Introduction to

Nano-science and Nano-technology SCI 382U and PH 382U


Last updated: October 13, 2015


Neuberger Hall, room 11, Mo/We 14:00 to 15:50 pm


Lecturer: Peter Moeck, Dr. rer. nat. (Crystallography), PhD

Professor of Physics

Office Hours: Tuesday and Thursday 12:00-12:30 pm and by appointment

Office Location: SRTC, room 404, pmoeck at

Tel. 503 725 4227, but I do prefer to communicate with my students per e-mail or in person


buckyball    socer ball          earth from space

            approx. 1 nm                                                   approx.  22 cm                                                                  approx.  12,500 km

When augmented by biophysics and structural/molecular ­­biology, classical materials science and engineering (MSE) becomes an exciting avenue for approaching the fields of nano-science and nano-technology. You must learn a bit about the classical MSE field, and some of the elementary physical (mostly quantum mechanical) principles in order to appreciate the interdisciplinary nature of nanoscience. A recent paper (J. Mater. Educ. 36 (2014) 77-96) describes the course goals and my reasoning behind teaching it. 


This course is pretty rigorous as general science education classes go. Rigorous instruction … requires students to construct meaning for themselves, impose structure on information, integrate individual skills into processes, operate within but at the outer edge of their abilities, and apply what they learn in more than one context and to unpredictable situations.


Also following Richard Jones (author of Soft Machines), we consider the field of nano-science and nano-technology as a technoscience, i.e. include … the technological and social context of scienceTechnoscience recognises that scientific knowledge is not only socially coded and historically situated but sustained and made durable by material (non-human) networks.”

Technoscience - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia


What the course attempts to clarify is that science as such is cool, not just the moving around of atoms and molecules on a metal surface in ultrahigh vacuum with the help of a scanning tunneling microscope tip.


I do not require my students to purchase any book. First, there is so far no STANDARD 300 level text book on introductory nano-science and nano-technology. However there are many books on: 'classical materials science and engineering as the epitome of interdisciplinary', so if you want to know about the MSE approach, I recommend:


R. W. Cahn, The Coming of Materials Science, Pergamon, 2001, only about $ 60, but covers an enormous range, i.e. essentially the whole field plus its historic context up to the establishment of nano-science and –engineering, my personal recommendation !!


There is some kind of an “undergrad textbook” with material for a whole year: Introduction to Nanoscience & Nanotechnology, G. L. Hornyak, H. F. Tibbals, J. Dutta, and J. J. Moore, CRC Press, Boca Raton 2009, it is actually two books in one as there is also Introduction to Nanoscience and Foundations of Nanotechnology available separately from the same publisher by the same authors. What I personally do not like about this book is its somewhat excessively long prose; physicists often like to make their arguments with formulae (i.e. some special kind of unambiguous poetry) and derive where something interesting is coming from by combining a bunch of other formulae. Also whenever there are several authors and the editor did a less then perfect job (or when there were several editors that were not all experts in the field), there is often overlap between chapters. There are some mistakes and misconceptions, and way too much uncritical emphasis around the unsubstantiated conjecture's of Drexler (3D printing at the atomic level, assemblers, molecular manufacturing), and Kurzweil (singularity scenario, longevity escape velocity), for my liking. So this book is NOT really recommended by me at the 300 level. Nevertheless, I will use some of their figures.


Another recent textbook, Science at the Nanoscale, An Introductory Textbook, by C. W. Shong, S. C. Haur, and A. T. S. Wee, (Pan Stanford Publ. 2010) does not have these problems. It is similar to C. Binns, Introduction to Nanoscience and Nanotechnology, Wiley, 2010, which is a really good read at bedtime. Concentrating more on the physical aspects of nanotech and being consistently at a higher level that the two better undergraduate nanoscience textbooks above (so more suited for a beginning graduate student in physics), a pretty good textbook is E. L. Wolf, Nanophysics and Nanotechnology, An Introduction to Modern Concepts in Nanoscience, 2nd enlarged Edition, Wiley-VCH, 2006.


A very nice introduction to the physics, chemistry, and biology, and engineering at the nanometer scale for graduate students is S. M. Lindsay, Introduction to Nanoscience, Oxford University Press 2010. It is unique in so far as the three sciences and engineering are considered on an equal footing, so kind of techno-science. Here is a link to a popular science book on nanotech and here another one to a more serious book.


A mixture of what is in the books above, classical materials science and –engineering and some very basic introductory quantum mechanics is what we are going to cover.


The approach taken to this course follows a successful course on nanomaterials at Northwestern University that has been running for more than fifteen years. That course is designed from the MSE perspective that the field can be depicted symbolically by the MSE tetrahedron where all vertices are of equal importance and represent (1) atomic structure and chemical composition, (2) physical and chemical property, (3) synthesis and processing, and (4) performance under environmental constraints as well as property per cost ratio. The nano-MSE tetrahedron is an augmentation: there are at least three more degrees of freedom to be incorporated to define it as a discipline, (5) the nanometer size of the entity, (6) the shape and topology (7) of the entity (be it an inorganic crystal or a macromolecular assembly), and somewhat more loosely defined the (8) dimensionality of the entity. So it is time to come up with some new paradigm for the nano aspects of MSE.


To highlight a certain aspect of MSE, it is customary to depict the MSE tetrahedron with one of the four equal vertices up (making them in effect not-quite equal), e.g. S. M. Allen and E. L. Thomas, The Structure of Materials, Wiley, 1999, in order to have some justification to concentrate on one particular aspect of MSE.


This course will also be a little bit biased towards atomistic structure, because I believe with Samuel M. Allen and Edwin L. Thomas that there is a common set of principles governing the structure and properties of many different types of materials .. an understanding of these principles forms the foundation of a modern education in the field of materials science and engineering .. Facility with crystallography is a primary skill for communication in materials science and engineering.


Along similar lines, Bernhardt Wuensch defines materials science as being primarily about the relation between the structure of matter and its properties and materials engineering as being primarily about the modification of properties and performance during processing, and after with the manufacturing process.


One may, thus, define the materials science and engineering super-discipline loosely as being about communications between (materials) scientist and (materials) engineers. Surely a common scientific language is needed for this communication to happen. As far as the crystalline state is concerned, this language is classical crystallography and its words are the crystallographic core concepts. Generalized crystallography deals with the structure of condensed matter in general. It is “the science of structures at a particular level of organization, being concerned with structures bigger than those represented by simple atoms but smaller than those of, for example, the bacteriophage.” This definition predates the well established definition of nanoscience and nanotechnology by some 25 years. Bacteriophages are visuses that infect bacteria and are on the order of magnitude of 30 nm. Generalized crystallography is, therefore, the structural basis of nanoscience and nanotechnology.  


As for the usage of “information technology in class” and multi-tasking, research shows that it does more harm than good. It is also like passive smoking; even the students who want to concentrate on the lecture get distracted by it. So find some way of dealing with that please amongst yourself.  



What this course tries to achieve:


- To give an overview of the whole field of nano-science and nano-technology to all interested PSU students and anybody interested from the Greater Portland Area

- Illustrate some simple physical laws of structure-property-size-shape relationships of crystalline engineering materials at the nanometer scale

- Help you study applications that involve nano-structured materials

- Allow you to develop your capabilities to critically evaluate nanotechnology related news claims / distinguishing real progress from hype

- Help you build a healthy foundational outlook for life-long learning.


The course is part of a sequence of three lecture courses (and one laboratory course) dealing with the incremental, evolutionary, and radial varieties of nanotechnology. The team behind this development would like to take 5 minutes of your time to make our case


For all of that you have to learn some materials science and –engineering first and also cover a few basics of crystallography, but you will get this from a genuine crystallographer (i.e. me), so the emphasis is on the correct usage of the core concepts!


Breakdown of final grade:

20 % attendance, it is OK to miss up to two classes if really good justifications can be provided

35 % midterm exam (2 hours), Monday November 3 during the regular class time


Extra Credit: Read this articles,, think about it for some time, write up to three pages on what you think who won the argument and most importantly why. For a well balanced argument, you should also consider reading and thinking about some of the background, e.g.

an apparently worldwide conspiracy by guess who, (of course some rouge US government officials backing mad scientists and the rest of the world except some American high school kids not figuring it out): (if the link does not work, click here), the great theoretical physicist R. P. Feynman himself, and perhaps - to counterbalance what a really wise man said - even some BS and (if the latter link doesn’t work, click here). Especially if you aspire to become a physicist or physics teacher, I would very much like you to read what is at the latter link and make an assessment to it to the very best of your knowledge). Also you may like to hear, see and find out for yourself who is a real scientist and who might just be and eloquent and highly intelligent charlatan,



You may like to end your write up with a few paragraphs on why exact definitions matter.

As most of you will be doing this in order to improve your grade after the midterm, the maximum possible extra credit is 25 to 50% of the results of your midterm. (The percentage will be the same for all students but be fixed on the basis of the average points that can be made up. The essence is that the top of the class students must remain the top of the class students after extra credit has been applied. It will be OK to have more top of the class students after the application of the extra credit.

Due one week after the results of the midterm have been announcedif you are happy with the results of your midterm and your projected result for the whole course, you do not need to go for this extra credit. The weighing of the extra credit will make sure that the top of the class students remain the top of the class students, but that other students can catch up a bit.


45 % final exam (2 hours), Monday, December 8 at the regular class time and the usual place



“If, in some cataclysm, all of scientific knowledge were to be destroyed, and only one sentence passed on to the next generation of creatures, what statement would contain the most information in the fewest words?

I believe it is the atomic hypothesis (or the atomic fact, or whatever you wish to call it) that all things are made of atoms — little particles that move around in perpetual motion, attracting each other when they are a little distance apart, but repelling on being squeezed into one another. In that one sentence, you will see, there is an enormous amount of information about the world, if just a little imagination and thinking are applied.” Richard P. Feynman, 1963


Lecture Plan and Downloads


Note that this plan may change as we progress.

"Go make yourself a plan - and be a shining light. Then make yourself a second plan - for neither will come right." - Bertolt Brecht


Life is what happens to you while you're busy making other plans .” John Lennon


1st – 4th week, we watch and discuss this three part BBC movie 15 minutes, 360 dpi, one of three 15 minutes, 360 dpi, two of three 15 minutes, 360 dpi, three of three


and some more from the Oxford Martin School,, 15 minutes, 720 dpi, 17 minutes, 720 dpi, mainly correct


there are several things not quite right in these movies, by the end of the course you should be clear on all of these “ambiguities” or “screw ups” and have a much better understanding of progress in the applied sciences and engineering in general 10 minutes, 240 dpi, at last real science !!!, is that nano  ??


so we have a look at a seminar at a Canadian Research University, Richard Jones,, about an hour plus some 15 minutes discussion to balance this out, Alan Rae,, Suba Suresh, (real bio-materials science), Ashutosh Sharma, nano-bio, nano-machines, 30 minutes, inside the living cell, 15 minutes


make up your own mind: 10 minutes from nova “intelligent design trial Tammy Kitzmiller, et al. v. Dover Area School District, et al. (400 F. Supp. 2d 707, Docket no. 4cv2688), Discovery Institute for more along these lines, full Nova movie:


boy and his CO molecule:


how the movie “boy and his atom” was made:


 5th week, definitions-illustrations nanotech, download, get the slides and have an opinion on the subject before you come to class, so that we may have a discussion, there should also be a discussion on a few slides on public perception of controversial scientific-technical issues in general .


6th week Skip Rung, director of the Oregon Nanoscience and Microtechnologies Institute, presents ideas on commercialization of nano-science and -engineering, click here (for slides from a 2008 seminar) and click here for slides from a 2012 seminar.


7th / 8th week What is materials science and engineering? Where is it coming from? What distinguished materials science a science and engineering form other disciplines? download lecture manuscript here free itunes video from a seminar at the Department of Materials at Oxford University, also on Youtube: last lecture of the course, differences between animate matter and inanimate matter, there is much to learn, … and nano-materials science and eningeering is a good career choice for anybody interested in applied interdisciplinary science)


(and by the same scientist/lecturer/BBC broad caster:


The nano-core concept of topology, which goes together with size, shape and dimensionality into the center of the Materials Science and Engineering tetrahedron.


some classical physics scaling with length , some very basics facts about quantum mechanics, application of some simple quantum mechanics to simple potentials, the hydrogen atom, hydrogenic atoms, other atoms, also to molecules and solids which uses bits and pieces of a general review of atomic bonding and their relation to physical properties, free iTunes movies on quantum mechanics from Oxford University,


8th/9th week Introduction to geometrical-structural Crystallography, ideal structure, download lecture manuscript here, real structure, download lecture manuscript here, generalized crystallography

(by the way: nano-structured metals deform differently since the concept of a dislocation is no longer useful, have a look at this paper from the Materials Research Bulletin)




10th week, wrap of the whole course


Three papers in support of the understanding of the Quantum Mysteries: Mermin 1981 (before experimental verification), Mermin 1985 (after the first successful verifications of the Bell theorem/violations of the Bell inequalities that demonstrate that either locality or reality or both have to be abandoned if we want to keep counterfactual definitiveness / the way we do science by induction), and Mermin in 2012, (QBism) a philosophical viewpoint concerning observer created reality). I hope to convey that quantum mechanics doesn't follow our common logic (i.e. set theory), and as a result offers a great opportunity for nano-materials engineering.


If time permits:

Spatially averaged Crystallography as seen in transmission electron microscopy, download the lecture manuscripts of a mini-course I gave at the Technical University Chemnitz, here.


9th /10th  the week Structural fingerprinting in the transmission electron microscope, a seminar I gave at Oregon State University, download presentation, here .

Quantifying and enforcing 2D symmetries in scanning probe microscopy images, a seminar I gave at the Oregon Academy of Sciences, download presentation, here .


Links to a few you tube movies we are going to watch in class



Irreducible complexity / Intelligent design debunked 8 minutes 4D printing?



Synthetic biology is in my humble opinion top of the range radical nanoscience, a link to a leader in that filed:


Really good lecture series:



some more resources

free lecture series materials science:

10 minutes higher level materials science:


Educational web sites and resources from the International Union of Crystallography:

Courtesy of Prof. Dr. rer. Nat. habil. Michael Hietschold, Technical University Chemnitz, Germany, here are his slides from the special guest lectures

courtesy of em. Prof. Pavel Smejtek, here are the lecture notes on superconductivity

some interesting movies on crystallography can be found at
some more basic crystallography can be found at

a whole book on crystallography in open access: M. O'Keeffe and B. G. Hyde, Crystal Structures I: Patterns and Symmetry, freely accessible as *.pdf files at

a whole course on X-ray crystallography

courtesy of Prof. K. H. D. H. Bhadeshia of Cambridge University in the U.K., Worked examples in the Geometry of Crystals, the 2nd edition, published in 2001 (updated 2006), is now available for free download from this site. The book deals with the mathematical crystallography of materials. It is intended for use by students and by anyone interested in phase transformations or interfaces. ISBN 0-904357-94-5, published by the Institute of Materials, 1 Carlton House Terrace, London SW1Y 5DB. Reviewed in Acta Crystallographica A57 (2001) 478. You can download the whole book: PDF file (6 Mb)

some crystal structure movies:

United Kingdom Royal Society and Royal Academy of Engineering joint report on Nanoscience and nanotechnologies: opportunities and uncertainties, 29 July 2004,



MINI Videos for fun and information

1: Disassembly of a liquid crystal watch at

2: Nanoscience and Technology

3: Amorphous metals at

4: Carbon Nanotubes at

5: Defects in Salt Crystals at

6: Eaerogel at

7: Silicon at

8. Computer chips at

9. NiTi shape memory alloys at

10. NiTi mystery at

11. Self assembly at,

12. STM principle at

13. Organic Light Emitting Diodes and Titanium Dioxide Raspberry Solar Cells both at

Free feature length Nova movies on Materials Science and Engineering including Nano

- Making Stuff Smaller:

- Making Stuff Smarter:

- Making Stuff Stronger:

- Making Stuff Cleaner:

- Smartest machine on Earth:

and on the very beginnings of Materials Engineering:

nanotech news from IEEE:

Nano-education networks: and

Structure of a wrench in SEM (5 min):

Stephen Chu you-tube lectures: On his Nobel Prize work and Nanoscience:

Energy challenge:

physics meets biology:  breakthrough of the year quantum mechanics


Modern electron microscopes as crystallographic instruments, a seminar I gave at Central Michigan University, download presentation, here



Some stuff (essentially BS in my humble opinion – but some people do think that way), not to be taken too seriously

Ralph Merkle:

Ray Kurzweil:,

Singularity, robots/human mix:

Recommending pills to make it up to the singularity so that you can life forever in the new nanotech world

Do you want to life forever?

Michio Kaku:


The ultimate BS science fiction:


By the way, here is Arthur von Hippel’s 1956 vision for the then emerging field of materials science and engineering:


”… instead of taking prefabricated materials and trying to devise engineering applications consistent with their macroscopic properties, one builds materials from their atoms and molecules for the purpose at hand.”


That are good definitions for nano-science and nano-engineering and a German-American Materials Scientist was their originator more than half a century ago. (The only important bit missing in this quote is that due to nano-structuring there are novel properties, the grand master was sure very aware of that!!)


A. R. von Hippel, “Molecular Engineering”, Science, vol. 123 (issue 3191), pp. 315-317, 1956; MIT Techn. Rep. 101, October 1955; Molecular Science and Molecular Engineering, Technology Press of MIT Press and Wiley & Sons, New York, 1959.

Very worthwhile reading: If you want to know more about nano-materials science and engineering, watch a video from the BBC at


“If you want to build a ship, don't drum up people together to collect wood and don't assign them tasks and work, but rather teach them to long for the endless immensity of the sea.”  Antoine de Saint-Exupéry