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Magic Sand Activity

Hydrophobic sand, also known as magic sand, is an example of science on the nanoscale. Treatment of the surface of individual grains of sand with a hydrophobic monolayer results in a new type of sand that behaves very differently from regular beach sand.

In this activity, visitors are invited to examine the differences between magic sand and regular sand by exposing both to water. The nanoscale treatment of magic sand that results in its unexpected behavior is demonstrated with a magnetic model, and potential applications of magic sand are discussed.


  • Magic Sand activity guide
  • Regular sand
  • Hydrophobic “magic” sand
  • 2 Cups - preferably clear
  • Water
  • Magic sand model:
    • Magnetic “sand” surface model (e.g., a beige sheet of metal)
    • Non-magnetic "monolayer" surface covering (e.g., a sheet of wood painted to match the magic sand)
    • Magnetic “water” molecules (available from http://www.3dmoleculardesigns.com)
    • Picture of atomic structure of magic sand (optional)
    • Stands for model and graphic

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Self-assembly background


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