Nanoscale Physics and Technology Group

This is an IOP special interest group, which is a community of IOP members focused on a particular discipline, application or area of interest. Special interest groups allow members to connect and share knowledge and ideas. The IOP funds groups to deliver a range of activities including events, prizes and bursaries. All of our groups are driven by members.

About the group

As a special interest, member-driven group, we are interested in nanotechnology and nanoscale structures related to:

  • physics
  • research
  • technology
  • applications 
  • public awareness

We highlight the role of physics in nanoscale science and nanotechnology.

What the group does

We serve and support members of the Institute with an interest in the physics of 0.1-100 nm structures and the development of these structures for new technologies. 

Would you like to join this group?

Group physics prizes and competitions

Franks Thesis Prize

The prize encourages and recognises high quality research and scientific writing in the broad physics research fields of nanoscience and nanotechnology.

It is awarded for the best PhD thesis completed in 2018 by a student member of the group.

The prize is £500 

The Franks prize is jointly funded by the group and the National Physical Laboratory.


You can make a nomination if you are a:

  • PhD supervisor
  • self-nominating graduate from 2018  
  • centre for doctoral training course director

Nominations should include:

  • the thesis abstract
  • statement of support to highlight the scientific impact of the work
  • list of publications stemming from the research carried out during the PhD

The qualifying period is the calendar year 2018 The thesis must have been successfully examined for a Doctoral Degree and the final version submitted. (Theses originally submitted in 2017 are therefore eligible if they were examined in 2018.

Email nominations to the PhD Prize Coordinator, Dr Cate Ducati, University of Cambridge. Email: before the closing date of 7 June 2019. 

The prize winner will be announced by 15 August 2019.


Read about Dr Ben Russell, the 2018 recipient of the Franks Thesis Prize, in our Summer 2018 newsletter below.

About Professor Albert Franks CBE DSc FInstP

Albert Franks spent his career from 1950 to 2003 at the National Physical Laboratory and was one of the pioneers of applications of nanotechnology and nanometrology.

His work was mainly in the fields of x-ray optics and precision machining. He established a UK infrastructure for nanometrology to support the emerging field of nanotechnology. 

X-ray optics

In the field of x-ray optics he developed a pioneering low angle scattering camera used for studying viral structures and metal fatigue. He also developed x-ray diffraction gratings for soft x-ray spectroscopy inaccessible by crystal diffraction.  

This required the development of techniques for precision polishing, and the measurement of surfaces of accurate figure and low scatter all at the nanometre level. 

The work was one of the early applications of nanotechnology that required reliable metrology at the nanometre level. To meet this requirement, Albert Franks initiated the nanometrology work at NPL, the UK’s national standards laboratory. 

The techniques he developed were later applied to the manufacture and polishing of:

  • x-ray astronomical telescopes (for NASA and ESA)
  • x-ray collimators for electron synchrotron instrumentation
  • x-ray microscopy

With his group at NPL he led research projects that applied scientific and industrial nanotechnology to the development of novel instrumentation for:

  • x-ray optics
  • surface topography measurement
  • precision machining
  • scanning probe microscopy
  • optical interferometry

His work led to the establishment of the UK’s first National Initiative on Nanotechnology and the DTI’s LINK programme that brought together many nanotechnology projects with a strong industrial relevance, and led to 14 centres of excellence in the UK. 

He created a vision of the future nano-manufacturing technology, which he dubbed ‘scanning tunnelling engineering’, initiating multi-disciplinary research areas, including the idea of ‘biomolecular metrology’ which led to the recognition that the integration of chemistry, biology and physics is at the heart of nanotechnology.

He played a leading role in the establishment of the UK Institute of Nanotechnology (ION), and was its Honorary President. This achievement is recognised by the ION’s annual Albert Franks Memorial Lecture. For several years he chaired the Scientific Committee of the RNID, and one of his last projects was to initiate the development of improved cochlear implants for the deaf using nano-techniques.

He received a number of awards and was:

  • elected to Fellowship of the Institute of Physics in 1960
  • awarded the Duddell Medal and Prize in 1973 in recognition of his work in x-ray optics
  • made a Fellow of the International Society for Optical Engineering in 1991
  • given a CBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours List in 1993 to recognise his pioneering work in x-ray optics and the metrology of surfaces
  • visiting Professor with the University of Warwick

During the course of his career, he supervised research students and was a source of inspiration both to colleagues and his research students.

Group events

Find group events on the IOP events portal.  


Summer 2018 (PDF, 1.32MB)

Committee and contacts

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