Nanotechnology and the NAE Grand Challenge Make Solar Energy Economical

By Edward Davis1, Virginia A. Davis2

1. Materials Engineering, Auburn University, Auburn, AL 2. Chemical Engineering, Auburn University, Auburn, AL

Published on


This group of materials is designed to provide a framework to teach students in an introductory engineering course basic nanotechnology concepts. The materials use the NAE grand challenge “Make Solar Energy Economical” to underpin the need and potential for nanotechnology to address society’s needs. In addition, motivation for students to persist in engineering is provided by introduction to the NAE Grand Challenges for Engineering capitalizing on student’s altruistic tendencies.

The entire bundle can be downloaded by clicking the link in the upper right or components can be individually downloaded by visiting the Supporting Docs tab.

Materials Provided:

  1. Powerpoint slide packs (can be used individually or as a group)

  2. Instructions for in class and lab activities

  3. Surveys and evaluation tools

Suggested order for implementation:

  1. Utilize “Engineering Attitudes Survey pretest” early in semester to gauge students interest in nanotechnology, engineering, and the grand challenges. If the survey is given immediately prior to utilizing the materials in class include the “Solar Module Evaluation - Pre Test” Otherwise use this pre test just prior to the presentation of the module to the class.

  2. Start the class using the “Introduction to Nanotechnology” and/or the “Motivation to become an Engineer” slides.

  3. Engage in the “What is the Challenge Class activity.” Use the results to discuss the NAE Grand Challenges for Engineering in general and transition to the specific challenge “Make Solar Energy Economical” by using the “Solar Power” slides.

  4. In a lab setting conduct the “Dye sensitized solar cell activity” and the “Solar Cell evaluation activity.” The second activity occupies the students while the TiO2 coating is curing as part of the Dye sensitized lab, and teaches basic engineering concepts such as measurement error and simple calculations involving units.

  5. Conclude the module by administering the “Solar Module Evaluation - Post Test.” You can also administer the “Engineering Attitudes Survey” at the same time or wait until later if you are evaluating the course as a whole.

Sponsored by

This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation Grant Number 1446060. Any opinions, finding, and conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.


Edward W. Davis, P.K. Raju, and Virginia A. Davis, Nanotechnology Solutions to Engineering Grand Challenges, AAAS EnFUSE Symposium, Washington, DC, April 27-29, 2016. (PDF download)
Edward W. Davis, Joni M Lakin, P.K. Raju, and Virginia A. Davis, NUE: The Freshman Experience and Nanotechnology Solutions to Engineering Grand Challenges, ASEE Annual Conference and Exposition, New Orleans, LA, June 26-29, 2016.

Cite this work

Researchers should cite this work as follows:

  • Edward Davis, Virginia A. Davis (2016), "Nanotechnology and the NAE Grand Challenge Make Solar Energy Economical,"

    BibTex | EndNote