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published by the University of Wisconsin MRSEC
supported by the National Science Foundation
This Project-Based Learning module for middle school explores the properties of Nitinol, a nickel-titanium alloy with shape memory that is representative of "smart materials". It presents real-world situations allowing students to explore the alloy and witness its remarkable atomic ballet. The wire samples used in the unit can be bent at room temperature, but return to original shape when heated by hot air or water.

Editor's Note: This week-long module meets multiple national standards in a highly engaging manner. It could be instrumental in helping students understand how structural changes at the atomic level are the basis for many types of phase change. It also gives students crucial experience in materials design, which makes the project come to life. Nitinol wire is readily available for purchase at approximately $2.00 per foot.  

Exploring the Nanoworld is an initiative to create educational materials that promote understanding of nano-scale science in grades 6-12. It features movies, curricula, lesson plans, and interactive student activities.
Subjects Levels Resource Types
General Physics
- Properties of Matter
Modern Physics
- Atomic Physics
- Nanoscience
- Nuclear Physics
= Models of the Nucleus
Thermo & Stat Mech
- Phase Transitions
- Middle School
- High School
- Lower Undergraduate
- Informal Education
- Upper Undergraduate
- Instructional Material
= Instructor Guide/Manual
= Laboratory
= Lesson/Lesson Plan
= Project
= Student Guide
= Unit of Instruction
Intended Users Formats Ratings
- Educators
- Learners
- General Publics
- text/html
- application/pdf
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Eye Protection Must be Worn   Safety Gloves Must be worn   Hot Liquids  

Access Rights:
Free access and
Available for purchase
Most resources are available for free. Books, CD-ROMs, and other education materials are offered for sale.
© 2008 The Board of Regents of the University of Wisconsin System
crystal structure, crystalline structure, experimentation, materials, materials science, memory alloys, nanostructure, nanotechnology, nanoworld, phase change, scientific method, smart materials
Record Creator:
April 15, 2004 by Kara Chiodo
Record Cloner:
Metadata instance created July 6, 2011 by Caroline Hall
Record Updated:
August 14, 2016 by Lyle Barbato
Last Update
when Cataloged:
August 31, 2008
Other Collections:

AAAS Benchmark Alignments (2008 Version)

4. The Physical Setting

4D. The Structure of Matter
  • 6-8: 4D/M1b. The atoms of any element are like other atoms of the same element, but are different from the atoms of other elements.
  • 6-8: 4D/M1cd. Atoms may link together in well-defined molecules, or may be packed together in crystal patterns. Different arrangements of atoms into groups compose all substances and determine the characteristic properties of substances.
  • 6-8: 4D/M8. Most substances can exist as a solid, liquid, or gas depending on temperature.
  • 6-8: 4D/M10. A substance has characteristic properties such as density, a boiling point, and solubility, all of which are independent of the amount of the substance and can be used to identify it.
  • 9-12: 4D/H7b. An enormous variety of biological, chemical, and physical phenomena can be explained by changes in the arrangement and motion of atoms and molecules.

8. The Designed World

8B. Materials and Manufacturing
  • 6-8: 8B/M2. Manufacturing usually involves a series of steps, such as designing a product, obtaining and preparing raw materials, processing the materials mechanically or chemically, and assembling the product. All steps may occur at a single location or may occur at different locations.
  • 6-8: 8B/M5. Efforts to find replacements for existing materials are driven by an interest in finding materials that are cheaper to obtain or produce or that have more desirable properties.
  • 9-12: 8B/H4. Increased knowledge of the properties of particular molecular structures helps in the design and synthesis of new materials for special purposes.

12. Habits of Mind

12C. Manipulation and Observation
  • 6-8: 12C/M3. Make accurate measurements of length, volume, weight, elapsed time, rates, and temperature by using appropriate devices.
  • 6-8: 12C/M5. Analyze simple mechanical devices and describe what the various parts are for; estimate what the effect of making a change in one part of a device would have on the device as a whole.
12D. Communication Skills
  • 6-8: 12D/M6. Present a brief scientific explanation orally or in writing that includes a claim and the evidence and reasoning that supports the claim.
  • 6-8: 12D/M8. Explain a scientific idea to someone else, checking understanding and responding to questions.

Common Core State Standards for Mathematics Alignments

Ratios and Proportional Relationships (6-7)

Understand ratio concepts and use ratio reasoning to solve problems. (6)
  • 6.RP.3.a Make tables of equivalent ratios relating quantities with whole number measurements, find missing values in the tables, and plot the pairs of values on the coordinate plane. Use tables to compare ratios.
  • 6.RP.3.d Use ratio reasoning to convert measurement units; manipulate and transform units appropriately when multiplying or dividing quantities.
Analyze proportional relationships and use them to solve real-world and mathematical problems. (7)
  • 7.RP.2.b Identify the constant of proportionality (unit rate) in tables, graphs, equations, diagrams, and verbal descriptions of proportional relationships.
  • 7.RP.2.c Represent proportional relationships by equations.

The Number System (6-8)

Apply and extend previous understandings of numbers to the system of rational numbers. (6)
  • 6.NS.8 Solve real-world and mathematical problems by graphing points in all four quadrants of the coordinate plane. Include use of coordinates and absolute value to find distances between points with the same first coordinate or the same second coordinate.

Common Core State Reading Standards for Literacy in Science and Technical Subjects 6—12

Key Ideas and Details (6-12)
  • RST.6-8.3 Follow precisely a multistep procedure when carrying out experiments, taking measurements, or performing technical tasks.
Integration of Knowledge and Ideas (6-12)
  • RST.6-8.9 Compare and contrast the information gained from experiments, simulations, video, or multimedia sources with that gained from reading a text on the same topic.

Common Core State Writing Standards for Literacy in History/Social Studies, Science, and Technical Subjects 6—12

Research to Build and Present Knowledge (6-12)
  • WHST.6-8.7 Conduct short research projects to answer a question (including a self-generated question), drawing on several sources and generating additional related, focused questions that allow for multiple avenues of exploration.
  • WHST.6-8.9 Draw evidence from informational texts to support analysis, reflection, and research.
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AIP Format
(University of Wisconsin MRSEC, Madison, 2008), WWW Document, (
Exploring the Nanoworld: Memory Metal, (University of Wisconsin MRSEC, Madison, 2008), <>.
APA Format
Exploring the Nanoworld: Memory Metal. (2008, August 31). Retrieved January 23, 2017, from University of Wisconsin MRSEC:
Chicago Format
National Science Foundation. Exploring the Nanoworld: Memory Metal. Madison: University of Wisconsin MRSEC, August 31, 2008. (accessed 23 January 2017).
MLA Format
Exploring the Nanoworld: Memory Metal. Madison: University of Wisconsin MRSEC, 2008. 31 Aug. 2008. National Science Foundation. 23 Jan. 2017 <>.
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@misc{ Title = {Exploring the Nanoworld: Memory Metal}, Publisher = {University of Wisconsin MRSEC}, Volume = {2017}, Number = {23 January 2017}, Month = {August 31, 2008}, Year = {2008} }
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%T Exploring the Nanoworld: Memory Metal
%D August 31, 2008
%I University of Wisconsin MRSEC
%C Madison
%O text/html

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%0 Electronic Source
%D August 31, 2008
%T Exploring the Nanoworld: Memory Metal
%I University of Wisconsin MRSEC
%V 2017
%N 23 January 2017
%8 August 31, 2008
%9 text/html

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