- Offered as:
- Specialization track in Physics
Nanotechnology is the development of new devices and structures that are well below the 1 micron size scale. Noting that human hair is typically about 100 microns in diameter (100,000 nanometers), the nanometer scale is very challenging in terms of developing materials and building devices.
It is an area that is gaining attention from government, industry, and researchers, and has the potential of opening up future markets in areas such as nanoelectromechanical devices (NEMS), nanoscale materials, molecular manufacturing, quantum computing, nanomedicine, nanoelectronics, and molecular biology.
Several majors at WSU offer specializations in nanotechnology.
Nanotechnology at WSU is not a major in itself. However, several majors at WSU offer nanotechnology as a special emphasis area.
These majors offer studies and research in the field of nanotechnology and nanomaterials:
- Chemical engineering
- Electrical engineering
- Materials science and engineering
- Mechanical engineering
Which to choose? Consider your strengths and interests. Nanotechnology is a multidisciplinary field, and each discipline takes a slightly different approach. Browse the University's offerings and see which one seems like the best fit. Whichever major you choose, you'll learn from top professors and have plenty of opportunities to get priceless experience participating in the University's nanotechnology and nanomaterials research.
Below is a sample of research at Washington State University in the area of nanotechnology and nanomaterials. Students may have opportunities to engage in research, in particular, through the National Science Foundation’s Research Experience for Undergraduates program at WSU.
Carbon nanotubes for thermal switches
WSU researchers are leading a $1 million project that has the potential to help stimulate the Pacific Northwest in the creation of meso-scale devices from nano-scale structures, enabling the transfer of nanotechnology from research labs to commercial applications.
Supported by a National Science Foundation grant, this research team is studying the properties of carbon nanotubes (CNTs), specifically the properties related to use in thermal switches. Thermal switches have a wide range of potential uses, including cooling, power generation, and DNA processing applications.
A complete MEMS-based power solution for wireless microsystems
To function properly, autonomous wireless microsystems require a self-contained source of energy. Conventional batteries do not provide sufficient energy levels for systems that are expected to provide long “lifetimes” of service, resulting in a critical need for another solution.
Small Business Innovation Research funding from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) and NASA supports a collaborative effort between WSU and TPL Inc. focused on developing a complete power system combining WSU’s MEMS piezoelectric generator with energy storage in microbatteries and microsupercapacitors.
Nanomaterials for converting and storing energy
Grant Norton’s work with nanomaterials could change the world’s reliance on fossil fuels. The properties of nanomaterials make them suitable for applications such as hydrogen storage, high efficiency catalysts for fuel cells, and alternative approaches to harvesting solar radiation.
Building nanostructures from the ground up
WSU researcher K.W. Hipps is working to create nanostructures starting with the smallest particles and building them into larger layers of material, producing two-dimensional surface structures using weak non-covalent interactions. Adapting ideas used in three-dimensional crystal engineering, Dr. Hipps is applying these methods to molecular systems constrained to two dimensions on a metal or liquid surface.
Atomic force microscopy studies of tribochemical phenomena
What happens at the nanoscale level when mechanical and chemical forces are applied to materials? J. Thomas Dickinson conducted a three-year fundamental science project, supported by more than $400,000 from the National Science Foundation, to determine the effects of chemical agents and mechanical stresses on a solid surface.
Working in the Applied Sciences Laboratory—part of the Institute for Shock Physics—Hergen Eilers is conducting fundamental nanocomposites research. Composite materials, consisting of nano-sized inorganics, organics, metals, and semiconductors, are being investigated for potential renewable energy applications, including photovoltaics, thermovoltaics, and solar hydrogen generation.
Ceramic bone implants and coatings
With more than $4 million in combined support from the National Science Foundation, the US Office of Naval Research, and the W.M. Keck Foundation, a WSU research team is using nanostructured calcium phosphate-based ceramics to develop controlled porosity structures for the repair and reconstruction of non-load-bearing bone defects.
Discovering a new molecular form in minute clusters of gold atoms
Lai-Sheng Wang’s groundbreaking creation of hollow nanoclusters of gold was reported in the
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences and the New York Times.
The physics major at WSU offers a specialization option in nanotechnology. During the first and second years of study, students pursuing the nanotechnology emphasis should complete the physics core courses. (First and second year core requirements are the same for most physics options and emphases.) In the junior and senior years, students branch into a course sequence specific to nanotechnology.
Math 171, 172, 273 — Calculus I,II,III
Phys 201, Phys 202 — Physics for Scientists and Engineers I & II
or Phys 205 & 206 — Honors Physics
Chem 105 & 106 — Principles of Chemistry I & II
or Chem 115 & 116 — Honors Chemistry
Math 220 — Introductory Linear Algebra
Phys 303 — Modern Physics I
Biological Science courses
Cpt S 121 — Program Design and Development
Math 315 — Differential Equations
Phys 330 — Thermal Physics
Engl 402 — Technical/Professional Writing
Phys 320 — Mechanics
Phys 341-342 — Electricity and Magnetism
Phys 415[M] — Quantum Lab
Chem 331 — Physical Chemistry I
Chem 333 — Physical Chemistry Lab
MSE 201 — Materials Science
Chem 345 — Organic Chemistry I
Math (6 credits)
GER courses or electives (6 credits)
Phys 410 — Electronics Laboratory
Phys 450 — Quantum Mechanics
Phys 463 — Solid State Physics
Phys 466 — Biological Physics
Chem 332 — Physical Chemistry II
Chem 346 — Organic Chemistry II
Chem 347 — Organic Chemistry Lab
MSE 321 — Materials Characterization
Phys 490[M] — Undergraduate Thesis
Phys, Chem, or MatSci 499 — Special Problems
Department of Physics and Astronomy
PO Box 642814
Washington State University
Pullman, WA 99164-2814
- Benefit from the University's expertise in physical science, materials engineering, chemistry, and biological science.
- Learn from faculty who are known nationally and internationally.
- Opportunities to participate in cutting-edge research with WSU faculty.
- Get hands-on experience with some of the most advanced scientific equipment available in the fields of physics and engineering.
- You can join a math, science, and engineering community residence hall at WSU Pullman—share classes with your neighbors, study together, get free tutoring, and use the hall’s computer lab.
A variety of state, federal, and university-sponsored programs are available to help students with educational costs. Washington State University awards millions of dollars in financial aid and scholarships to students every year based on financial need, academic merit, or a combination of the two.
Students should complete the Washington State University general scholarship application and the FAFSA to ensure their eligibility for the widest range of scholarships and need-based financial aid.
For information or to apply for financial aid and scholarships from WSU, see the Scholarships and Finances section of the WSU website.
- Four years of high school math, including trigonometry and preferably introductory calculus
- One year each of physics and chemistry
- Strong reading, writing, reasoning, and computer skills
- Skills in effective communication
Study in nanotechnology at Washington State University is ideal preparation for graduate study and for a career as a professional researcher.
Nanotechnology is gaining attention from government, industry, and researchers as the science explores the possibilities, for example, of detecting molecules of chemical warfare agents, creating a new generation of computer components, or making medical strides on the molecular level. Nanotechnology has the potential of opening up future markets in areas such as nanoelectromechanical devices (NEMS), nanoscale materials, molecular manufacturing, quantum computing, nanomedicine, nanoelectronics, and molecular biology.