Magic Sand: Nanosurfaces

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This is an activity/demo in which learners are exposed to the difference bewteen hydrophobic surfaces (water repelling) and hydrophilic surfaces (water loving). This activity also demonstrates how changing the size of material to nanoscale changes its behavior at the macroscale. The instructions assume that Magic Sand is performed as a demonstration, but it works great a a hands-on activity as well.

Quick Guide

Preparation Time:
5 to 10 minutes

Learning Time:
10 to 30 minutes

Estimated Materials Cost:
$10 - $20 per group of students

Age Range:
Ages 6 - adult

Resource Types:
Activity, Demonstration


Materials List (per group of students)

  • Regular sand (available at most hardware and garden stores)
  • Magic Sand®
  • 2 medium trays to display sand
  • 2 small trays to dump regular and Magic Sand into after straining the water.
  • 2 tubs or buckets (one to hold wet, used beach sand, the other to hold wet Magic Sand)
  • 2 plastic glasses, preferably clear
  • 2 graduated cylinders 25-50 ml (1-2 oz)
  • Two squares of Cheesecloth (this is for clean up, you can paper towels too)
  • Two rubber bands (optional--to hold cheesecloth in place during straining)
  • Water (~20-40 ml, or 1-2 oz, are needed for each interaction)
  • Towels (for wiping down cups between demonstrations)
  • Paper towels and other supplies to clean up sand or water spills
  • Magnetic board, available at office supply stores or toy stores (models the surface of regular sand)
  • Nonmagnetic board (models the non-polar monolayer on Magic Sand®. Board can be made from a variety of materials--poster board, plywood, etc--available at local hardware store or lumber yard)
  • Easels to support magnetic board (and nonmagnetic board)
  • Poster
  • Magnetic "water" molecule models


  • Engineering and Technology
    • Engineering
      • Nanotechnology
  • Mathematics
    • Measurement
      • Size and Scale
  • Physical Sciences
    • Chemistry
      • Chemical Bonding
    • States of Matter
      • Solids
      • Liquids


To use this activity, learners need to:

  • see

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 Source:

  • National Science Foundation, ESI-0532536