Nanoscience and Nanotechnology: Tiny Structures, Giant Potential

Curriculum Focus

Nanoscience deals with structures that are incredibly small - many tens of thousands of times smaller than the diameter of a human hair. The building blocks of nanoscience are atoms and molecules and materials created from these components at the nanoscale (ranging in size from 1-100 nanometres) can have very different properties to their macroscopic counterparts. Nanotechnology is the application of these new-found properties in ways that can improve human lives. Nature itself constantly builds and uses structures at the nanoscale and gives us many blueprints for making novel materials. The art of nanoscience really lies in understanding how to engineer, manipulate and control nanostructures so as to achieve the desired properties/outcomes. Current applications of nanotechnology are many and varied and include specialised drug delivery systems for the treatment of cancer, water treatment and filtration systems, energy harvesting systems, and super-strong yet lightweight materials.

Our study of nanoscience has a strong practical focus. Students will build upon and hone their experimental technique with emphasis on designing fair tests, identifying and minimising sources of uncertainty and suggesting methodology improvement for better reliability and repeatability. Analysis of data and good graphing conventions and interpretative ability are also important skills in this course.

The ethical issues which surround the use of nanotechnology will also be explored.  This unit will involve students exploring a range of Nano applications by carrying out a wide range of experiments, many of which are student designed. Team-based research and presentation on an aspect of nanoscience/nanotechnology will further enhance students understanding of the subject.

Learning Outcomes

Understand the structures and properties of a range of nanostructures, including Bucky balls, nanotubes, SMAs (shape memory alloys), and thin surface films;

Identify and assess the potential of nanotechnology to provide innovative solutions designed to improve human lives, and discuss current applications and also those now under development;

Understand issues with the use of nanotechnology such as possible unforeseen toxicological effects due to the very small size of nanomaterials, and cost blocking access to these new technologies by people in developing countries;

Synthesise ideas and effectively communicate them to scientists, teachers and their fellow students;

Effectively and efficiently work together in small teams to research complex topics.

 

Assessment

Laboratory practical work

Development of own Nano website

Research report based on a nanotechnology project

Presentation of Research Report at Nanotechnology Conference