Exploring Size: Scented Solutions

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This is an activity in which learners will find that they can detect differences in concentration better with their nose (smelling) than with their eyes (seeing). Our sense of smell allows us to experience nanometer-sized things (scent molecules, or esters) that are too small to see with our eyes. By sniffing a series of diluted scent solutions, learners discover that nano-sized particles may be too small to see, but they're not too small to smell! This activity is great for NanoDays celebration, but can be used on its own.

Quick Guide

Preparation Time:
10 to 30 minutes

Learning Time:
5 to 10 minutes

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

Age Range:
Ages 4 - adult

Resource Types:
Activity, Lesson/Lesson Plan

English, Spanish


  • Engineering and Technology
    • Engineering
      • Nanotechnology
  • Life Sciences
    • Human Senses and Perception
      • Smell
      • Vision
  • Mathematics
    • Measurement
      • Size and Scale
  • Physical Sciences
    • Chemistry
      • Solutions
    • Structure and Properties of Matter
  • The Nature of Science
    • The Scientific Process
      • Conducting Investigations


To use this activity, learners need to:

  • see
  • see color
  • smell

Learning styles supported:

  • Involves hands-on or lab activities