienced makers and scientists to take on the challenge of building a cheap and effective AFM, a device able to probe objects only a millionth of a millimetre in size – far smaller than anything an optical microscope can observe.
Research–grade AFMs typically cost upwards of £50,000, and use custom hardware, however, the newly designed low–cost version could cost just a few hundred pounds to produce.
The design brief for the student teams was to build a functional nanoscope, using only Lego, Arduino microcontrollers, 3D–printed parts and consumer electronics. The event was co–sponsored by the Lego Foundation, and involved active participation by Chinese high–school students, as potential users of such low–cost science tools.
It took just five days for the student team to demonstrate the scanning functionality of their AFM, earning them the award for Best Technical Design.
Photo credit: Woody De–Yu Wang, Toyhouse, Tsinghua University
High resolution image
Contact Joanna Rooke (London Centre for Nanotechnology) for reproduction queries.
Page last modified on 16 sep 13 12:13