QUESTIONS for Cool Jobs: Super Small Science

Arrows point to elbows created in carbon nanotubes in this close-up of a nanotube sponge. The elbows are created by boron atoms, and give the material its sponginess.

Mauricio Terrones/Pennsylvania State University


Before reading

  1. Imagine two carpets are the same shade of black. One is thick and the other thin. Would you expect the shaggier carpet to be better or worse at absorbing light? Explain your answer.

  2. Yarn is made of twisted fibers. What property does that twist enhance?

During reading

  1. Define “nano.”
  2. Describe the sizes of some objects at the nanoscale.
  3. When and why can gold change color?
  4. Quantum physics deals with… what?
  5. Explain the function of a catalyst.
  6. What are nanotubes?
  7. Describe the most significant property of Vantablack.
  8. Why does nano yarn contract when heated?
  9. What property can boron give carbon nanotubes?
  10. A hydrophobic material does what to water? To oil?

After reading

  1. Describe how nano yarns can be tweaked to do work, such as with a “guest” material. Using information from the story, what was the guest used, how was it added and what function did it give the fiber. 
  2. Brainstorm with a partner about some other applications for Vantablack.


  1. Mônica Jung De Andrade creates nanotubes 350,000 nanometers long. If a nanometer is a billionth of a meter, how long are the nanotubes in microns (millionths of a meter)? In millimeters (thousands of a meter)? How about in centimeters (hundredths of a meter)?