Nanoscale Physics

School of Physics and Astronomy

College of Engineering and Physical Sciences


Code 21643

Level of study Third/Final year

Credit value 10

Semester 2

Module description

Nano' refers to a nanometer (1nm=10-9m).

A nanostructure is defined as an object possessing at least one critical dimension from 100nm down to the size of atoms. By this definition, chemists have been effectively performing nanoscience for decades with large numbers of nanostructures. Industry has been creating the ever-shrinking tiny features on computer chips for years. So what is new? First of all, for the past 20 years, a new set of tools has been developed that now allow nanostructures down to atom and molecule levels to be constructed and probed with great precision. Simultaneously, progress has created an ever-increasing demand for further miniaturization of existing technologies, to the point that the underlying physical principles are at the edge of their validity. Our aim is to provide an introduction to the physics of nanostructures.

We will introduce the basic physical principles underpinning our growing ability to manipulate matters at nanoscale and to characterize these nanostructures.

We will show that, on the nanoscale, the properties of matter can be vastly different to those on the macroscale. Some unique electronic, energetic, optical, magnetic and transport properties are observed depending of the length scale of the materials. For example, gold particles can appear red, blue or gold, depending on their size. We will look at some of these properties through selected nanostructures (metal and rare gas clusters, semiconductors quantum dots and carbon nanotubes and 'soccer balls').

We will show how a combination of classical and quantum physics can be used to understand some of these new phenomena and how some of these materials have already paved their ways into practical applications.