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Unit information: Nanophysics in 2022/23

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, student choice and timetabling constraints.

Unit name Nanophysics
Unit code PHYS32600
Credit points 10
Level of study H/6
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 2D (weeks 19 - 24)
Unit director Dr. Antognozzi
Open unit status Not open
Units you must take before you take this one (pre-requisite units)

Second year physics.

Units you must take alongside this one (co-requisite units)


Units you may not take alongside this one


School/department School of Physics
Faculty Faculty of Science

Unit Information

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.

Your learning on this unit

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.

How you will learn

The unit will be taught through a combination of

  • asynchronous online materials, including narrated presentations and worked examples
  • synchronous group problems classes, workshops, tutorials and/or office hours
  • asynchronous directed individual formative exercises and other exercises
  • guided, structured reading

How you will be assessed

Formative assessment is provided through problems classes

Summative assessment through a written, timed, open-book examination (100%)


If this unit has a Resource List, you will normally find a link to it in the Blackboard area for the unit. Sometimes there will be a separate link for each weekly topic.

If you are unable to access a list through Blackboard, you can also find it via the Resource Lists homepage. Search for the list by the unit name or code (e.g. PHYS32600).

How much time the unit requires
Each credit equates to 10 hours of total student input. For example a 20 credit unit will take you 200 hours of study to complete. Your total learning time is made up of contact time, directed learning tasks, independent learning and assessment activity.

See the Faculty workload statement relating to this unit for more information.

The Board of Examiners will consider all cases where students have failed or not completed the assessments required for credit. The Board considers each student's outcomes across all the units which contribute to each year's programme of study. If you have self-certificated your absence from an assessment, you will normally be required to complete it the next time it runs (this is usually in the next assessment period).
The Board of Examiners will take into account any extenuating circumstances and operates within the Regulations and Code of Practice for Taught Programmes.