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Clean Energy: Converting Light to Energy
Version 4. Last updated: April 1, 2008.

This unit explores the issue of energy production as a pressing global issue and how nanoscience could enable important breakthroughs in energy generation and conversion. In particular, traditional and newer "nano" solar technologies are introduced and explored.

Upon completing this unit, students will understand:

  1. Clean alternative energy technologies must be developed to provide sufficient energy to meet growing global demand, and must be sustainable both environmentally and economically.
  2. Nanoscience could enable important breakthroughs in solar energy technology through low cost, novel energy conversion mechanisms.
  3. Surface area to volume ratio is a function of particle size and shape. Increasing surface area normally increases the rate of reaction because there are more sites available for simultaneous reaction.
  4. Energy is neither created nor destroyed--it can only be converted into different forms.

Length: 2 lessons, up to 3 50-minute classroom periods if all lessons are used. Not all lessons are required. Use the lessons most appropriate for your students.


Creative Commons License This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License. See Publication Information [PDF] for attribution information.

Download the entire Clean Energy Unit [PDF] (30 MB).

Download a zip archive of the Microsoft Word and PPT source files (43 MB) if you want to adapt the materials under the Creative Commons license. PowerPoint [PPT] versions of the slides and accompanying video clips are also available separately, below.

For lesson 2, you will also need to:

Overview of Unit

Teacher materials:

  • For Anyone Planning to Teach Nanoscience...Read This First!
  • Clean Energy Overview and Learning Goals
  • Unit at a Glance: Suggested Sequencing of Activities
  • Alignment of Unit Activities with Learning Goals
  • Alignment of Unit Activities with Curriculum Topics
  • (Optional) Clean Energy Pretest/Posttest: Teacher Instructions & Grading Rubric

Student materials:

  • (Optional) Clean Energy: Pretest
  • (Optional) Clean Energy: Posttest

Lesson 1: Introduction to Clean Energy
Enduring Understandings: 1, 2, and 4

Teacher materials:

  • Introduction to Clean Energy: Teacher Lesson Plan
  • Clean Energy--The Potential of Nanoscience for Energy Production: PowerPoint [PPT] Slides & Video Clips & Teacher Notes (Unzip with a free utility like Stuffit Expander for Windows or Mac and keep PowerPoint and videoclips in same folder.)
  • Clean Energy Initial Ideas: Teacher Instructions
  • Hybrid Cars, Solar Cells, and Nanoscience: Teacher Key

Student materials:

  • Clean Energy Initial Ideas: Student Worksheet
  • Hybrid Cars, Solar Cells, and NanoScience: Student Reading & Worksheet

Lesson 2: Solar Energy and Nanoscience
Enduring Understandings: 2-4

Teacher materials:

  • Solar Energy and Nanoscience: Teacher Lesson Plan
  • Sunscreen Ingredients Activity: Teacher Instructions & Answer Key
  • Clean Solar Energy--The Impact of Nanoscale Science on Solar Energy Production: PowerPoint [PPT] Slides & Teacher Notes
  • Solar Cell Technology: Teacher Reading
  • Silicon and Nanocrystalline Solar Cell Animations: Teacher Instructions & Answer Key
  • Nanocrystalline Solar Cell Lab Activity: Teacher Instructions
    (Order the Nanocrystalline Solar Cell kit for this laboratory activity)
  • Reflecting on the Guiding Questions: Teacher Instructions

Student materials:

  • Silicon and Nanocrystalline Solar Cell Animations: Student Instructions
  • Nanocrystalline Solar Cell Lab Activity: Student Instructions
  • Reflecting on the Guiding Questions: Student Worksheet

For the Solar Cell Animations, see the Solar Cell Animations (requires Flash Player version 7 or higher).

If you would like to have a copy of the animation on your computer for offline viewing, download the following files to the same folder, and then open the solarcellanimation.html file in your web browser.

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