Dept. of Electrical & Computer Engineering
EOW 448, University of Victoria
P.O. Box 1700 STN CSC
Victoria, BC V8W 2Y2


The concept of the atom as the most basic constituent of matter was proposed long ago. Just beyond the atomic level, one begins to distinguish the properties we normally associate with everyday materials (solids, liquids, etc.) such as colour, density, texture, viscosity and conductivity. The different interactions among atoms and their orientation in space leads to the wide diversity found in nature, from individual molecules to complex organisms. These phenomena provide the ultimate opportunity to create new materials and structures and are at the core of the emerging field of nanotechnology.

Nanotechnology is essentially about engineering materials and their properties at very small length scales (approx. 1–100 nm). As the extent of a material is reduced many of its properties can be dramatically altered and by controlling the size and shape of a structure at the nanoscale, the mechanical, chemical, electrical, optical, etc., properties of materials can be tailored for specific applications. The study of nanoscale materials now permeates into virtually every field of modern science and technology whether it be materials physics, chemistry, medicine and biotechnology, electronics, mechanical systems or photonics.  And yet, by most accounts nanoscale science and technology is just in its infancy.

Figure 1. Outer electron orbitals of element 14 in the periodic table.