Materials World Modules

An Inquiry & Design-Based Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) Education Program

Mini Nanoscale Drug Delivery Module

■ Making Biodegradable Alginate Beads
■ Determining the Rate of "Drug" Release

Design Project
■ Designing a Time-Release Nanomedicine

Through the following key select activities, students learn how nanotechnology is revolutionizing the approach to drug delivery and medical diagnostics. They are engaged in a simulated, as well as actual synthesis of alginate nanoparticles. Each activity prepares students for the Design Project, in which they are challenged to design a prototype nanomedicine with an optimum time-release profile.

MWM will give students an opportunity to understand the world around them in a way they have never experienced before. The modules promote an awareness of the roles science and technology play in society and guide students to take increased control of their work.

Module At-a-Glance

Module At-a-Glance

Activity 3: Making Biodegradable Alginate Beads
Students make biodegradable alginate polymer beads by reacting drops of sodium alginate in calcium chloride solution. Students explore how varying concentrations of the two reactants, surfactants, and oil affect the size of the beads.

Activity 4: Determining the Rate of "Drug" Release
Students load a red dye as the “drug” into alginate beads made earlier to conduct drug release studies. They measure red dye concentration as a function of time to determine the kinetics of “drug” release, as well as the effects of particle size on the release profile.

Design Project: Designing a Time-Release Nanomedicine
Students construct a set of prototype time-released drug delivery systems in the form of alginate beads. The beads are embedded with a red dye as the “drug,” which is released into sodium citrate solution. To meet specific time-release profile, students make a number of choices regarding the design of their prototypes. Students test and evaluate their prototypes and then redesign the prototypes to make them more effective.

Connecting to Your Curriculum

Connecting to Your Curriculum

Materials World Modules are simple to organize and inexpensive to run. They are designed to be easily incorporated into any middle school science or high school science lab or lecture course. The chart below lists the subjects covered in the Activities and Design Projects sections of this module.


  • Structure and Properties of Matter
  • Biochemical Reactions
  • Mixing
  • Polymer Cross-linking
  • Emulsion
  • Sieve Separation
  • Organic Chemistry
  • Particle Dissolution
  • Le Chatelier's Principle of Chemical Equilibrium

Physics & Physical Science

  • Properties of Matter
  • Physical and Chemical Changes
  • Diffusion
  • Particle Porosity


  • Measuring
  • Graphing
    • Making and Reading Graphs
    • Interpreting Graphs
  • Computing
    • Averages
    • Rates

Biology and Life Science

  • Cancer
  • Pharmaceutical Drugs
  • Absorption and Diffusion Rates
  • Classes of Nanomedicine
  • Technology in Medicine
  • Medical Treatment of Diseases

Technical Education

  • Designing
  • Building Prototypes
  • Communications
  • Optimization
  • Iterative Design
  • Internet Research

@ Materials World Modules