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UCSB Material Research Lab (Kimberly Tafoya)

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Reviewed by: Kimberly Tafoya, 
Chemistry Teacher at Fillmore High School. 

UC Santa Barbara, Santa Barbara CA 93106, GPS coordinates, and a link to Google Map. 

  • 34.409941, -119.842257
  • N34° 24' 35" E119° 50' 32"
  • N34° 24.596 E119° 50.535

Description:  This field trip is offered to high school students that are college bound students. Students will have the opportunity to observe the scientific laboratories at a University of California, they will be exposed to UCSB's nanotechnology labs and have a seminar where they will learn about what material researchers study using an example using buckyballs. In addition, students will see the touch tanks and where they will be exposed to a variety of organisms that live along the Pacific coast.

Workshop 1: Buckyballs


In diamond, each carbon atom is bonded to four other carbon atoms. (A bond is the sharing of electrons between two atoms; we represent a bond by drawing a line between the atoms.) This creates a three dimensional network of bonds. The extended network of bonding is where diamond gets its strength.


Atomic structure of diamond


In graphite, the carbon atoms are only bonded in two dimensions. The carbon atoms form layered sheets of hexagons. Since there are no bonds between the layers, the layers can easily slip off one another. This is why graphite is a good material for 

pencils - layers come off and get left on the paper as you write.

Pencil with graphite leadAtomic Structure of graphite

Fullerenes (Buckyballs)

In 1996 Richard Smalley, Robert Curl, and Harold Kroto were awarded the Nobel Prize in chemistry for discovering a new form of carbon - the buckminster fullerene, or buckyball. A buckyball looks like a nanometer-sized soccer ball made from 60 carbon atoms. It was named after Buckminster Fuller, an architect who created geodesic dome structures, like the one in the middle of Disney's Epcot Center.

Disney's Epcot CenterAtomic structure of a buckyball

Carbon Nanotubes

The structure of a carbon nanotube is like a sheet of graphite rolled up into a tube. Depending on the direction of hexagons, nanotubes can be classified as either zigzag, armchair or chiral. Different types of nanotubes have different properties. When scientists make nanotubes, they tend to get a mixture of several types. A major challenge in nanoscience today is finding a way to make just one type of nanotube.

Carbon nanotube structures: (a) armchair, (b) zigzag, and (c) chiral
(a) armchair, (b) zigzag, (c) chiral

Workshop 2: Nanotechnology Lab:

Sand is largely silica that has broken into small grains. At the atomic scale, silica
consists of a three-dimensional network of covalently bonded silicon and oxygen atoms.
Typically, silica surfaces contain mostly oxygen atoms, many of which are covalently bonded to hydrogen atoms. The surface contains many polar bonds and can hydrogen-bond to water molecules. Therefore water is attracted to silica surfaces, which are said to be hydrophilic (water loving).

Magic Sand also consists of silica grains, but the grains have been specially treated in a way that greatly reduces the attraction of water molecules to their surfaces . In addition, the grains are usually dyed a distinctive color. Water does not wet the surfaces of Magic Sand grains, which are said to be hydrophobic (water fearing).

Audience: Students that are interested in going on to a 4 year institution and students interested in science should take advantage of this field trip and the opportunities that the Early Academic Outreach program offers many high schools in partnership through the University of Santa Barbara.
  • A chemistry teacher would benefit visiting UCSB because they could witness practical examples of material science at the Material Research Lab (MRL), and structures and properties of various materials. 
  • A biology teacher would benefit by a visit to UCSB because it provides local examples of organisms along the Pacific coast.
Science Concepts Addressed: Give examples of specific science concepts that may be addressed by visitng the field trip site and explain how they are addressed.  For example, the following science concepts can be addressed by a field trip to the Mount Wilson Observatory.

  • Students know the bonding characteristics of carbon that results in the formation of large variety of structures ranging from simple hydrocarbons to complex polymers and biological molecules. 

  • Students know atoms combine to form molecules by sharing electrons to form covalent or metallic bonds or by exchanging electrons to form ionic bonds. 
  • Relating structure to property: Students will differentiate between the 3 forms of carbon by building the three molecules and observing them at their structural level. In addition, students will see various real life examples of the three allotropes.
Study Guide:  Develop a study guide that could be used by students visiting this site. The study guide should be very clear and address specific science concepts.  The study guide should include the following:
Informational map: A simple map of the field trip site with key features labeled.
  • Tasks:  
    • Build the molecular structure for buckyballs, graphite or diamond.
    • Complete the worksheet for carbon allotropes.


  • Observations:  See Attached worksheet for questions



For additional information:  
EAOP: Early Academic Outreach Program

Mission Statement

To assist high-achieving and high-potential, first generation, and low-income students to attain high academic standards and provide the necessary academic support to matriculate into the University of California. Through collaborative efforts with other pre-college programs, we will provide students, their families, and communities with the necessary resources to increase eligibility, applications, and enrollments in post-secondary education. We are committed to supporting students ’ educational success through providing them educational options, academic support, and excellent participant-centered services through high professional standards.

Kimberly Tafoya,
Dec 16, 2011, 6:22 AM
Kimberly Tafoya,
Dec 14, 2011, 4:04 PM
Kimberly Tafoya,
Dec 16, 2011, 6:19 AM
Kimberly Tafoya,
Dec 14, 2011, 5:39 PM
Kimberly Tafoya,
Dec 14, 2011, 5:38 PM
Kimberly Tafoya,
Dec 14, 2011, 4:07 PM