Va. -- Scientists and engineers worldwide are taking
control of matter at its smallest scale, individual
atoms, to create new materials and devices that are
making electronics smaller and promise a future with
highly efficient flexible solar cells and molecular
machinery to augment human systems.
This new field of science, called nanotechnology,
has unfolded so quickly that the recent university
courses in nanotechnology have had to depend upon
compendiums of journal articles as their textbooks
or books geared to majors in a specific field.
Now, however, three scientists have pulled together
some 60 active researchers across many disciplines
to write a broad-based textbook specifically for students.
Introduction to Nanoscale Science and Technology,
has just been released by Kluwer Academic Publishers
(www.wkap.nl/prod/b/1-4020-7720-3). The book was created
by James R. Heflin Jr. of the Virginia Tech Department
of Physics, Stephane Evoy of the University of Pennsylvania
Department of Electrical and Systems Engineering,
and Massimiliano Di Ventra of the University of California
at San Diego Department of Physics.
Heflin and Evoy created and co-taught a nanotechnology
course for seniors and first-year graduate students
at Virginia Tech in spring 2001. When Evoy went to
the University of Pennsylvania that summer, he introduced
the course there. Kluwer saw the course on the Virginia
Tech website and approached Heflin in September 2001
about writing a textbook.
"When I said, 'No way do I have the time to write
a comprehensive textbook, they suggested I could form
a team and invite contributors, so that's what I did,"
Heflin said. He invited Di Ventra, who was at Virginia
Tech at the time, and Evoy to be co-editors.
"We did an outline of topics, then looked for
people to write the various chapters," said Heflin.
"The authors range from high-profile senior people
to young, fast-rising scientists. Most of the contributors
are faculty members at universities such as Virginia
Tech, the University of Pennsylvania, Penn State,
MIT, UCLA, the University of Washington, University
of Virginia, and Johns Hopkins. There are also contributors
from the national labs, such as Oak Ridge, and from
industry, such as Hitachi."
"We wanted a broad-based, interdisciplinary book,
like the field itself, and we wanted it to be accessible
to students in chemistry, physics, biology, and any
engineering discipline," Heflin said. "I
think anyone with a science or engineering background
could learn from this book. Stephane, Max, and I found
we learned a great deal ourselves as we edited the
submissions. We think the book will also be an excellent
reference resource for academic, government, and industry
The textbook consists of 23 chapters in seven sections,
beginning with the fundamentals, how to make and characterize
nanoscale materials and an overview of the new classes
of materials. Nanotechnology was enabled by the microscopy
technologies developed in the 1980s that provide atomic-scale
resolution and, later, nanoscale modification of surfaces.
The authors describe the top-down approach, or lithography,
as "similar to the work of a sculptor carving
a face from a block of marble." On the other
hand, the bottom-up approach is the assembly of individual
atoms and molecules to form complex systems.
The second section of the textbook looks at the new
materials that have become the building blocks of
nanotechnology – the hollow carbon molecules called
fullerenes and nanotubes; nanocomposite materials
designed to display the properties of their minute
components; and collections of small numbers of atoms
with altered electronic and optical properties, called
The remaining five sections describe applications.
"A major goal of nanotechnology is to develop
materials and devices that outperform existing technologies,"
the editors explain in the text's introduction. Thus
there is a section on electronics. Nanotechnology
means smaller and faster microelectronic devices,
with individual molecules built as electronic components,
and even single electron transistors.
A section on nanoscale magnetic systems looks at quantum
computing and magnetic storage. A section on nanoelectromechanical
systems examines nanomachined mechanical structures
and single-chip systems that can sense, compute, and
communicate. A section on photonic materials reviews
inorganic semiconductor systems and looks ahead to
organic, self-assembled materials with a range of
applications, such as improved solar cells, modulators
for communication systems, and flexible flat panel
The final section provides an overview of nanoscale
biological systems, including those that aim to replicate
the function of natural structures, membranes, and
fluids. Structures for bone growth, implants that
won't be rejected, and biomolecular motors to replicate
natural mechanical activity are examples.
Each chapter provides an overview, with examples selected
for educational value and written in a manner accessible
to both science and engineering disciplines. "We
avoid jargon and overly-technical terms," Heflin
All of the chapters have end-of-chapter questions.
In most cases these relate directly to the content
of the chapter while other questions require the student
to look at reference material or beyond for answers.
Instructors can find the solutions on a password-protected
To keep the cost down, the book is in black and white.
But copies of all the figures – most of them in color
– are included in PowerPoint files on a CD that accompanies
each copy of the book. The text will dramatically
improve the learning experience, Heflin said.
"We had the green light for the book in the summer
of 2002 and we had all the chapters in hand by summer
2003," Heflin said. The book was released in
early July 2004.
"The next challenge is the rapid evolution of
the field," Heflin said. "In three years,
the book will have to be substantially updated to
include the latest advances."