PHYS 495/595

Physical Principles of Nanotechnology, January 2018

Professor Robert A. Wolkow
Monday / Wednesday 3:00pm - 4:20pm, CCIS L1029

Monday, January 3 - first day of class

Wednesday, April 11 - last day of class


A broad range of topics will be studied in order gain an understanding of the principles and tools that we can deploy to create revolutionary nanotechnologies.  Simultaneously, we will consider the state of the art of some current technologies in order to appreciate what might constitute a viable and lucrative new technology.  No textbook is assigned.  Lessons and readings are pulled from diverse and often primary sources.  Truly state of the art methods and results will be covered in numerous of the areas examined.  The topics are as follows:

Forces, bonds, chemistry

  • Intro, “small is different”

  • Covalent Bonds

  • Physical bonds/interactions

    • Various dipole, induced dipole, van der Waals

    • H-bond

    • DNA

  • Friction – classical to quantum friction

  • Chemistry and bonding examples

    • Relative bonding energies and barriers

  • Field Ion Microscopy, FIM

    • Many of the above concepts are well exemplified through study of the FIM

    • The FIM is a relatively simple tool that allows single atoms to be seen and manipulated.

    • A lab tour will show and explain the FIM in action

  • Tremendous net bonding through the combination of countless weak physical attractive interactions allow animals like geckos to walk up walls

    • We will consider what is stickiness?

    • How geckos work

    • If possible, visit a local lab where gecko-like devices are fabricated and tested



  • The beginnings of nanoscience, small groups of atoms that reveal dramatic properties variations with size, revealing the prospects for a nanotechnology



  • Today’s dominant electric circuitry and why it is reaching an end and how tremendously capable any new technology must be to supplant CMOS

  • Discussion of essential semiconductor device physics

    • Dopants, band bending, Schottky contacts, rectification, transistors

    • Clarify the concepts of work function and Vacuum level and band alignment at interfaces

  • Beyond CMOS, demands, approaches and prospects



  • Consideration of noise enhances understanding of fundamental materials properties as well as of the capabilities of instrumentation

    • Johnson noise, other electrical noise

    • Noise in a mechanical machine – like a cantilever

    • Quantum suppression of noise


Nanoscale transport (nanoelectronics)

  • ballistic to diffusive (Ohmic) transport

  • Landauer’s conductance concepts, the quantum of conductance

  • Quantum point contact (QPC)

  • Coulomb blockade and Single electron Transistor (and how different from QPC)

  • Introduction to Non Equilibrium Green’s Function approach to transport through nanostructures – the powerful, leading method used today

  • Transport theory will be preceded by an extensive review of the diverse structural quantum mechanical computational methods.  We will develop a sense of pros and cons and suitability of various methods.


Graphene and Carbon Nanotubes

  • fundamentals of these phases of carbon

  • properties

  • accessible theoretical modeling methods


Scanned Probe Microscopies

  • Scanning Tunneling microscopy, STM

  • Atomic Force Microscopy, AFM

    • Scanned probe spectroscopy – vibrational, magnetic, electronic – of single molecule-size entities

  • Atom scale manipulation of matter – methods, controlling principles, examples, prospects

  • Optical Tweezers

    • Principles of operation

    • Studies of DNA and proteins


Nano magnetism

  • spin polarized atom scale imaging

  • very recent atom scale magnet dynamics


  • Prep work

    • Occasionally readings will be assigned.  These will be read with an aim of gaining both an introduction to area and a sense of the main points of the particular study described.  We eventually learn powerful generalities through the study of many specifics.


  • Grading

    • Quantitative homework questions and reading/précis of important papers (40%)

    • Write a paper on a topic, that I approve of, accessible to the advanced undergrad student, explain main issues (30%).  6000 to 8000 word – must be an honest, significant effort.  The paper must succeed in effectively teaching a student reader.

    • Sadly, plagiarism was detected in some rare previous instances resulting in a student receiving disciplinary action by the faculty of science and a failing grade in the class.  Do not plagiarize.  That is, do not cut and paste someone else’s written work into your paper.  Always cite work that serves as your source.  A claim that such practices are acceptable elsewhere, or a claim that one is unaware of our requirements in this regard will not lead to lenience.

    • A ~30 minute presentation on above subject (30%).  Quality of presentation and demonstration of mastery of subject will be assessed.  As with the paper, the presentation must succeed in effectively teaching the student in the audience.

    • No midterm or final

Department of Physics

4-181 CCIS 11455 Saskatchewan Dr, NE

Edmonton, Alberta T6G 2E1

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