Nanotechnology: Understanding Small Systems, Third Edition, 3rd Edition (Paperback) book cover


Understanding Small Systems, Third Edition, 3rd Edition

By Ben Rogers, Jesse Adams, Sumita Pennathur

CRC Press

427 pages | 182 B/W Illus.

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An Accessible, Scientifically Rigorous Presentation That Helps Your Students Learn the Real Stuff

Winner of a CHOICE Outstanding Academic Book Award 2011

"… takes the revolutionary concepts and techniques that have traditionally been fodder for graduate study and makes them accessible for all. … outstanding introduction to the broad field of nanotechnology provides a solid foundation for further study. Highly recommended."

N.M. Fahrenkopf, University at Albany, CHOICE Magazine 2011

Give your students the thorough grounding they need in nanotechnology. A rigorous yet accessible treatment of one of the world’s fastest growing fields, Nanotechnology: Understanding Small Systems, Third Edition provides an accessible introduction without sacrificing rigorous scientific details. This approach makes the subject matter accessible to students from a variety of disciplines. Building on the foundation set by the first two bestselling editions, this third edition maintains the features that made previous editions popular with students and professors alike.

See What’s New in the Third Edition:

  • Updated coverage of the eight main facets of nanotechnology
  • Expanded treatment of health/environmental ramifications of nanomaterials
  • Comparison of macroscale systems to those at the nanoscale, showing how scale phenomena affects behavior
  • New chapter on nanomedicine
  • New problems, examples, and an exhaustive nanotech glossary

Filled with real-world examples and original illustrations, the presentation makes the material fun and engaging. The systems-based approach gives students the tools to create systems with unique functions and characteristics. Fitting neatly between popular science books and high-level treatises, the book works from the ground up to provide a gateway into an exciting and rapidly evolving area of science.


"I use this book for undergrad freshmen and sophomore students. This book is useful to introduce the concept of nanotechnology to undergrad students in their very early stage of study."

—Eui-Hyeok Yang, Stevens Institute of Technology, Hoboken, New Jersey, USA

"The book is well-written with lots of examples and historic perspectives that certainly make reading more enjoyable and stimulating."

—Dr. Prabhu Arumugam, Louisiana Tech University, Ruston, USA

"The main strengths of this book are its illustrations, which are well conceived and layered from the viewpoint of attracting student attention, while also containing a sufficient level of detail to warrant repeated reference. While the "back of the envelope" calculations can come across as rather simplistic, I like it from the viewpoint that it helps students identify a degree of personal connection to the concept. The connection to emerging research ideas and even some example commercial products helps highlight the dynamic coverage of the topics. Through classifying chapters as per the areas of mechanics, fluidics, electronics, biology and medicine, the authors are able to relate their material to core disciplines, while emphasizing unifying and converging ideas."

—Nathan S. Swami, Electrical & Computer Engineering, University of Virginia, Charlottesville, USA

"Overall, this book takes engaging and entertaining style, which makes this book very readable, and provides a gateway into an exciting and rapidly evolving area of science."

—Mei Zhang, Florida State University

"… a comprehensive overview of nearly all aspects of modern and meaningful nano science and technology. … accessible to students with a wide variety of backgrounds, strengths, and disciplines, especially within a full semester course on nano science and technology."

—Michael J. Escuti, North Carolina State University

"… describes the plurality of nanotechnology in a good manner, both from its historical, chemical, physical and biological aspects …"

—Ola Nilsen, University of Oslo, Norway

"… an excellent introduction to a wide range of nanotechnology topics and the authors make the material fun to learn. … The authors are able to strip down difficult topics and present them in an easy to read formula."

—Donald J. Sirbuly, Department of NanoEngineering, UC San Diego

Table of Contents

Big Picture and Principles of the Small World

Understanding the Atom: Ex Nihilo Nihil Fit

Nanotechnology Starts with a Dare: Feynman’s Big Little Challenges

Why One-Billionth of a Meter Is a Big Deal

Thinking It Through: The Broad Implications of Nanotechnology

Gray Goo

Environmental Impact: Risks to Ecosystems and Human Health

The Written Word

The Bus iness of Nanotech: Plenty of Room at the Bottom Line Too


Homework Exercises


Recommendations for Further Reading

Introduction to Miniaturization

Background: The Smaller, the Better

Scaling Laws

The Elephant and the Flea

Scaling in Mechanics

Scaling in Electricity and Electromagnetism

Scaling in Optics

Scaling in Heat Transfer

Scaling in Fluids

Scaling in Biology

Accuracy of the Scaling Laws

Homework Exercises

Recommendations for further reading

Introduction to Nanoscale Physics

Background: Newton Never Saw a Nanotub e

One Hu ndred Hours and Eight Minutes of Nanoscale Physics

The Basics of Quantum Mechanics

Atomic Orbitals (Not Orbits)

EM Waves

How EM Waves Are Made

The Quantization of Energy

Atomic Spectra and Discreteness

The Photoelectric Effect

Wave–Particle Duality: The Double-Slit Experiment


Water Waves


The Uncertainty Principle

Particle in a Well


Homework Exercises




Background: Matter Matters

Bonding Atoms to Make Molecules and Solids

Ionic Bonding

Covalent Bonding

Metallic Bonding

Walking through Waals: van der Waals Forces

Dispersion Force

Repulsive Forces

van der Waals Force versus Gravity

C rystal Structures

Structures Small Enough to Be Diff erent (and Usefu l)


Colloidal Particles


Films, Layers, and Coatings

Porous Materials

Small-Grained Materials


Carbon Fullerenes and Nanotubes




Homework Exercises

Recommendations For Further Reading


Background: The Universe Mechanism

Nanomechanics: Which Motions and Forces Make the Cut?

A High-Speed Review of Motion: Disp lacement, Velocity, Acceleration, and Force

N anomechanical Os cillators: A Tale of Beams and Atoms


Free Oscillation

Free Oscillation from the Perspective of Energy (and Probability)

Forced Oscillation


Lennard-Jones Interaction: How an Atomic Bond Is Like a Spring

Quantum Mechanics of Oscillating Atoms

Schrödinger Equation and Correspondence Principle


Nanomechanical Oscillator Applications

Nanomechanical Memory Elements

Nanomechanical Mass Sensors: Detecting Low Concentrations

Feeling Faint Forces

Scanning Probe Microscopes

Pushing Atoms around with the Scanning Tunneling Microscope

Skimming across Atoms with the Atomic Force Microscope

Pulling Atoms Apart with the AFM

Rubbing and Mashing Atoms with the AFM

Mechanical Chemistry: Detecting Molecules with Bending Beams


Homework Exercises


Recommendations for Further Reading


Background: The Problem (Opp ortunity)

Electron Energy Bands

Electrons in Solids: Conductors, Insu lators, and Semiconductors

Fermi Energy

ensity of States for Solids

Electron Density in a Conductor

Turn Down the Volume! (How to Make a Solid Act More Like an Atom)

Quantum Confinement

Quantum Structures

Uses for Quantum Structures

How Small Is Small Enough for Confinement?

Conductors: The Metal-to-Insulator Transition

Semiconductors: Confining Excitons

Band Gap of Nanomaterials


Electrons Tunnel

s ingle Electron Phenomena

Two Rules for Keeping the Quantum in Quantum Dot

Rule : The Coulomb Blockade

Rule : Overcoming Uncertainty

Single-Electron Transistor

. M olecular Electronics

.Molecular Switches and Memory Storage

. Summary

Homework Exercises



Nanoscale Heat Transfer

Background: Hot Topic

A ll Heat Is Nanoscale Heat

Boltzmann’s Constant


Thermal Conductivity of Nanoscale Structures

Mean Free Path and Scattering of Heat Carriers

Thermoelectrics: Better Energy Conversion with Nanostructures

Quantum of Thermal Conduction



Increased Radiation Heat Transfer: Mind the Gap!


Homework Exercises

Recommendations for Further Reading


Background: The Lycurgus Cup and the Birth of the Photon

Photonic Properties of Nanomaterials

Photon Absorption

Photon Emission

Photon Scattering


Permittivity and the Free Electron Plasma

The Extinction Coefficient of Metal Particles

Colors and Uses of Gold and Silver Particles


Tuning the Band Gap of Nanoscale Semiconductors

The Colors and Uses of Quantum Dots

Lasers Based on Quantum Confinement

N ear-Field Light

The Limits of Light: Conventional Optics

Near-Field Optical Microscopes

Optical Tw eezers

Photonic Crystals: A Band Gap for Photons


Homework excercise

Recommendations for Further Reading

Nanoscale Fluid Mechanics

Background: Becoming Fluent in Fluids

Treating a Fluid the Way It Should Be Treated: The Concept of a Continuum

Fluid Motion, Continuum Style: The Navier–Stokes Equations

Fluid Motion: Molecular Dynamics Style

Fluids at the Nanoscale: Major Concepts

Swimming in Molasses: Life at Low Reynolds Numbers

Reynolds Number

Surface Charges and the Electrical Double Layer

Surface Charges at Interfaces

Gouy–Chapman–Stern Model and Electrical Double Layer

Electrokinetic Phenomena

Small Particles in Small Flows: Molecular Diffusion

How Fluids Flow at the Nanoscale

Pressure-Driven Flow

Gravity-Driven Flow


Superposition of Flows

Ions and Macromolecules Moving through a Channel

Stokes Flow around a Particle

The Convection–Diffusion–Electromigration Equation: Nanochannel Electrophoresis

Macromolecules in a Nanofluidic Channel

Applications of Nanofluidics

Analysis of Biomolecules: An End to Painful Doctor Visits?

Electroosmotic Pumps: Cooling Off Computer Chips

Other Applications


Homework Exercises



Background: Our World in a Cell

I ntroduction: How Biology "Feels" at the Nanometer Scale

Biological Shapes at the Nanoscale: Carbon and Water Are the Essential Tools

Inertia and Gravity Are Insignificant: The Swimming Bacterium

Random Thermal Motion

The Machinery of the Cell

Sugars Are Used for Energy (but also Structure)


Fatty Acids Are Used for Structure (but also Energy)


Nucleotides Are Used to Store Information and Carry Chemical Energy

Deoxyribonucleic Acid

Adenosine Triphosphate

Amino Acids Are Used to Make Proteins

ATP Synthase

Applications of Nanobiotechnology

Biomimetic Nanostructures

Molecular Motors


Homework excercises

Recommendations for Further Reading


What Is Nanomedicine?

Medical Nanoparticles


Lipid-Based Nanoparticles

Polymer-Based Nanoparticles and Polymer Therapeutics

Nanoparticles for Drug Delivery

Nanomedicine and Cancer

Biomimicry in Nanomedicine

Commercial Ex Ploration


Homework Exercises


Recommendations for Further Reading



About the Authors

Ben Rogers is a writer and an engineer (BS 2001; MS 2002, University of Nevada, Reno). He has done research at Nanogen, the Oak Ridge National Laboratory, and NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, and published many technical papers, as well as fictional works and essays (which can be found at He is currently the principal engineer at NevadaNano and lives in Reno with his wife and two daughters.

Jesse Adams (BS 1996, University of Nevada; MS 1997 and PhD 2001, Stanford University) is the vice president and CTO of NevadaNano. He is working to bring multifunctional microsensor technology to the chemical sensing market space.

Sumita Pennathur is an associate professor of mechanical engineering at the University of California, Santa Barbara (BS 2000, MS 2001, Massachusetts Institute of Technology; PhD 2005, Stanford University). She has been actively contributing to the fields of nanofluidics and nanoelectromechanical systems (NEMS), and has spent some time at both Sandia National Laboratories in Livermore, California, and the University of Twente MESA+ research facility in the Netherlands. When not enveloped in her research work, she can be found either spending time with her husband and two kids or at a local club wailing on her saxophone.

About the Series

Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering Series

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Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
SCIENCE / Biotechnology
SCIENCE / Physics