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A Conceptual Framework for the Development of a Course in Nano/Micro-Scale Systems Engineering

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As a result of intensive research and funding in recent years, nano/micro-scale systems are poised to have significant impact in a wide spectrum of engineering research, applications and practice. In this paper, our efforts to develop a multidisciplinary nano/micro-scale systems course for upper-level undergraduate and entry-level graduate students under the Nano/Micro Scale Systems Engineering NUE program are summarized, and its conceptual framework for cognitive understanding of nano/micro systems is detailed and discussed. In our approach, called Hierarchy-of-Objects , developing this framework is based on the fact that every system consisting of sub-systems and components, regardless of its length- or time-scale, is vertically integrated with a larger system, and its function, and complexity defines its place within its integration scheme. Materials are at the bottom of the Hierarchy-of-Objects paradigm, and an infrastructure is at the top. In covering various nano/micro-scale systems and associated fundamentals in this course, we use a number of levels in describing our integration scheme, as follows: Level 1 is starting materials, “the building blocks” for the nano/micro-world, including atoms, molecules (e.g., DNA/proteins), material phases; Level 2 is “Fabric/Patterns” which are repeating structures made/formed of Level 1 objects, including lattices, grains, layered nano-composites, graphene, and bone/nacre; Level 3 is “Objects/Structures” (i.e., parts) with finite dimensions and forms, including micro/nanoparticles, nanotubes, microcantilever beams, and cell membranes; Level 4 is “Devices” (components or sub-systems), self-contained systems performing a “ fundamental, yet simple single ” task, including transistors, sensing elements, and flagellae; Level 5 is “Systems,” consisting of Levels 1–4 integrated to perform complex tasks, including CPU chips, MEMS devices, and biological cells; Level 6 is “Infra-structures,” superstructures formed by connecting systems (Level 1–5), including national electrical grids, highway systems, and the human body. Finally, various collaborative efforts in the development of the course are also summarized.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 2013-12-01

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  • The Journal of Nano Education (JNE) is a peer-reviewed international journal that aims to provide the most complete and reliable source of information on current developments in nanoscale science, technology, engineering, and medical education.
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