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Discovery Center adds unique playground structure

Modified: Thursday, Nov 8th, 2012

First, second, and third grade students from the Children’s House Montessori School in Dundee try out the nanotube structure in the Carbon Playground at Discovery Center Museum. (Photo contributed)

ROCKFORD –– A new portion of playground opened Oct. 25 at Discovery Center Museum and is the first in the world built around unique structures formed by the element carbon.

Carbon has been called the element of life because it combines with other elements to make up living organisms, but all by itself it also forms structures that have phenomenal strength, based on the power of the chemical bonds between carbon atoms.

Conceived at UW–Madison, the playground is designed for elementary-schoolers, and features climbing structures based on the soccer-ball-like buckyball molecule, the pipe-shaped carbon nanotube, and graphene, a molecule that looks like chicken wire and is just one atom thick.

"We chose carbon because it exhibits a lot of different structures, and you could consider making them into playground equipment," says John Moore, professor of chemistry. "Other elements do not produce such a variety of structures, and many of them would not be suitable for playground equipment.”

But the playground is not just about climbing and clambering, Moore says. "These structures have been critical areas for chemical research for over 20 years, so they make for a good scientific story, not just a great playground."

For the complete article see the 11-07-2012 issue.

Click here to purchase an electronic version of the 11-07-2012 paper.

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