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PHYS 495/595

Physical Principles of Nanotechnology

Professor Robert A. Wolkow
Monday / Wednesday / Friday 1:00pm - 1:50pm, CCIS 4-285

Friday, January 6th, 2023 - first day of class

Wednesday, April 12th, 2023 - last day of class


Course Description: A broad range of topics will be studied in order to understand the principles and tools that we can deploy to create nanotechnologies.

  • We will primarily take a “bottom-up” approach to the nanoscale – that is, we will see what properties emerge at the nanoscale as a result of exactingly defined atomistic arrangements.

  • We will explore many forms of bonding, how and when those act, and also what form and level of ab initio theory allows us to have predictive control of structures (geometric and electronic) based on each form of bonding. It is the convergence of making and modeling at the smallest scale that is propelling the most exciting and useful developments.

  • The operating principles and the practicalities of diverse scanned probe microscopes will be studied. State of the art procedures emerging in just the last few years allow measurement uncertainties at the single picometer scale, revealing in turn an exquisite new view and understanding of single electron effects. The refinement of time-resolved scanned probe measurements now allow carrier dynamics to be monitored with atom-scale spatial resolution. Through a discussion of these techniques and their application we will gain an understanding of the factors controlling carrier transport at the tiniest scales.

  • Nanoscale electrical transport issues considered will include band transport, band bending, defects that trap charges, diffusive and ballistic transport, thermal and quantum effects and more. Deconvolution of bands into atomic basis states and their relative phase will yield a deeper understanding of dispersion generally,  and also special k points – like in graphene.

  • All of these effects will be considered in the context of transistor operation thereby illustrating the beauty of that established technology while also showing why we must now move on to very different and more efficient devices to create technologies that are sustainable while also improving performance.

  • Lithographic methods and tools for micro and nano fabrication will be covered.

  • The newest tools, enhanced by machine learning techniques, enable not only refined inspection but also reliable atom-scale fabrication in some material systems. Study of fabrication at the atom scale will further illustrate aspects of bonding and transport.

  • Some approaches to quantum computing that are enabled by physical properties unique to the nanoscale will be examined - together with challenges those studies face - through study of recent literature.

  • A tour of state of the art scanned probe labs will be provided. One or more of the very newest, nanotech-enabling lithographic instruments on campus will be viewed and discussed also.

  • Experiences (travails) of a physicist nanotech entrepreneur will be injected throughout to illustrate lab-to-market paths and challenges. A guest lecture and question and answer session with a local nanotech CEO will be arranged.


Course Schedule & Assigned Readings: No textbook is assigned. Lessons and readings are pulled from diverse and often primary sources. Material shown as slides will be handed out (electronically). Some material will be developed on the white board and that should be written down and sketched by each student to better emphasize and instil those concepts.

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