Skip to main content

Unit information: Nanophysics in 2018/19

Please note: It is possible that the information shown for future academic years may change due to developments in the relevant academic field. Optional unit availability varies depending on both staffing and student choice.

Unit name Nanophysics
Unit code PHYS32600
Credit points 10
Level of study H/6
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 2 (weeks 13 - 24)
Unit director Dr. Antognozzi
Open unit status Not open

Second year physics.



School/department School of Physics
Faculty Faculty of Science


In this course we give a basic introduction to the physical principles underlying nanotechnology, and an overview of some of its most promising applications. The course emphasises the importance of producing structure at the nanoscale, both by bottom-up approaches, such as molecular self-assembly, and top-down methods including state-of-the-art forms of lithography utilising the scanning tunnelling microscope and atomic force microscope. The importance of scale to physical properties of materials will be examined. The course will cover aspects of nanoscale forces, and will then examine the fabrication and physical properties of low-dimensional (0-D, 1-D and 2-D) materials, including quantum dots, nanowires and graphene. Introductions will be given to colloid science and polymer physics, including applications of these materials in the production of nanostructures, such as photonic crystals from block copolymers. The course complements the level 6 unit Biophysics PHYS31211.


To study the general physical principles underlying nanotechnology. To show how the dimensions of a material can influence its physical properties. To examine fabrication and physical behaviour of low dimensional solids including quantum dots, nanowires and graphene. To examine the origins of intermolecular and interparticle forces, and to show the importance of these at the nanoscale. To introduce basic ideas of colloid science and polymer physics, and show how these may be exploited in the bottom-up self assembly of nano-structured materials. To examine top-down approaches to fabrication, including single atom manipulation in the scanning tunnelling microscope and dip-pen lithography with the atomic force microscope.

Intended learning outcomes

Students will be able to:

  • describe the important physical principles operating in the nanoworld.
  • explain how thermodynamics, mechanics and electrical properties scale with particle size, and the consequences of this for the applications of nanomaterials.
  • appreciate the difference between bottom-up and top-down nanoassembly.
  • describe how to produce low dimensional materials, and the effect of restricted dimensionality on physical properties.
  • appreciate the origins and relative importance of a range of intermolecular and interparticle forces.
  • state the basic principles governing colloidal stability.
  • appreciate the statistics of polymer chains, and the influence of polymer dimensions and solvents on their properties.
  • explain the block copolymer phase diagram and how it may be exploited in the production of nanostructured materials including photonic crystals.
  • describe the use of self assembly and lithography in the production of nanostructures.

Teaching details

Lectures and Problems Classes

Assessment Details

Formative assessment is provided through problems classes

Summative assessment through a 2 hour paper (100%)

Reading and References

  • "Soft condensed Matter", R.A.L. Jones (OUP, 2002)
  • "Polymer Physics", M. Rubinstein & R. Colby (CUP, 2003)
  • "Self Assembly", J.A. Pelesko (Chapman & Hall, 2007)
  • "Introduction to Interfaces and Colloids: the Bridge to Nanoscience", J.C. Berg (World Scientific, 2010)
  • "Basics of Nanotechnology", H.-G. Rubahn (Wiley, 2008)