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The Chemical Educator

ISSN: 1430-4171 (electronic version)

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Abstract Volume 16 (2011) pp 91-98

Nanobots and Europa: Teaching Nanotechnology via Futuristic Space Exploration

Britney Lane, Mallory Brackin, Tasha Lott, Amanda Frederiksen, Christopher Scott Merritt, Tiffany Stewart, and Thomas J. Manning*

Department of Chemistry, Valdosta State University, Valdosta, Georgia, 31698,
Received January 9, 2011. Accepted February 27, 2011.

Published: 18 March 2011

Abstract. A unique methodology is used to teach a range of structures prevalent in nanotechnology. Students are presented with a mission to the moon Europa. Their goal is to launch a large number of nanobots from a hydrobot that has penetrated Europaís ice surface. Each nanobot is fixed with a piece of genetic material needed to keep an invasive species of bacteria from taking over a pristine marine ecosystem sediment. The genetic material is attached to the exterior of the satellite by a C60-based system. The body of the ship is made of a single piece of graphene. The nanobots have a built in quantum computer, a system to generate power, a propulsion system based on thermal heating, a gyroscope which takes advantage of Jupiterís strong magnetic field, and the nanobots use single-walled nanotubes to connect components. Students build each component of the space ship individually using computational software and then construct the nanobot. The satellite is also characterized by an empirical formula (C5857H1296Fe8Mg4N266O312P36), a dipole moment (2479.395 Debye), geometric factors (i.e. length = 9.97 nm), and other parameters that can be calculated with molecular mechanics level software. While the exercise is focused on nanotechnology, it does bring in other areas such as astronomy and space exploration, computational chemistry, biochemistry, and physics. Once completed, students are given the background on each component and its chemical and physical properties as published in the literature. The students perform a critical analysis to evaluate the potential for each component and the nanobot as a whole to carry out its task.

Key Words: Computers in Chemistry; physical chemistry; computational chemistry, biochemistry

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