Atoms in solids
The first lesson shows that all matter consists of atoms. It will take students inside graphite and a diamond. Students will see that both materials consist of the same carbon atoms, but have very different properties because their atomic level structure is different. Students will also learn that atoms in solids do not stay still – they vibrate.
This lesson is a part of MEL VR Science Simulations. Learn more →
atoms, matter, state of matter, solids, matter properties
- Atoms in solids don't move.
- Learn that matter consists of atoms
- Learn that atoms in solids are packed close together and remain in the same place
- Find out that atoms in solids are constantly vibrating
- See that different arrangements of the same type of atoms lead to different properties in solids
- Compare the size of atoms to other objects
The aim is to show the students that the structure of graphite (seen in VR) is what allows pencils to write. As we write, layers of graphite are mechanically peeled off the surface of the pencil core. As graphite is a conductor, we can see that a pencil line can connect an electrical circuit.
Ask students to connect an electrical circuit with a pencil line. The diode will light up. Let students try to explain why this happens.
History and sources
- From ancient Greeks to Dalton's theory and modern days.
- Modern techniques to see atoms: scanning tunneling microscope – image of a single-wall carbon nanotube: .
Topics to discuss
- How can we trust theories about things we can't see?
- The best scientific explanation is based on evidence (observations) and scientific knowledge.
Fun facts and quotes
- How small atoms are: If atoms were the size of an apple, an apple would be bigger than the Earth.
- A copper penny contains a trillion times (1,000,000,000,000) more atoms than there are people on the Earth (which is greater than 7 billion).
From the lectures of Nobel Prize winner Richard Feynman:
“If, in some cataclysm, all of the scientific knowledge were to be destroyed and only one sentence passed on to the next generations of creatures, what statement would contain the most information in the fewest words? I believe it is the atomic hypothesis (or the atomic fact, or whatever you wish to call it) that all things are made of atoms—little particles that move around in perpetual motion, attracting each other when they are a little distance apart, but repelling upon being squeezed into one another.”
- Name something around you that consists of atoms.
- Name something that doesn't consist of atoms.
Count how long a line of 1,000,000 sulfur atoms would be if arranged side by side, if a single sulfur atom is 200 pm (0.0000000002 m).
Please see below for the link to a Google form containing a quiz on the material above.
This can be assigned during class time or as homework. The quizzes are marked and the system shows which questions students get correct and incorrect. Please note that students should record their scores, as they will not be viewable later.