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Nanoscale engineering

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Nanotechnology contributes solutions to previously inaccessible challenges – in sectors including communications, energy, environment, healthcare, personalised medicine, and security. Gain industry-relevant knowledge of nanoscale engineering, including manufacturing nanoscale structures and devices; the functionality of thin film coatings; energy harvesting and storage; biosensors; and nanotechnology use in medical diagnoses and treatments. You’ll learn how to characterise surfaces and nanomaterials and how to simulate the performance of nanoscale devices and processes.

What you will study

This module looks at three application areas associated with nanoscale engineering: structured technologies; energy and electronics; and health. Interactive software and practical activities within the OpenSTEM Labs support the module materials. Multiphysics simulations provide you with the opportunity to design systems and devices which utilise nanoscale engineering and model their performance.

This section introduces nanoscale engineering and briefly describes the technologies under consideration throughout the module, using examples of nature-inspired engineering which utilise nanostructures. The important roles played by thermal energy and intermolecular forces are explored and the rapidly evolving nature of nanotechnologies is emphasised.

Part 1: Structured technologies
In this part, you’ll learn about low adhesion surfaces, including self-cleaning glass, stain-resistant fabrics, and waterproofing. The role of surface modification in creating new functionality is described. Top-down and bottom-up methods will be explored, including vacuum systems, material deposition techniques, and surface characterisation. Devices including accelerometers, actuators, and detectors are considered.

Part 2: Energy and electronics
This part focuses on nanostructures and nanomaterials, exploring their enhanced properties conferred by scaling. The development of state-of-the-art and next-generation, low-power electronic devices is investigated. You’ll study the fabrication and characterisation of these devices, as well as the range of light/matter interactions that are exploited in nanotechnologies. Application areas include energy storage, energy harvesting, supercapacitors, and logic/memory technologies.

Part 3: Health
This part explores nanotechnology as utilised in healthcare and biochemical applications for early diagnosis and prevention, as well as for the treatment and monitoring of disease. Particular emphasis is placed on diagnostics, including advanced biosensors for health, drug delivery techniques, lab-on-a-chip and nano-robots. You’ll study microfluidic and nanofluidic devices and arrays of nanomaterials-based sensor technology.

Future prospects
You’ll explore the future prospects for nanotechnology, including molecular machines, as well as recently awarded Nobel Prizes in Chemistry and Physics, which are expected to lead to functional engineered devices and products.

You will learn

The knowledge and skills developed in this module are applicable in various engineering roles. At the end of it you’ll be able to:

  • explain how the properties and behaviour of materials and structures differ at the microscale and the nanoscale when compared to the macroscale
  • describe how nanoscale engineering has been used to mimic the natural world
  • select and use appropriate mathematical, computational, and analytical techniques to determine the composition, structure, identity, and properties of nanomaterials
  • effectively and accurately deliver ideas, information and solutions to problems in engineering disciplines through a range of media
  • search and use relevant journal papers via the library website.

Entry requirements

There are no formal entry requirements.

However, previous degree-level study of science or engineering is recommended.

Are you ready for T366? is a diagnostic quiz to help you decide if you’re prepared to start studying T366.

If you’re not sure you’re ready, talk to an advisor.

Preparatory work

You should aim to be confident and fluent with the concepts covered in the Are you ready? quiz and follow the advice in the quiz.

You must be familiar with the following:

  • fundamental concepts of mechanics, dynamics, materials, chemistry of materials, and electricity
  • algebraic expressions, calculus notation and mathematical models in general
  • Windows and suitable word-processing and spreadsheet software.

We recommend you have one of the following:

  • passes in Engineering: maths, modelling, applications (T194), Core engineering A (T271), and Core engineering B (T272)
  • physics and mathematics knowledge equivalent to A-Level or above, and a basic understanding of chemistry.

For registered students, revision and preparation material will be available on the T366 ‘Discover Your Module’ page on the engineering subject advisory website.

What's included

You’ll have access to a module website, which includes:

  • a week-by-week study planner
  • course-specific module materials
  • audio and video content
  • access to third-party software
  • assignment details and submission section
  • online tutorial access
  • access to student and tutor group forums.

We’ll give you three printed module books, each covering one part of study. And you’ll have access to the OpenSTEM Labs.

Computing requirements

You’ll need broadband internet access and a desktop or laptop computer with an up-to-date version of Windows (10 or 11) or macOS Ventura or higher.

Any additional software will be provided or is generally freely available.

To join in spoken conversations in tutorials, we recommend a wired headset (headphones/earphones with a built-in microphone).

Our module websites comply with web standards, and any modern browser is suitable for most activities.

Our OU Study mobile app will operate on all current, supported versions of Android and iOS. It’s not available on Kindle.

It’s also possible to access some module materials on a mobile phone, tablet device or Chromebook. However, as you may be asked to install additional software or use certain applications, you’ll also require a desktop or laptop, as described above.

Teaching and assessment

Support from your tutor

Throughout your module studies, you’ll get help and support from your assigned module tutor. They’ll help you by:

  • Marking your assignments and providing detailed feedback for you to improve.
  • Guiding you to additional learning resources.
  • Providing individual guidance, whether that’s for general study skills or specific module content.
  • Facilitating online discussions between your fellow students in dedicated module and tutor group forums.

Module tutors also run online tutorials throughout the module. Where possible, recordings of online tutorials will be made available to students. While these tutorials won’t be compulsory for you to complete the module, you’re strongly encouraged to take part.


The assessment details for this module can be found in the facts box.

If you have a disability

The OU strives to make all aspects of study accessible to everyone and this Accessibility Statement outlines what studying T366 involves. You should use this information to inform your study preparations and any discussions with us about how we can meet your needs.

Future availability

Nanoscale engineering (T366) starts once a year – in October.

This page describes the module that will start in October 2024.

We expect it to start for the last time in October 2028.

Course work includes:

3 Tutor-marked assignments (TMAs)
3 Interactive computer-marked assignments (iCMAs)
End-of-module assessment