NUE: Bottom-Up Meets Top-Down – An Integrated Undergraduate Nanotechnology Laboratory at NC State
Richard Feynman’s famous talk “There Is Plenty of Room at the Bottom” in 1959 has since inspired tremendous efforts in miniaturization. Microelectromechanical systems (MEMS) have rapidly developed and progressed to the marketplace with products that include the accelerometers from Analog Devices, the Digital Light Projector (DLP) projector from Texas Instruments and the Nintendo Wii. Top-down fabrication has enabled the remarkable success of MEMS and now continues its stride to the nanoscale.
Almost in parallel, advances in nanoscience and nanotechnology have enabled a multitude of technological innovations and breakthroughs, especially in the area of nanomaterials. Globally integrating bottom-up synthesized nanomaterials into top-down fabricated devices is critically needed and could offer tremendous opportunities for further progress of nanotechnology. Locally such integration is beneficial for North Carolina nanotechnology industry.
The Goal of this NUE project is to develop an undergraduate nanotechnology laboratory in the College of Engineering at North Carolina State University (NCSU) that will provide undergraduate students with hands-on experience in nanotechnology. Currently there is no lab course at NCSU that is open to all undergraduate students and with focus on nanoscale devices and systems.
The Objectives of this project are for students to:
1) become knowledgeable about key areas of nanotechnology (nanomaterial, fabrication, characterization and devices) with the bottom-up meeting top-down concept;
2) understand how size affects the properties of nanomaterials and the performance of nanodevices through hands-on experiments and real-time observations;
3) become familiar with and able to use nanoscale instruments and techniques;
4) conduct nanotechnology research through problem-based learning in the final projects; and
5) be prepared for more advanced degree and/or nanotechnology-related work. A final objective is to disseminate the educational modules to local, regional, and national educational communities.
The theme of this NUE project is the integration of nanotechnology with microsystem technology, i.e., bottom-up synthesis meeting top-down fabrication. It will bridge the “pillars” of nanotechnology – nanomaterials, nanofabrication, nanoscale characterization and nanodevices. This NUE project will develop a new laboratory course consisting of 10 portable lab modules. In addition to the new lab course, selected lab modules will be integrated to existing nanotechnology courses on campus. A proven pedagogical approach that features problem-based learning, group learning, visual/tactile assistance and interdisciplinary interaction will be adopted. Final projects will provide students opportunities to conduct nanotechnology research through problem-based learning.
Results of this project will be disseminated to local, regional, and national educational communities, both during and after the project. At the University level, the results will be shared with nanoscale science faculty through the NCSU Nanotechnology Initiative’s education committee. Regionally the results and educational modules will be shared with other educators at the NC Science Teachers Association and through NCSU’s NanoDays. Nationally the new course content and the results of the evaluation will be shared through articles that will be submitted nanotechnology education journals, and through high impact databases and websites such as the National STEM Education Digital Library (NSDL) and the NSF-sponsored National Center for Learning and Teaching (NCLT) in Nanoscale Science and Engineering.