Materials World Modules

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

Mini Manipulation of Light in the Nanoworld Module

Observing Interference
Observing Iridescence

Design Project
Fabricating Photonic Crystals

Through the following key select activities, students will learn about how light interacts with matter at sub-wavelength length scales. When they complete the Activities, they will be ready for the Design Project in which they will fabricate, test, and evaluate their own photonic crystals.

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: Observing Interference
Interference results whenever two or more waves occupy the same space at the same time. Waves diffracting from two nearby coherent sources will generate patterns of interference. Students examine similarities and differences in the patterns generated by different types of waves.

Activity 4: Observing Iridescence
When white light is shone on objects that have structure on the same length scale as the wavelength of light the interference patterns created are different for each wavelength. This means each color will reflect, or not, at a different angle, leading to iridescence. Students explore several different examples of iridescence in both natural and manufactured objects and develop an understanding of how this effect occurs.

Design Project: Fabricating Photonic Crystals
Based on what they learned about light, diffraction, interference, and iridescence, students will model and then fabricate photonic crystals. They will also develop evaluation criteria and perform tests on their crystals, the results of which will be presented to the class.

Connecting to Your Curriculum

Connecting to Your Curriculum

Materials World Modules 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 Activity and Design Project sections of this module.

Physics & Physical Science

  • Electromagnetic Spectrum
  • Energy Transfer
  • Interaction of Energy and Matter
  • Waves diffraction and interference
  • Color
  • Thin Films

Language Arts

  • Writing a report
  • Public speaking


  • Spectroscopy
  • Structure of Atoms
  • Pigments

Earth & Space Science

  • Solar Spectrum
  • Energy of the Sun
  • Extraterrestrial
  • Resolution in Telescopes
  • Crystaline solids (opals)

Biology and Life Science

  • Organisims’ Response to Light
  • Function of the Eye
  • Resolution in Microscopes
  • Color and Iridescence in Nature, Adaptation


  • Measuring
  • Dimension
  • Angles and Arcs
  • Wave Functions
  • Sine and Cosine

Standards Alignment

AAAS Benchmark Standards


NSES Standards

NCTM Standards

Grades 9-12


Grades 9-12


Grades 9-12

2. The Physical Setting


B. Physical Science


Numbers & Operations

Energy Transformations

Transfer of Energy

Understanding number relations


Interactions of Energy and Matter

Compute Fluently and Estimate










Use Mathematical Models to Understand Quantitative Relationships











Analyze characteristics and properties of two- and three-dimensional geometric shapes


@ Materials World Modules