Physics projects for Y3 and Y4 students

Project description

Optical properties of nanoparticles

(supervisor: Andrew Evans)

Nature of project: experimental, data analysis

Available to students on full-time physics degree schemes or joint students.

Project description and methodology

Diamond has many unique properties that are being exploited as a result of the increased availability and quality of synthetic fabrication. Examples are its optical transparency, hardness, thermal conductivity and bio-compatibility. The macroscopic crystal is a wide-gap semiconductor whose colour and electrical conductivity can be controlled by the inclusion of impurity elements such as boron and nitrogen. As the size is reduced to the nm scale, the properties of metals and semiconductors change and the combination of reduced size and controllable physical and chemical properties can be exploited in nanotechnology. For example, this control can be used to produce alternative fluorescent sources to more toxic organic fluorophores for applications in biology and medicine. This project involves the investigation of the optical properties of nanoparticles with sizes ranging from 5 nm to 100 nm. The main technique will be UV-visible absorption spectroscopy to investigate light absorption in particles of different size and composition.

A successful project will develop beyond the above in one/some of the following directions:
The project could be extended to include other complementary techniques such as Raman spectroscopy and photoluminescence spectroscopy.

When considering where to take your project, please bear in mind the time available. It is preferable to do fewer things well than to try many and not get conclusive results on any of them. However, sometimes it is useful to have a couple of strands of investigation in parallel to work on in case delays occur.

Additional scope or challenge if taken as a Year-4 project: As a 4th year MPhys project, the focus will be on the control of surface electronic properties (work function and zeta potential) and diamond-organic molecule bonding by changing the surface termination of nanoparticles. This could involve chemical, plasma and heat treatment and the application of surface probes based on electron emission.

Please speak to Andrew Evans (dne) if you consider doing this project.

Initial literature for students:

  1. Solid state physics, Neil W. Ashcroft, N. David Mermin (Primo)
  2. Optical measurements : techniques and applications, F. Mayinger, Oliver Feldmann (Primo)
  3. Processing of nanoparticle materials and nanostructured films Controlled Processing of Nanoparticle-based Materials and Nanostructured Films Symposium, Kathy Lu (Primo)
  4. Cancer Nanotechnology : Methods and Protocols, Stephen R. Grobmyer (Primo)

Novelty, degree of difficulty and amount of assistance required

The project is challenging and will develop skills ranging from nano-physics to chemical processing.

Project milestones and deliverables (including timescale)

milestoneto be completed by
Familiarisation with equipment and materialsChristmas
Optical characterisation of standard samplesend of February
Fabrication of nanoparticlesmid-March
Characterisation and interpretation of dataEaster

Students taking this project will have to submit a full risk assessment form