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A Hands-on Introduction to Nanoscience and Technology


We're not in Kansas anymore!

This class was developed under a special grant from the National Science Foundation. Its goal is to provide a lab-based hands-on introduction to nanoscience and nanotechnology for early undergraduates of any major (there are no pre-requisites beyond normal college-track high school physics, chemistry & math).

So what does this class cover? First, at the nanoscale, we must confront the fact that Newton’s sensible laws are replaced by the weirdness of quantum mechanics (hence the class’s Wizard of Oz subtitle). The details are bewildering, but for this class you only need to know that electrons begin to act like waves. But all waves act basically the same way. And that means to anticipate how weird electron waves might behave, we can (literally) start by experimenting with water waves (for instance, water waves will explain why manufacturers are putting nanoparticles into sun block).

The second thing that changes at the nanoscale, is that WE can no longer manufacture things directly. Micro-assembly techniques (such as those used in making the integrated circuits of your computer/cell phone/PDA) are based on micro-photography. And images just won’t focus to smaller than a wavelength of light (something we’ll also show with the water waves). But light’s wavelength is at least 10X too large to pattern things at the nanoscale. Instead we have to rely on a process called “self-assembly.” That is, we have to design the parts so they know how we want them to finally come together. The ultimate example of self-assembly? DNA synthesis of protein. But DNA might also someday help us to self-assemble nano electronic circuits. Some people spend years studying self-assembly and DNA. But in this class you’ll find that we can learn the essentials in just a few classes.

But after you’ve programmed the parts to “self-assemble” at the nanoscale, how do you know if they got it right? One way is to use distant cousins of the old-fashion record player called the Atomic Force Microscope (AFM) and Scanning Tunneling Microscope (whose invention earned two researchers Nobel Prizes). We used the NSF grant to buy six of these instruments. In the labs, you will use these tools to see individual atoms. (To view our full virtual reality recreations of these instruments, click on the photos above).

Finally, we’ll also discuss the boundary between nanoscience and nanotechnology. There is a heck of a lot of the former but not, as yet, a whole lot of the latter. The distinction has produced immense confusion in media from Scientific American to science fiction. What is real? What stands a good chance (or virtually no chance) of ever becoming real? And for the things that do become real, how might they affect us, and the other inhabitants of this world?

Textbook: Textbook: Nanotechnology - Understanding Small Systems, 3rd Edition, Ben Rogers, Sumita Pennathur and Jesse Adams, CRC Press - Taylor & Francis Group (2011), ISBN 978-1-4822-1172-6

NOTE: These web notes were originally posted in only Microsoft Powerpoint format. However, Powerpoint is now available only via recurring annual payments. Such payments could place an unacceptable financial burden upon lower income students, teachers, and retirees. Thus, as of March 2019, I have converted each note set into three formats; MS Powerpoint, Adobe PDF, and Apple Keynote (I have also updated & corrected embedded web links).


Images from past STM & AFM labs  

NEW: Interactive 3D models

(Rotate & zoom the model using your mouse or trackpad)



Lecture Notes & Resource Webpages


Links to Notes

Animations, simulations, readings & other resources:
What is Nanoscience?
Waves (generic)
Waves (electron)
Microfabrication / Micromachining
Great Science vs. Viable Technology
The Need for Self-Assembly
Molecular Self-Assembly
DNA Self-Assembly
DNA Fingerprinting
How We See and Measure at the Nanoscale
The Bleeding Edge I - Nanomechanics
The Bleeding Edge II - Nano Energy Tech
See additional information see my Energy Note Sets:
Solar Photovoltaic Cells
Batteries & Fuel Cells
Power Cycles & Energy Storage
The Bleeding Edge III - Nanoelectronics
Nano Molecular Machines
The Fictions of Nano Science Fiction
Nanotechnology Challenges and Fears

Other possibly useful info:

John's Tutorial on Everyday Mathcad (MCD / pdf)

John's Organic Chemistry Cheat Sheet



Lab Schedule and Manuals:

Topic / Activity
Lab manual / Links to supporting animations, readings and lab equipment used
Lab/class orientation meetings: Thornton Hall, Room E111a (basement level, adjacent to loading dock between Thornton and Olsson Halls.

Chance to meet undergraduate lab assistants

One-on-one opportunity to ask further questions about class and labs, or to discuss personal suggestions or requests about the class's content

Waves in Springs Lab

Bring to the lab: Spring Lab Manual

Quiz: Lab will begin with quiz on this "Review of Waves" webpage.

Wear jeans or slacks: You'll be working on the floor

Waves in Water Lab 1

Bring to the Lab: Water Wave Lab Manual / Report

Quiz:Lab will begin with quiz on the Waves (generic) and Waves (electron) lecture notes, and the equipment section (pages 1-9) of the Ripple Tank Manual

Waves in Water Lab 2

Bring to the Lab: Water Wave Lab Manual / Report

IC Fab Lab Tour / Demonstration of Photolithography

Quiz: Lab will begin with quiz on these UVA Virtual Lab presentations: How Semiconductors and Transistors Work, How Integrated Circuits are Made, and Optical Photolithography

Self-Assembly Lab

Quiz: Lab will begin with a quiz based on the lecture note set: The Need for Self-Assembly

Scanning Electron Microscopy Demonstration

Quiz: Lab will begin with quiz on these UVA Virtual Lab presentations: Scanning Probe Microscope, SPM Piezoelectrics, and Scanning Electron Microscope

Our Insect Micrographs

Atomic Force Microscope Lab

Quiz: Lab will begin with a quiz on this UVA Virtual Lab presentation: easyScan AFM (quiz must be passed before using the AFM),

Scanning Tunneling Microscope Lab 1

Quiz: Lab will begin with quiz on this UVA Virtual Lab presentation: easyScan STM (quiz must be passed before using the STM).


Scanning Tunneling Microscope Labs 2 & 3

Use the STM to image atoms on the surface of highly ordered pyrolytic graphite (HOPG)

Enhance images using image processing software

STM Lab Manual

STM Lab Report

Supporting Materials

Super Hydrophobic Surfaces Lab

Bring to the Lab: Hydrophobicity Lab Manual

Quiz: On Part I (hydrophobicity) of the lecture "Bleeding Edge: Nanomechanics" + the Hydrophobicity Lab Manual. (WARNING: For the quiz you will need the results of a calculation specified on page 5 of the lab manual)

Charlottesville CSI: DNA Fingerprinting - Lab 1

Bring to the Lab: Nothing

Quiz: Lab will begin with quiz on the DNA Fingerprinting Lecture Note Set

Do not eat for at least one hour before lab
Charlottesville CSI: DNA Fingerprinting - Lab 2

Bring to the Lab: UVA DNA Fingerprinting Lab Manual - Pages 17-21

DNA Fingerprinting Lab Manual / Report

Supporting Materials

Copyright: John C. Bean