The University of Southampton

FPProvisional000006 ELEC6 - Bionanotechnology

Module Overview

Bionanotechnology is the study of biology, in particular biological machines, and the application of biological building blocks to solve engineering challenges and create new areas of technological development. Learning about the structure and function of the inner workings of biological systems such as cells, bacteria and viruses has been used to improve existing applications of nanotechnology and to develop entirely new applications.  Examples of bionanotechnological study include: mechanical properties of materials, such as cell interaction with surfaces, nanopatterns and nanoparticles; electrical and optical effects, such as electrical stimulation, energy storage, absorption, luminescence and fluorescence; and computing via chemical wet computers and DNA computing.

This module provides an introduction to the theory and practice of bionanotechnology, and introduces students to working in a cleanroom and a wet laboratory.  It covers the types of macromolecules which form the building blocks of life, covering cell components such as DNA and proteins, describing how they are synthesised, interact and the role they play in cells.  The structure and forms of the different molecules and the process by which they are constructed and how they exchange information will be framed within the context of the operation of machines and the potential engineering uses that the naturally occurring mechanisms can be put to.

ELEC6205 includes an experimental exercise involving state-of-the-art equipment that is normally only used by researchers, to investigate the methods used for integrating biological materials and mechanisms with the artificial constructs of engineering. The experiment starts with fabrication and characterisation of a microstructured master mould, and continues with casting of an elastomeric stamp and printing microscale patterns of biological molecules.  This will take place partly in the Mountbatten Teaching Cleanroom and partly in the bio-ECS lab (Centre for Hybrid Biodevices) in the Life Sciences building.

Aims & Objectives


Knowledge and Understanding

Having successfully completed this module, you will be able to demonstrate knowledge and understanding of:

  • Biomolecules and biomolecular interactions
  • The relationship between Molecular Dynamics, nanoscale physics and macroscopic system behaviour

Subject Specific Intellectual

Having successfully completed this module, you will be able to:

  • Explain biophysical mechanisms in the context of bionanotechnology and application areas
  • Evaluate the experimental techniques used to characterise bio-nano systems

Transferable and Generic

Having successfully completed this module, you will be able to:

  • Critically analyse experimental procedures and results
  • Write concise and informative engineering laboratory reports

Subject Specific Practical

Having successfully completed this module, you will be able to:

  • Perform engineering design calculations of molecular and biological effects
  • Perform some basic wet laboratory procedures, including soft lithography procedures involving biomolecules


  • Fundamentals
    • Cells, antibodies, carbohydrates (storage and structural)
    • Nucleotides, nucleic acids and DNA
    • Amino acids, peptides, proteins and protein structure
    • Biological membranes and ion channels
    • The behaviour of molecules in solution
    • Enzymes, kinetics and reaction rates
    • Ligand-Protein interactions
    • Sensing biomolecules (optical and electrical techniques)
    • Electrokinetics and particle/molecular interaction forces
  • Applications
    • Single molecule detection techniques
    • Interfacing bio-systems with electronics
    • Molecular motors
    • Patterning single molecules and self-assembled monolayers
    • Cell interactions with nano-structured surfaces.
    • DNA technologies (e.g. sequencing)
  • Practical work:
    • Fabrication of patterned wafer in clean room
    • Surface modification procedures and evaluation
    • Patterning biomolecules and guiding cells on patterned surfaces

Learning & Teaching

Learning & teaching methods

This module uses a combination of lectures, practical work, literature study and discussions of scientific publications. The laboratory report will require a short literature review.

Specialist Lab12


Assessment methods

The coursework will not be marked if the student has not attended the laboratory sessions.

MethodHoursPercentage contribution
30% - Assignment. A discussion of the recent developments in microcontact printing, an explanation of rationale for lab procedures, and a critical and quantitative evaluation of the experimental printing performance.-30%
Exam2 hours hours70%

Referral Method: By examination and a new coursework assignment

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