What is a nanoscale system? The simplest and most natural answer is that it is a structure with at least one dimension at the nanometer scale. Nanoscale materials straddle the border between the molecular and the macroscopic. They are small enough to exhibit characteristics reminiscent of molecules but large enough for their properties to be designed and controlled to meet human needs. Physics at the nanometer scale is vastly different from that of bulk materials mainly because of: the enhanced role of surface atoms with their unpaired spins and uncompensated bonds; the reduced dimensionality at the nanoscale; and quantum confinement and/or coherence effects. Additional motivation for this exciting area comes from the numerous applications of nanoparticles and nanostructures in magnetics and spintronics, photonics, electronics, catalysis, and medicine.
Nanoscale Physics, which many regard also as a branch of Condensed Matter Physics (CMP), has numerous examples of collaborations between physicists and chemists, biologists, electrical and mechanical engineers, material scientists, and computer scientists. Researchers in nanoscience from different disciplines are interested in the same general size scale, and much of the focus is similar to that of mainstream CMP with searches for novel properties and novel materials, such as magnetic nanoparticles, magnetic nanorings, graphene, carbon and boron nitride nanotubes, and fullerenes.
Campus-wide Interdisciplinary Collaboration:
- Robert Birkmire (Director of the Institute of Energy Conversion)
- James Kolodzey (Dept. of Electrical and Computer Engineering)
- Matthew F. Doty (Dept. of Materials Science and Engineering)
- Yan Jin (Dept. of Plant and Soil Sciences)
See also the Website of Condensed Matter Physics.