Thin Film Science (NANO*3500)

Code and section: NANO*3500*01

Term: Fall 2010

Instructor: John Dutcher


Course Information

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.

Calendar Description

The deposition and growth of thin layers of materials is an important process on the production of many devices. This course will study the various methods by which thin films are grown including physical and chemical vapour deposition, molecular beam epitaxy, atomic layer epitaxy, and self-assembled monolayers. Experimental techniques for analyzing the properties of thin films will also be discussed.


NANO*2100 (Analysis of Nanomaterials)


John Dutcher
MacN 451 ext 53950

In John's research group, a wide range of state-ofthe- art, surface-sensitive techniques are used to probe the interaction of polymers, biopolymers and
bacterial cells with a variety of different surfaces, ranging from atomically-flat surfaces to tethered lipid bilayer films to industrial-grade and food surfaces. By
tuning both the properties of the surfaces and the polymer and biopolymer molecules, an understanding of the underlying physical, chemical and biological
principles and therefore predictive power in the design of novel technologies can be obtained. Much of this work involves the application of the principles of
statistical mechanics to polymer and biopolymer systems. For more information, visit the Polymer Surface and Interface Group web page.


Mon., Wed., Fri. 11:30 - 12:20 SCIE 1305

Recommended Textbook

H.-J. Butt, K. Graf and M. Kappl, Physics and Chemistry of Interfaces, Second Edition (Wiley-VCH, 2006)

Course Topics


  • 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
  • reflectivity basics
  • optical, X-ray and neutron reflectivity techniques
  • review

Course Objectives

  • to introduce physical concepts and mathematical tools used to describe surfaces, interfaces and thin films
  • to relate the mathematical results to practical applications and experiments
  • to develop an intuition for surface and thin film physical principles through the plotting of functions using Maple


Assessment Weight
Homework (4 assignments) 15%
Report on Research Paper 10%
Midterm Test (Wednesday, October 20 - evening) 20%
Final Examination (Saturday, December 11 - 19:00-
Laboratory Performance and Reports 25%
Total 100%

The homework will consist of problems to be submitted for grading. The homework and the report on the research paper is 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.

Course Policies


John is always happy to answer students' questions whenever he is in his office. Hours will be announced when he is almost certain to be in his office for consultation with students. Short questions can often be handled in the lecture room just before or after lectures.

Consideration for Illness, etc.

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. 

Student Assessment

The Department of Physics requires student assessment of all courses taught by the Department. These assessments provide essential feedback to faculty on their teaching by identifying both strengths and possible areas of improvement. In addition, annual student assessment of teaching provides part of the information used by the Department Tenure and Promotion Committee in evaluating the faculty member's contribution in the area of teaching.

The Department's teaching evaluation questionnaire invites student response both through numerically quantifiable data, and written student comments. In
conformity with University of Guelph Faculty Policy, the Department Tenure and Promotions Committee only considers comments signed by students (choosing "I agree" in question 14). Your instructor will see all signed and unsigned comments after final grades are submitted. Written student comments may also be used in support of a nomination for internal and external teaching awards.

NOTE: No information will be passed on to the instructor until after the final grades have been submitted.

Collaboration versus Copying

Scientists often consult fellow scientists to discuss their research problems. Collaboration between scientists is often essential to perform world-class
research. However, no ethical scientist would ever publish or claim the work of others as their own. Instead, joint publication or acknowledgements of the contributions of their collaborators is given.

The work that you submit for marking must be your own and not a copy of someone else's work. As a young scientist, you are encouraged to discuss with your fellow students as you learn the material and work on the problem assignments. However, you should not look at anyone else's written solution since this can lead to copying. Plagiarism is a form of academic misconduct, and will not be tolerated. In your work that you submit for marking, you are encouraged to cite references and acknowledge discussions with others who have helped you to achieve an understanding of the assignment problems. This is good scientific practice.

Note: John will be away several times during the semester to attend workshops and conferences, and to give research lectures. John will try to arrange that lectures be given at the regular times by enthusiastic and talented replacement lecturers. Otherwise, makeup lectures will be arranged at times that are agreeable to the students.