DNA Nanotechnology

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In this activity, learners explore deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA), a nanoscale structure that occurs in nature. Learners extract a sample of DNA from split peas and put the sample in an Eppendorf tube to take home. Learners discover that nanoscientists study DNA to understand its biological function and use it to make other nanoscale materials and devices.

Quick Guide

Preparation Time:
30 to 45 minutes

Learning Time:
10 to 30 minutes

Estimated Materials Cost:
Over $20 per group of students

Age Range:
Ages 6 - adult

Resource Types:
Activity, Demonstration, Experiment/Lab Activity, Lesson/Lesson Plan


Materials List (per group of students)

  • Powerpoint or hard copies of images
  • Prepared strips of paper and adhesive envelope labels
  • Pea mixture in labeled squirt bottles
  • Buffer solution in labeled dropper bottles
  • Alcohol in labeled squirt bottles
  • Glass vials (or test tubes and a holder)
  • Eppendorf tubes (1.5 ml or 2 ml)
  • String or yarn
  • Scissors
  • DNA extraction protocol handout
  • Safety glasses
  • Paper towels (for spills)
  • Dried split peas
  • Cold water
  • Blender
  • 1 c measuring cup
  • Mixing bowl or other container
  • Strainer that fits into the mixing bowl
  • Labeled squirt bottles (~500 ml)
  • Funnel (optional)
  • Cold water
  • Dishwashing liquid (detergent)
  • Salt
  • 1/2 cup measuring cup
  • 1 t measuring spoon
  • 1/8 t measuring spoon
  • Mixing bowl or other container
  • Spoon
  • Labeled dropper bottles (~100 ml)
  • Isopropyl alcohol (at least 70%)
  • Labeled squirt bottles (~250 ml bottles)
  • Strips of paper or register tape
  • Self-adhesive envelope labels
  • Marker


  • Engineering and Technology
    • Engineering
      • Bioengineering/Biomedical Engineering
      • Nanotechnology
    • Technology
  • Life Sciences
    • Heredity and Genetics
      • Human Genetics
      • DNA Structure and Function
  • Mathematics
    • Measurement
      • Units of Measurement
      • Size and Scale
  • Physical Sciences
    • Chemistry
      • Chemical Reactions
  • The Nature of Science
    • The Scientific Process
      • Conducting Investigations

Informal Categories

  • Food and Cooking


To use this activity, learners need to:

  • see
  • touch

Learning styles supported:

  • Involves hands-on or lab activities


Components that are part of this resource:

This resource is part of:

Access Rights:

  • Free access



Funding Sources:

  • National Science Foundation, 0532536
  • National Science Foundation, 0940143