Back Home


UPC2206 Nanoscale Science and Technology


Together with genetic engineering, nanotechnology is seen as one of the two most important growth areas this century. It is anticipated that nanotechnology will impact many aspects of our life, ranging from medicine and industry, to crime and warfare. It is thus important for us to improve the public awareness as well as to prepare our younger generation for this new emerging field.

Many topics discussed or debated in nanoscience are frontier and futuristic, although some are now well understood and have immediate technological applications. This module will provide students the exposure and knowledge needed for them to make informed judgement, and/or to participate in this coming technological revolution.

Aims and objectives

The main goal of this module is to provide an introduction to nanoscale science and its implications. Throughout the course, the inter- and multi-disciplinary aspects of nanotechnology will become obvious.

We begin with an introduction to the quantum world, followed by discussions on molecular interactions and bonding. Questions such as the following will be discussed:

·            What happens when you squeeze an electron?

·            Can we make molecules into a gear?

Equipped with the foundations, the student can then appreciate the various nanoscale systems that can be assembled and applied, the physical basis of their fabrication and functions, as well as the various instrumental tools needed to investigate them. They will have a chance to work in a group to “see” and “move” systems of this scale under a microscope.

Throughout the course of lectures, new frontiers in the nanotechnology revolution and their impact on our lives will be discussed. Some provoking social issues arising from this revolution will be discussed, e.g.:

·            Why does nanotechnology attract so much funding?

·            How real is the threat of “grey goo”?

·            How real is the danger of nanoparticles to human health?

This module will interest students of many disciplines, as it will allow students to critically evaluate how this upcoming technology could permeate the multiple aspects of our lives. In addition, they will learn to appreciate the linkages between the fundamental sciences of physics, chemistry and molecular biology, as well as practical applications in fields such as biotechnology and materials engineering.


A brief outline of the lecture topics are given below:


1.         Introduction: ‘Hijacking’ the term nano!

2.         Size Matters: Honey, I shrunk the kids!

3.         Size Matters: Can molecular gears work?

4.         Nanofabrication: Designing your own nanobot (the bottom-up vs. top-down approaches)

5.         Nanofabrication: Getting nature to help (molecular synthesis and self-assembly)

6.         Nanotools: The tools of the nano-trade (scanning probes and electron microscopies)

7.         Nanosystems: Case studies in bionanotechnology and bionanomaterials

8.         Nanosystems: Case studies in nanoelectronics & nanomagnetics

9.         Nanosystems: Case studies in nanophotonics

10.     Molecular electronics: End of the silicon age?

11.     Molecular manufacturing: The Drexler-Smalley debate

12.     Whither nanobots? Consequences of nanotechnology


Lecture PPT presentations at IVLE.


(i)      Lecture and discussions hours per week:


(ii)      Seminars, tutorials, or hands-on project hours per week:


(iii)    Number of hours per week for project discussion, literature survey, etc.


(iv)     Number of hours per week for preparatory work:


Total hours per week:




This module is 100% Continuous Assessment, comprising:

(a)  Lit reviews and critical thinking essays


(b)  Group project (including experiment and presentation)


(c)  Quizzes and tests:


(d)  Student participation:


Total for CA Components:


Suggested Reading List

• Introduction to Nanotechnology, C. P. Poole and F. J. Owens, Wiley 2003
• Nanotechnology: Basic Science and Emerging Technologies, Michael Wilson (Editor), et al., CRC Press 2002
• Travels to the Nanoworld: Miniature Machinery in Nature and Technology, Michael Gross, Perseus Publishing, 2001.
• Nanophysics and Nanotechnology: An Introduction to Modern Concepts in Nanoscience, Edward L. Wolf, Wiley-VCH, 2004.
• Introduction to Nanoscale Science and Technology, M. Di Ventra, S. Evoy, J. R. Heflin Jr (eds.), Kluwer, 2004.
• Soft Machines - Nanotechnology and Life, Richard A. L. Jones, OUP, 2004.
• Molecular Devices and Machines: A Journey into the Nanoworld, V. Balzani, M. Venturi, A. Credi, VCH 2003.
• Principles of Bio-Nanotechnolgy: Lessons from Nature, D.S. Goodsell, David S. Goodsell, A. J. Olson, 2003
• Molecular Engineering of Nanosystems, Ed Rietman, et al., Springer Verlag, 2001.
• The Quantum Dot: A Journey into the Future of Microelectronics, R. Turton, Oxford University Press, 1999.
• Our Molecular Future: How Nanotechnology, Robotics, Genetics and Artificial Intelligence Will Transform Our World, D. Mulhall
Engines of Creation: The Coming Era of Nanotechnology, Eric Drexler, Anchor, 1987

Internet articles

Feynman’s 1959 talk at the annual APS meeting in Caltech: “There's Plenty of Room at the Bottom

Andrew Wee, Nanotechnology: Hope or Hype? Physics Update Vo. 9 No. 1, 2004

Joachim Schummer, Multidisciplinarity, Interdisciplinarity, and Research Collaboration in Nanoscience and Nanotechnology: http://nsts.nano.sc.edu/publications.html

The Economist, 11 Mar 2004: Nanotechnology's unhappy father http://www.economist.com/science/tq/displayStory.cfm?story_id=2477051

Bill Joy, Why the future doesn't need us, Wired Magazine Issue 8.04 - Apr 2000:  http://www.wired.com/wired/archive/8.04/joy.html

David B. Hughes, Let the Nanotech Wars Begin! http://nanodot.org/article.pl?sid=03/12/15/0021235

Useful internet websites

US National Nanotechnology Initiative www.nano.gov/

Institute of Nanotechnology www.nano.org.uk/

Nanotechnology Now: Nanotechnology basics, news, and general information.  www.nanotech-now.com/

Foresight Institute www.foresight.org/

Zyvex: A leading nanotechnology company www.zyvex.com/nano/

NUS Nanoscience & Nanotechnology Initiative (NUSNNI): www.nusnni.nus.edu.sg/