LAS adds courses in nanophysics

September 28, 2011

By Brigitte Graf ’13

The Department of Physics is now offering courses in nanophysics. These courses, Physics 140, 440 and 441, were designed to give students instruction in the field of nanotechnology.

“We have been focusing in our department for several years on one area of physics, so many of our faculty are involved in the same area, nanotechnology,” said Dr. Kevin Kimberlin, associate professor in the Department of Physics. “It was a natural progression once we had a research program in place, to extend that to the classroom.”

Nanophysics, or nanotechnology, is the study of surface physics at the atomic level. Part of this study involves seeing how atoms move around on surfaces at a level that is about one-tenth of a nanometer in size. Another aspect of the science, nanofabrication, is developing new materials that are few atoms scale.

While Physics 140 is offered as a general education course and is open to students of all majors, the upper-level courses are more advanced and go further into the mathematical and technological sides of the subject. Physics 441will be offered next semester as the laboratory course paired with Physics 440 that is currently being offered.

An exciting aspect of the development will be the application of technology using advanced equipment already on campus. Students who choose to enroll in the laboratory course will be instructed through the use of a number of instruments, including an ultra-high vacuum and a scanning tunneling microscope.

“The laboratory is particularly nice,” Kimberlin said. “The equipment we have is exceptional equipment that we don’t usually have at a smaller institution like Bradley.”

The department is also considering the development of an entire program based on nanophysics.

“What we are thinking about is offering a nanophysics major that would involve more chemistry, maybe some biology and the nanophysics courses,” Kimberlin said. “We would like to round it out as either a separate major or a concentration.”

It is expected that student interest in the courses will grow as the classes become more solidified in the department.

“When you get down to this level there’s a whole new set of physics to be learned,” Kimberlin said. “We would like to attract students who would be interested in nanophysics right off the bat.”

Physics 140 and 440 are designed as three-credit classes, while Physics 441 will be offered as a two-credit hour laboratory.