Exploring the Nanoworld with LEGO Bricks: Probing the Structure of Materials at the Nanoscale

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In this activity (pages 17-31), learners are introduced to techniques that are used to determine the structures of solid materials. Building or disassembling an instrument built from LEGO bricks provides a revealing view of the instrument and the principles behind it. Learners are introduced to scanning probe microscopy, charge-coupled devices (CCDs), chromatography, and diffractometers. Additional instructions are provided in Appendices 2.1-2.3.

Quick Guide

Preparation Time:
Under 5 minutes

Learning Time:
1 to 2 hours

Estimated Materials Cost:
$5 - $10 per group of students

Age Range:
Ages 14 - adult

Resource Types:
Activity, Model, Simulation


Materials List (per group of students)

  • LEGO blocks of different sizes and colors


  • Engineering and Technology
    • Engineering
      • Metallurgy and Materials Engineering
      • Nanotechnology
  • Physical Sciences
    • Vibration and Waves
    • Light and Optics
      • Lenses and Mirrors
    • States of Matter
      • Solids
    • Structure and Properties of Matter
      • Atomic Structure

Informal Categories

  • Model Building
  • Toys


To use this activity, learners need to:

  • see
  • see color
  • 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
  • University of Wisconsin-Madison
  • LEGO Dacta