Thin Film Science (NANO*3500)

Code and section: NANO*3500*01

Term: Fall 2019

Instructor: John Dutcher


Course Description

This course introduces nanoscience students to concepts that are central to the study of thin films, surfaces and interfaces. Following an introduction to liquid and solid surfaces, fundamental forces acting at interfaces and basic surface thermodynamics are discussed. This leads to a discussion of different deposition techniques, characterization techniques and instabilities that are inherent to thin films. There is a laboratory component to the course that complements the material discussed in lectures and allows the students to become proficient on a broad range of surface-sensitive equipment. 



Monday, Wednesday, Friday; 11:30 – 12:20
MCKN 314


Tuesday; 14:30 – 17:20
SSC 2109/2110

Midterm Test

Oct 23, 19:00-21:00
MACN 415

Final Exam

Tuesday, Dec 10, 19:00-21:00

Instructional Support

Instructor:  John Dutcher
Telephone:  +1-519-824-4120 x53950
Office:  MACN 451

Course Objectives

This course will use a multidisciplinary approach to present new concepts and build on concepts covered in previous physics, chemistry and nanoscience courses. The objectives of this course are:

By the end of this course, you should be able to:

  1. Introduce physical concepts and mathematical tools used to describe surfaces, interfaces and thin films
    - Develop an intuition for surface and thin film physical principles through plotting of functions
  2. Relate the mathematical results to practical applications and experiments
    - Develop an appreciation of the mathematical basis for experimental techniques for deposition and analysis of thin films
  3. Understand physical phenomena that can be exploited for the deposition of thin films
    - Demonstrate knowledge of different thin film deposition strategies
  4. Develop proficiency for experimental techniques used to deposit and characterize thin films
    - Demonstrate laboratory and data analysis skills
  5. Expand scientific writing skills to develop effective communication
    - Develop ability to analyze and synthesize implications of key results of published scientific studies


Assessment Weight
Assignments 15%
Report on Research Paper 10%
Midterm Test (Oct 23, 19:00-21:00) 20%
Final Examination (Dec 10, 19:00-21:00) 30%
Laboratory Performance and Reports 25%
Total 100%

The assignments and the report on the research paper are due at the beginning of class on the due date. Unless there are exceptional circumstances, marks will be deducted for lateness (10% per day). Marks will also be deducted for errors in English grammar and spelling in all work submitted for grading. Students must obtain a final grade of 50% to pass the course.

If you request academic consideration due to illness of a physical, psychological or emotional nature, or due to compassionate reasons, you may be required to provide suitable documentation (e.g., a medical certificate from a physician) at the discretion of the lecturer. See the undergraduate calendar for information on regulations and procedures for Academic Consideration.



  • liquid versus solid surfaces
  • surface tension
  • wetting of surfaces
    -    contact angle
  • surface and interfacial forces
    -    van der Waals forces
    -    electrical double layer
  • adsorption onto surfaces
    -    surface thermodynamics
    -    surface isotherms

Thin Films

  • deposition techniques
    -    vacuum deposition
    -    chemical vapour deposition
    -    spincoating
    -    self-assembly
    -    Langmuir-Blodgett deposition
  • thin film instabilities
  • thin film characterization techniques
  • other topics
  • review

Learning Resources

Required Resources

  • Physics and Chemistry of Interfaces (Textbook)
    H.-J. Butt, K. Graf and M. Kappl, Physics and Chemistry of Interfaces, Third Edition (Wiley-VCH, 2013)
  • CourseLink (Website)
    There is a NANO*3500 CourseLink page to allow you easy access to course-related material.

University Statements

Email Communication

As per university regulations, all students are required to check their e-mail account regularly: e-mail is the official route of communication between the University and its students.

When You Cannot Meet a Course Requirement

When you find yourself unable to meet an in-course requirement because of illness or compassionate reasons please advise the course instructor (or designated person, such as a teaching assistant) in writing, with your name, id#, and e-mail contact. The grounds for Academic Consideration are detailed in the Undergraduate Calendar.

Drop Date

Students will have until the last day of classes to drop courses without academic penalty. The deadline to drop two-semester courses will be the last day of classes in the second semester. This applies to all students (undergraduate, graduate and diploma) except for Doctor of Veterinary Medicine and Associate Diploma in Veterinary Technology (conventional and alternative delivery) students. The regulations and procedures for course registration are available in their respective Academic Calendars.

Copies of Out-of-class Assignments

Keep paper and/or other reliable back-up copies of all out-of-class assignments: you may be asked to resubmit work at any time.


The University promotes the full participation of students who experience disabilities in their academic programs. To that end, the provision of academic accommodation is a shared responsibility between the University and the student.
When accommodations are needed, the student is required to first register with Student Accessibility Services (SAS). Documentation to substantiate the existence of a disability is required; however, interim accommodations may be possible while that process is underway.
Accommodations are available for both permanent and temporary disabilities. It should be noted that common illnesses such as a cold or the flu do not constitute a disability.
Use of the SAS Exam Centre requires students to book their exams at least 7 days in advance and not later than the 40th Class Day.
For Guelph students, information can be found on the SAS website.

Academic Integrity

The University of Guelph is committed to upholding the highest standards of academic integrity, and it is the responsibility of all members of the University community-faculty, staff, and students-to be aware of what constitutes academic misconduct and to do as much as possible to prevent academic offences from occurring. University of Guelph students have the responsibility of abiding by the University's policy on academic misconduct regardless of their location of study; faculty, staff, and students have the responsibility of supporting an environment that encourages academic integrity. Students need to remain aware that instructors have access to and the right to use electronic and other means of detection.
Please note: Whether or not a student intended to commit academic misconduct is not relevant for a finding of guilt. Hurried or careless submission of assignments does not excuse students from responsibility for verifying the academic integrity of their work before submitting it. Students who are in any doubt as to whether an action on their part could be construed as an academic offence should consult with a faculty member or faculty advisor.

Recording of Materials

Presentations that are made in relation to course work - including lectures - cannot be recorded or copied without the permission of the presenter, whether the instructor, a student, or guest lecturer. Material recorded with permission is restricted to use for that course unless further permission is granted.


The Academic Calendars are the source of information about the University of Guelph’s procedures, policies, and regulations that apply to undergraduate, graduate, and diploma programs.


Please note:  This is a preliminary web course description. The department reserves the right to change without notice any information in this description.  An official course outline will be distributed in the first class of the semester and/or posted on Courselink.