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The University of Southampton

ELEC3223 Introduction to 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 the challenges of commercialising new technologies. 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. ELEC3223 includes a coursework component focussed on the technological applications in the topical area of this module. This will examine the broader areas where bionanotechnology is found and used in industry and what novel areas are currently being researched for future potential commercial development. This will cover the unique issues of the bridging the technology gap between applied research and product development in this highly multidisciplinary field.

Aims and Objectives

Learning Outcomes

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 mynamics, nanoscale physics and macroscopic system behaviour
Subject Specific Intellectual and Research Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • Explain biophysical mechanisms in the context of bionanotechnology application areas
  • Analyse and discuss the engineering requirements of multidisciplinary technology based on biology
Transferable and Generic Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • Investigate and analyse research and development material from a variety of sources including newspapers, journal articles, patents and corporate documentation
  • Write critical reports addressing engineering problems, including assessment of the impact of new technologies
Subject Specific Practical Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • Perform engineering design calculations of molecular and biological effects
  • Explain the challenges of commercialising new technologies


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) Commercialisation - Technology readiness levels - Bringing new technologies to market - Recently commercialised bio-nano technologies

Learning and Teaching

Teaching and learning methods

This module uses a combination of lectures, tutorials, literature study and discussions of research and development material from sources including journal articles and corporate documentation.

Follow-up work13
Wider reading or practice59
Completion of assessment task23
Preparation for scheduled sessions13
Total study time150

Resources & Reading list

Nelson D and Cox M (2013). Principles of Biochemistry. 

Soft machines: Nanotechnology and Life.

Atkins P and de Paula J (2010). Physical Chemistry. 

Biophysical Chemistry: Principles and Techniques.

Comprehensive lecture notes will be provided.. 

Willner I and Katz I (2005). Bioelectronics: from theory to applications. 


Pethig R and Smith S, (2013). Introductory Bioelectronics. 

Alberts B, (2015). Molecular Biology of the Cell. 

Nanobiotechnology: Concepts, applications and perspectives.




MethodPercentage contribution
Continuous Assessment 30%
Final Assessment  70%


MethodPercentage contribution
Set Task 100%


MethodPercentage contribution
Set Task 100%

Repeat Information

Repeat type: Internal & External

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