Molecular Self-Assembly

Explore how molecules assemble themselves into defined patterns, a process called molecular self-assembly.

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In this activity, students interact with 12 models to observe emergent phenomena as molecules assemble themselves. Investigate the factors that are important to self-assembly, including shape and polarity. Try to assemble a monolayer by "pushing" the molecules to the substrate (it's not easy!). Rotate complex molecules to view their structure. Finally, create your own nanostructures by selecting molecules, adding charges to them, and observing the results of self-assembly.

Molecular Self-Assembly Video Tour

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Subject
Biology

Focus Area
Modeling and Simulation

Grade Level
High School

License
CC BY 4.0

AAAS Benchmark Alignments (2008)

4. The Physical Setting

4D. The Structure of Matter
  • 4D/M3ab. By the end of the 8th grade, students should know that atoms and molecules are perpetually in motion. Increased temperature means greater average energy of motion, so most substances expand when heated.
  • 4D/M6c*. By the end of the 8th grade, students should know that carbon and hydrogen are common elements of living matter.
  • 4D/M11** (NSES). By the end of the 8th grade, students should know that substances react chemically in characteristic ways with other substances to form new substances with different characteristic properties.
  • 4D/H7a. By the end of the 12th grade, students should know that atoms often join with one another in various combinations in distinct molecules or in repeating three-dimensional crystal patterns.
  • 4D/H8. By the end of the 12th grade, students should know that the configuration of atoms in a molecule determines the molecule's properties. Shapes are particularly important in how large molecules interact with others.
  • 4D/H9b. By the end of the 12th grade, students should know that some atoms and molecules are highly effective in encouraging the interaction of others.
4G. Forces of Nature
  • 4G/H2a*. By the end of the 12th grade, students should know that electric forces acting within and between atoms are vastly stronger than the gravitational forces acting between the atoms. At larger scales, gravitational forces accumulate to produce a large and noticeable effect, whereas electric forces tend to cancel each other out.

5. The Living Environment

5C. Cells
  • 5C/H3. By the end of the 12th grade, students should know that the work of the cell is carried out by the many different types of molecules it assembles, mostly proteins. Protein molecules are long, usually folded chains made from 20 different kinds of amino acid molecules. The function of each protein molecule depends on its specific sequence of amino acids and its shape. The shape of the chain is a consequence of attractions between its parts.

8. The Designed World

8B. Materials and Manufacturing
  • 8B/H4*. By the end of the 12th grade, students should know that increased knowledge of the properties of particular molecular structures helps in the design and synthesis of new materials for special purposes.
  • 8B/H6**. By the end of the 12th grade, students should know that groups of atoms and molecules can form structures that can be measured in billionths of a meter. The properties of structures at this scale (known as the nanoscale) and materials composed of such structures, can be very different than the properties at the macroscopic scale because of the increase in the ratio of surface area to volume and changes in the relative strengths of different forces at different scales. Increased knowledge of the properties of materials at the nanoscale provides a basis for the development of new materials and new uses of existing materials.

11. Common Themes

11B. Models
  • 11B/M2. By the end of the 8th grade, students should know that mathematical models can be displayed on a computer and then modified to see what happens.
  • 11B/M4** (BSL). By the end of the 8th grade, students should know that simulations are often useful in modeling events and processes.
  • 11B/H1a*. By the end of the 12th grade, students should know that a mathematical model uses rules and relationships to describe and predict objects and events in the real world.

Copyright
© Copyright The Concord Consortium

Record Link
<a href="">The Concord Consortium. Molecular Self-Assembly. Concord: The Concord Consortium, 2011, June 21.</a>

AIP
Molecular Self-Assembly (The Concord Consortium, Concord, 2011, June 21), WWW Document, (https://concord.org/).

AJP
Molecular Self-Assembly (The Concord Consortium, Concord, 2011, June 21), WWW Document, (https://concord.org/).

APA
Molecular Self-Assembly. (2011, June 21). Retrieved 2017, April 28, from The Concord Consortium: https://concord.org/

Disclaimer: The Concord Consortium offers citation styles as a guide only. We cannot offer interpretations about citations as this is an automated procedure.

Requirements

This activity requires the Java Runtime Environment version 5 (sometimes referred to as 1.5) or later with Java Webstart. You can download it at java.com.

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Grade Level
High School
Subject
Biology
Focus Area
Modeling and Simulation
Rating
5
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