The Nanomaterials Science programme contains both mandatory as well as primary and secondary elective courses.

The primary elective courses (22,5 EC) are listed below according to fields of interest of the research groups where you will perform your research project and master thesis. The first course of each field is strongly advised to be taken by that research group. More information on the curriculum can be found on the study programme page.

ECTS = credits (European Credit Transfer and Accumulation System)


compulsory courses (15EC)

Advanced Spectroscopy (compulsory)

The course will provide a fundamental understanding of various spectroscopic techniques, while enabling the student to choose the best suited ones to elucidate a particular problem in Nanomaterials Science and to interpret the acquired data. More specifically, the following topics will be addressed:1. Quantum Mechanics and interaction of electromagnetic radiation with matter.2. Atomic structure and atomic spectra, term symbols, selection rules3. Symmetry and group theory4. Electronic spectroscopy (UV-Vis-NIR, X-rays)5. Vibrational Spectroscopy (IR absorption and Raman scattering), rotational spectroscopy6. Electron paramagnetic resonance (EPR) spectroscopy7. Experimental spectroscopic techniques8. Advanced data analysis in spectroscopy

Academic Context (compulsory)

The Academic Context course is a two-year course and contains the following parts:.

A. Introduction to the nanomaterials science programme (E. Mulder)
B. Module Integrity in Chemistry, essay (E.Vogt): 1.5 EC
C. Writing a review or an essay paper (E. Vogt): 5 EC
D. Participation (a minimum of one event) at the annual programme Career Event: 0 EC
E. Participation at the Debye lunches, Colloquia, Debye Professor Lectures:0 EC

This Academic Context course elaborates further on the Bachelor’s academic context course to improve academic skills and attitudes at Master’s level. The course also serves to strengthen the community of students starting together either in September or in February.

A: The course first starts with an introduction to this programme. The student will receive information on choosing courses, choosing an appropriate research group, the research project itself, the assessment of the research project, the honours programmes, the aims of an internship, etc. There is time to discuss your study plan individually. Students coming from abroad will get a guided tour along the Debye research labs and lecture rooms.

B: Performing research is more than just doing experiments. The art of research is also to handle ethically with own obtained results and to act when specific dilemmas are at stake. Eelco Vogt will provide you with specific examples in the field of chemistry. This module will be concluded with a written assignment.

C: Writing a scientific essay or writing a review and knowing how to look for the appropriate literature papers is another important academic skill. In this module the students will be trained in writing one of the above mentioned products. The student will receive a training with instructions and is free to choose a topic of his/her own interest within the Debye Institute. The student will be guided by a member of a research group. This module will be concluded with a poster presentation of the work and assessed by a panel of Debye researchers during the fall of their second year.

D: Chemistry students will also get a specific career event with invited speakers who work with chemistry graduates. This event will be concluded with drinks to stimulate students to talk further with the speakers.

E: Attending Debye research activities are meant to enlarge a student’s view on hot topics in the field of nanoscience. Staff and PhD’s will present their work followed by interactive discussion sessions. Every year, the Debye Institute invites a well-known researcher, for a couple of months to teach and perform research. Students will be actively stimulated to follow a lecture series by the Debye professor and to active participate at the Debye lunches and symposia.

Contact hours: 40 hours spread over the study

Registration: This two-year course is mandatory for all Nanomaterials Science master students. Registration starts in the first year of your study automatically via your application for the Master’s programme Nanomaterials Science. In case you are a student from another programme and wish to register for this course, please contact the course coordinator by email before the registration deadline. He will instruct all students by direct email during the first year of the course and keep track of your preliminary grades. You will, however, not be able to see the SK-MACCO course information in Blackboard or MyTimetable or MyUU app.
In the second year of the course SK-MACCO you need to register in time in the standard way. You will then be able to use the standard tools Blackboard, MyTimetable and MyUU app as is applicable to all other (one-year) courses.

The two-year course SK-MACCO per year
PartECLecturerDescriptionYearDate, location (Applicable in 2018/2019 only)A0E. MulderIntroduction to the nanomaterials science programme1Introduction to the master Nanomaterials Science, only for students from cohort 18/19 at (place and time yet to be defined) and for the February intake: (place and time yet to be defined)B1.5E. VogtModule Integrity in Chemistry2Students from cohort 17/18 only Location and timing to be decidedC5E. VogtWriting a review or an essay paper1Students from cohort 18/19 only at (place and time yet to be defined)Poster presentation1 and 2Students from cohort 17/18 mandatory as poster presenters. Staff members will grade the posters.
Students from cohort 18/19 optional. Peers may select the “Publieksprijs” for the best poster.
Location: To be decided, December 2018 afternoon session. Drinks afterwardsD0, participation compulsoryn/aParticipation (a minimum of one event) at the annual programme Career Event1 and 2Proton Career day: February 2019, afternoon lectures/workshops, followed by drinks (netwerkborrel)E0, participation compulsoryn/aParticipation at the Debye lunches, Colloquia, Debye Professor Lectures1 and 2Students from cohort 18/19: (place and time yet to be defined) Presentation of the research topics by the individual research groups.
Further: Announced internally in the Debye Newsletters and separate e-mail reminders

Introducing Natural Sciences (compulsory)

There are two morning sessions with several speakers introducing the student to the the education system of the graduate school, its rules, its curricula, general and practical information about personnel and administration, specific information about the programme itself and expectations of the programme board about their students, honours education, specific profiles across disciplines and the profession of teacher.
Knowing what kind of skills and attitudes the labour market is looking for is considered as important. Workshops will train students to enhance awareness about their own strengths and weaknesses or introduce them to the work and life of PhD students.
Students will have ample time to get to known each other and their programme board.
Lunches, drinks and a concluding dinner will be organised.

Dilemmas of the scientist (compulsory)

This course consists of one workshop. Themes that will be addressed in this course:
The course discusses dilemmas of integrity in the practice of doing academic research. Students will learn what such dilemmas are and how they can deal with them in practice.

Students can only attend this course after they have completed the first workshop.

Primary electives: Catalysis and chemical synthesis

Adsorption, Kinetics and Catalysis

This course prepares for research in the field of catalysis, nanostructured materials and gas adsorption. Fundamentally different mechanisms of catalytic reactions on surfaces (acid-base, metals and oxides) are introduced and linked to related industrial processes. The first step of all catalytic reactions on surfaces involves adsorption. For that reason we discuss both physisorption and chemisorption, the former also for the study of surface area and texture of porous solids. An introduction into kinetics is based on Langmuir-Hinshelwood descriptions as well as collision theory and transition state theory. The impact of diffusion on the rate of catalytic reactions is dealt with.

Organometallic Chemistry and Homogenous Catalysis

The course will follow the contents of the book by Crabtree and in addition include aspects of industrial homogeneous catalysis and the use of organometallic reagents and catalysts in organic synthesis.
Selected topics are:

  • Concise Introduction in Coordination Chemistry and Organometallic Chemistry
  • General Properties of Organometallic Complexes
  • Metal Alkyls, Aryls, and Hydrides
  • Carbonyl and Phosphine Complexes
  • Ligand Substitution Reactions
  • Complexes of p-Bound Ligands
  • Oxidative Addition and Reductive Elimination
  • Insertion and Elimination
  • Nucleophilic and Electrophilic Addition and Abstraction
  • Homogeneous Catalysis
  • Metal-Ligand Multiple Bonds
  • Applications of Organometallic Chemistry (industrial homogeneous catalysis, organic synthesis)
  • NMR spectroscopy in organometallic chemistry
  • Paramagnetic organometallic complexes

The course comprises of 18 full afternoon meetings (scheduled over 2 periods; periode 1 and 2), which consist of 2 hours of lecturing and 2 hours of problem hours each and which includes one practice exam.

Advanced Spectroscopy of Nanomaterials

The course aims to provide the student with sufficient background in order to understand spectroscopy from a more fundamental level up to its application to elucidate the intricate chemistry of nanomaterials. This knowledge should enable the student to choose a particular spectroscopic technique for a particular problem and understand the acquired spectroscopic data. Attention will be mainly focused on UV-Vis-NIR spectroscopy, vibrational spectroscopy and x- ray spectroscopy combined with microscopy. The examples under study are organic and inorganic molecules, solids and transition metal ions in biological as well as inorganic matrices. The course consists of 40 h of lectures and 32 h of exercises/tutorials. In addition, there is an excursion to a synchrotron radiation and/or free-electron laser facility planned.

  • Subprogram I focuses on group theory and the general principles of optical spectroscopy. Fluorescence and phosphorescence will also be discussed. Examples under study are organic chromophores and transition metal ions.
  • Subprogram II deals with vibrational spectroscopy (IR, Raman, EELS) and x-ray spectroscopy, including microscopy.

Advanced Organic Synthesis

To provide the students with state-of-the-art knowledge of interest for the construction of complex organic molecules and architectures. Examples of systems of relevance for advanced catalysis, the material sciences and the life sciences will be discussed and studied in detail. Intimately related to these objectives is the introduction of the students to advanced models required for the planning of complex multi-step syntheses (strategies), the interpretation of experimental data, the elucidation of underlying reaction mechanisms, stereochemical consequences, etc.

Synthesis of heterogeneous Catalysts and related materials

In about 90% of the industrial chemical conversions catalysis plays a crucial role. In the definition by Berzelius of two centuries ago, a catalyst is a material that can accelerate a reaction without being involved in the reaction itself. This lecture series will focus on the fundamentals of the synthesis of heterogeneous catalysts and related (e.g. absorption) materials. The first part of the course will deal with the synthesis, structure and characterization methods of some of the most important materials that act as a catalyst support such as alumina, silica and zeolites. In the second part, methods for the synthesis of catalytically active metal nanoparticles on a support will be presented in detail. Since nanometer scale structural features (micro- and mesoporosity of the support, particle size distribution etc.) can have a huge impact on catalyst performance, the lectures will also discuss characterization techniques that can unravel these structures. Examples will be shown how sometimes small changes in synthesis routes can lead to significant changes in catalyst structure, which can affect catalyst performance.

Primary electives: Colloid Science

Colloid Science

The aim is to provide students with state-of-the art knowledge of colloid science, from a fundamental level up to the wide applications of colloidal dispersions in technology and industry – and in our daily life.
The birth of colloids will be addressed via the thermodynamics of nucleation and growth of particles in solution, illustrated with practical examples in the form of colloids composed of silica, iron-oxides, sulfur and noble metals. Methods will be reviewed for chemical surface modifications to disperse colloids in solvents of interest, and for endowing colloids with functionalities in the form of, for example, dyes for confocal microscopy and magnetic labels for magnetic manipulations.
Colloidal transport phenomena studied in the course comprise rotational and translational Brownian motion, sedimentation and colloidal filtration (Darcy’s law), ultra-centrifugation, electrophoresis, flocculation kinetics and dispersion rheology.
The DLVO theory of colloidal stability will be treated, including reviews of its various ingredients, namely the Debye-Hückel approximation, the Poisson-Boltzmann equation, van der Waals forces, the Gibbs free energy and the Donnan equilibrium. The theory of osmotic pressure is the stepping stone to the important phenomenon of depletion forces in colloid-polymer mixtures.
The fundamentals in this course will be connected to various colloidal systems of real-world importance such as clays, paints, liquid crystals and magnetic fluids.

Advanced Physical Chemistry

The Statistical Thermodynamics module deals with non-ideal gases, liquids, solids, and quantum gasses (Fermi-Dirac and Bose-Einstein statistics). During the Interfaces module, wetting, adsorption, surface-active substances, charged interfaces and experimental methods for studying interfaces, as well as their applications will be discussed. Finally, in the Colloids and Polymers module, Flory-Huggins theory of polymer solutions, colloidal synthesis, Brownian motion, diffusion, sedimentation, interaction between colloidal particles, colloidal stability, and the applications of these concepts will be treated. This course forms a bridge towards other master courses, including “Colloid Science” (SK-MCS) and “Soft Matter Theory” (NS-T453M).
This course is the same as the advanced bachelor level course “Fysische Chemie 3” (SK-BFYC3).

Modelling and simulation

An important aspect of physics research is modeling: complex physical systems are simplified through a sequence of controlled approximations to a model that lends itself for computations, either analytic or by computer. In this course, the origin of a number of widely used models will be discussed. Magnetic systems as well as the liquid-gas transition is modelled by the Ising model, polymers are often modelled by random walks, liquid flow is often modelled by lattice Boltzmann gases. Insight into these models can be obtained through a number of ways, one of which is computer simulation. During the course, simulation methods for these models, data analysis techniques, optimization algorithms, and machine learning methods will be discussed in the lectures as well as in computer lab sessions. Prerequisite: Elementary programming skills and some statistical physics.

Toy Models

Global course description. ‘Toy models’ are models that use as input (very) simple rules, and as ‘output’ are able to describe a wide variety of (complex) behavior. In this course, some of the most successful toy models will be treated. These models are able to put complex behavior into perspective in terms of generic underlying rules, and have led (and are still leading) to a deeper understanding in biology, chemistry and physics. Besides that, successful toy models have strong predictive power, and often have significant impact beyond the disciplinary boundaries for which they were originally designed.

Aim of the course: introduce Master students of natural science and life science to some prominent toy models, and provide them with the mathematical and statistical mechanical tools and background that are necessary to ‘play’ with these toys.

Detailed course description

  1. Introduction to the Ising model and its different macroscopic (stationary) solutions or phases in 1,2,3 dimensions, properties of critical points, scale invariance and renormalization group. Tools: Boltzmann weight, partition function, thermodynamics, macroscopic order parameters, and mean-field theory. (Henk Stoof)
  2. The ‘random walk’ and applications in diffusion, polymer statistics and rare events. Tools: basic statistics (Willem Kegel)
  3. Random adsorption models. Fundamentals, MWC theory of allosteric interactions, simple genetic repression and activation. Tools: grand ensemble theory; undetermined multiplier method of Lagrange. (Willem Kegel)
  4. Topics in differential equations, bifurcations and tipping points, relaxation oscillations (van der Pol equation). Competition between species (Lotka-Volterra), replicator dynamics and evolutionary stable strategies. Tools: qualitative theory of ordinary differential equations, Liapunov theorem and the Poincaré-Bendixon theorem. (Sjoerd Verduyn Lunel)
  5. Topics in discrete dynamical systems and cellular automata going from individual dynamics to macroscopic behavior in biological models and artificial life. Tools: attractors, bifurcations, Liapunov exponents, and simulations.(Sjoerd Verduyn Lunel)

Soft condensed matter theory

Soft matter consists of mesoscopic objects such as colloidal particles, polymer chains, or macromolecules, which are often suspended in a liquid medium, often with addional ions. Traditional examples of such systems are blood, mud, hairgel, yoghurt, or paint, but more recent examples include liquid crystals, photonic bandgap materials, DNA in the living cell, and e-ink.The traditional picture of these systems a "dirty chemical soup" is no longer true due to spectacular advances in chemical synthesis and microscopy, resulting in clean and well-defined model systems that can be studied in great detail experimentally. In this course we will discuss the phenomenology of this systems from a theoretical perspective, with a focus on e.g. phase transitions, structure, spontaneous ordering, medium-induced effective interactions, Brownian dynamics. We will develop the theory to interpret, describe and predict physical properties of these systems. A short initial crash-course on classical statistical mechanics (thermodynamic potentials, Legendre transforms, ensembles, partition functions, etc.) will be extended to describe interacting many-body systems (virial expansion, distribution functions, Ornstein-Zernike theory, thermodynamic perturbation theory, van der Waals theory, critical exponents, hard-sphere crystallisation, and density functional theory). Further extensions to describe ionic liquids and colloidal suspensions will be discussed (Debye-Hueckel theory, screening, Poisson-Boltzmann theory, DLVO theory, effective many-body interactions, depletion effect due added polymers, charge renormalization). Also liquid crystals (nematic, smectic, columnar phases, Onsager theory), polymers (random walks, theta collapse, flexibility, persistence length,scaling concepts), interfacial phenomena (adsorption, wetting, surface tension, capillary waves, density profiles, droplets), and (hydro-)dynamic effects (Brownian motion, Langevin equation, dynamic density functional theory) will be covered.

Primary electives: Nanophotonics

Advanced Microscopy

The masters’ course “Advanced Microscopy” aims to familiarize students of natural sciences (EXPH, NASC) and life sciences with the theory behind, and the application of, modern microscopes. In the first half course, we will cover a wide spectrum of topics from the properties of light – IR to X-Rays – and how they are used in microscopy, to more advanced subjects such as Fourier Optics and Analytical Microscopy. During the second half of the course, will switch to electrons as the imaging medium and you will learn about advanced EM and Electron Tomography techniques, as well as Scanning Tunneling Microscopy.

Photon physics

The goal of the photon physics course is to explore current topics in wave optics and photonics. Core concepts and methods are treated in lectures and problem classes, and should lead to a thorough understanding of the principles of beam propagation and diffraction, imaging systems, optical fibers, photonic crystals, resonators, as well as active emitters, spontaneous and stimulated emission, and lasers. While the emphasis is on the basic physical principles, we put these into context by reviewing examples of applications in industry and in other branches of science.

After completing this course the student should be able to discuss and analyze quantitatively optical and photonic methods in basic science and technology.

The lectures are complemented with a problem class where relevant problems are solved using pen-and-paper methods and/or computer simulations (basic knowledge of the python programming language is assumed, for most assignments example code is provided).

An important aspect of the course is the choice of one more advanced topic to explore individually and present to the other students. In this context we also encourage students to choose self-defined topics or applications. Additionally, we typically invite one or two applied scientists to lecture about cutting edge applications of photonics in their field.

Grading is based on turned-in homework, intermediate tests and the presentation of the self-chosen topic.

Computational quantum mechanics

The course consists of a theory part and a project part. In this theory part, an overview will be given of quantum mechanical methods for the calculation of bonding and electronic structure in both molecules and solids. Methods that will be discussed include Hückel/tight binding, Hartree-Fock, density functional theory (DFT), and configuration interaction (CI). The molecular orbital (LCAO) description of electronic wavefunctions will be applied to molecules and atomic clusters, whereas the plane-wave DFT approach will be used to treat bulk materials, surfaces, and interfaces.
Students will obtain hands-on experience with quantum mechanical calculations as they will have to answer scientific questions using the quantum mechanical code VASP ( The calculations can be time consuming, and the students are expected to work on the assignments also outside class hours. To this end, remote access to calculation servers will be provided.
The first part of the course is about the computational theory and will be examined by means of a written exam (50%). The minimal grade for the written exam is 5.0, which is a requirement for completion of the course. The second part of the course is a computational project (either simulation or coding); half-way this computational project, presentations will be given to your fellow students while the computational project will be examined by means of a written report (50%).  

Solids and Surfaces

  • First contact with the methods and language of solid state physics
  • Basic understanding of the behavior of nearly free electrons in solids
  • Basic understanding of the properties of metals and semiconductors
  • Basic understanding of electrons in surfaces and in 2-D systems, such as graphene

Delocalized electrons in solids play an essential role in many important applications, e.g. microelectronics (integrated circuits, memories), optoelectronics (lasers, solar cells), interfacial chemistry (catalysis, colloid chemistry, electrochemistry) and advanced measurement techniques (scanning tunneling microscopy (STM) and spectroscopy). In this course the following themes will be considered:

  • the theory of electrons in solids and at surfaces (the Sommerfeld model for free electrons, the almost-free electron model related to the band structure of solids, tight-binding approximations, surface states);
  • electrons in 2-D lattices, 2-D band structure, graphene
  • applications of these systems in LEDs and solar cells

The student is expected to study the lecture notes, preferably in advance of the lecture and to solve the problems during or after tutorial sessions. The course will conclude with a visit to scanning tunneling microscopy/spectroscopy lab of Vanmaekelbergh/Swart.

Photovoltaic Solar Energy Physics and Technology

The following topics will be covered:

  1. Basic physics of semiconductors
  2. p-n junctions, including applications in solar cell devices
  3. Semiconductor processing (chemical and physical deposition, etching, oxidation)
  4. Thin film solar cells, including tandem cells
  5. Selected other semiconductor materials and devices and new developments
  6. Solar cell performance
  7. Experience solar cell research in practice by laboratory visit

Academic skills: writing a paper, presentation

Secondary electives (30EC)

You can choose different options for your secondary electives, like an internship or a specific profile. Some students prefer to take courses instead. This part of the curriculum allows students to deepen or to broaden their knowledge, even in other fields than the main topics of this master’s programme as long as the courses taken are at master’s level. Courses that are listed as primary elective courses, in the profiles or that are courses offered by other master’s programmes within this Graduate School are already approved. Any courses that will be followed outside Utrecht University must be approved by the Board of Examiners.