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Introduction to the Physics of Nanoelectronics

Introduction to the Physics of Nanoelectronics

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Introduction to the Physics of Nanoelectronics

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Lançado em:
Mar 28, 2012


This book provides an introduction to the physics of nanoelectronics, with a focus on the theoretical aspects of nanoscale devices. The book begins with an overview of the mathematics and quantum mechanics pertaining to nanoscale electronics, to facilitate the understanding of subsequent chapters. It goes on to encompass quantum electronics, spintronics, Hall effects, carbon and graphene electronics, and topological physics in nanoscale devices.

Theoretical methodology is developed using quantum mechanical and non-equilibrium Green’s function (NEGF) techniques to calculate electronic currents and elucidate their transport properties at the atomic scale. The spin Hall effect is explained and its application to the emerging field of spintronics – where an electron’s spin as well as its charge is utilised – is discussed. Topological dynamics and gauge potential are introduced with the relevant mathematics, and their application in nanoelectronic systems is explained. Graphene, one of the most promising carbon-based nanostructures for nanoelectronics, is also explored.
  • Begins with an overview of the mathematics and quantum mechanics pertaining to nanoscale electronics
  • Encompasses quantum electronics, spintronics, Hall effects, carbon and graphene electronics, and topological physics in nanoscale devices
  • Comprehensively introduces topological dynamics and gauge potential with the relevant mathematics, and extensively discusses their application in nanoelectronic systems
Lançado em:
Mar 28, 2012

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Introduction to the Physics of Nanoelectronics - Elsevier Science



Due to its long history, the term ‘electronics’ is well known to laymen and experts alike. But to prefix it with ‘nano’ is something that would baffle the laymen and set the experts off on an endless debate. The main motivation for writing this book arises from our distress at the confusion and the desire to seek an appropriate interpretation. And we decided that this should be done in the context of modern applied physics, an area which is exciting and relevant to many scientists worldwide. It is a broad area which involves condensed matter, optical and atomic, devices and nanotechnologies. We therefore think that nanoelectronics should be about the discovery and implementation of new physics in electronic devices that are approaching the nanometer scale. It should thus encompass, among others, the modern topics of spintronics, topological insulators, carbon-based electronics (principally carbon nanotubes and graphene), single electronics, quantum Hall systems and devices.

There have been many good-quality condensed matter physics textbooks, ranging from solid state, many-body physics to, more recently, mesoscopic physics. On the other hand, there is no shortage of books on devices, particularly semiconductor devices, which introduce the workings of bipolar, diodes and complementary metal–oxide semiconductors (CMOS) transistors. Nonetheless, it is hard not to notice that condensed matter physics has been rather decoupled from the physics of electronic devices. Modern books on mesoscopic physics and non-equilibrium Green’s functions (NEGFs) might have taken physics a few steps closer to the world of devices, but clear links remain elusive. The main intention of this book is to extend previous efforts to an extent that future efforts to complete the link between physics and electronic devices will be greatly simplified. Nanoelectronics is, however, an area so diverse and inclusive that a complete study of it would require inter-disciplinary fields that would certainly overfill a book this size. We thus remind readers that reading this book might need to be complemented by other specialized textbooks.

This book contains seven chapters and focuses on the theoretical aspects of nanoscale devices. Chapter 1 provides a revision of mathematics and quantum mechanics, which will be of use in subsequent chapters. Chapter 2 introduces the general idea of nanoelectronics as well as the many new contemporary topics that define this concept. The concept of energy and many-body physics in condensed matter system is introduced as a prelude to the more important topics of electron and spin dynamics.

Chapters 3 and 4 provide the foundational study of electron charge and spin dynamics in condensed matter and device systems. Hence, the concepts of interaction, disturbances and non-equilibrium become important here. Discussions begin with an equilibrium condensed matter system. The non-equilibrium formalism is introduced for device systems with clear boundaries and external fields. Chapter 5 is exclusively focused on spintronics and introduces the different theoretical topics related to quantum spin transport and individual spin manipulation. Thus, there is a much greater emphasis on spin orbit coupling, spin gauge theory and spin Hall effects than is found in existing books on magnetism or metal-based spintronics which, owing to the history of the subject, tend to emphasize the semi-classical approach. Nonetheless, the spin drift-diffusive theory of giant magnetoresistance (GMR) and tunneling magnetoresistance (TMR) effects are also covered in this chapter.

Chapter 6 introduces electronics based on carbon materials such as carbon nanotubes and graphene. Monolayer and bilayer graphene are discussed and the forms of their Hamiltonian are studied. The concept of gauge potential induced by strain or graphene deformation is also introduced. Particular attention is paid to the extra degrees of freedom in graphene, namely the pseudospin and the valleyspin, which share the spinor physics of electron spin. Novel graphene behaviors like localization, Klein tunneling and minimal conductivity are also discussed. The integer quantum Hall effect (IQHE) in graphene is discussed in relation to the semiconductor IQHE.

Chapter 7 provides a systematic introduction to the fi eld and gauge theoretical methods, with a focus on their application in nanoscale systems (e.g. spin orbit coupling systems and graphene). This is a departure from the usual treatment of gauge theory and topology in existing books, which mainly emphasize the development of these theories in high-energy physics. In this book, field and gauge theoretical methods are used alongside a phenomenological and statistical approach, with an emphasis on applications in nanoelectronics.

The writing of this book began with the rearrangement of the lecture notes for a graduate class we taught at the National University of Singapore. Nevertheless, this apparently straightforward process has taken us three years to complete. This task would not be possible without the help and intensive checking by our doctoral students and colleagues. We would like to thank Zhuobin Siu, Takashi Fujita, Yuan Li, Congson Ho, Mingjun Xing, Jie Guo and Nyuk Leong Chung for reading the manuscripts intensively and correcting our mistakes.

What we hope to achieve in this book is that readers will generally recognize the importance of integrating the physics of condensed matter, atom, electronic devices and particle dynamics in one book. In this way, a book like this one is able to discuss effectively the emerging technologies of spintronics, graphene, single electronics, topological insulators, plasmonics and many more that we believe will continue to emerge and dominate the development of physics in the twenty-first century.

Seng Ghee Tan and Mansoor B.A. Jalil


Physics mathematics for nanoscale systems


This chapter contains a number of useful mathematical subjects that might be relevant for the study of the physics of electron transport on the nanoscale level. This chapter is intended to be a fast-forward through basic mathematics and quantum mechanics topics. Useful topics covered in the chapter include vector calculus, Fourier transform and Dirac delta functions, basic quantum mechanics, Green’s function and second quantization as a method for keeping account of the electron.

Key words

quantum mechanics

vector calculus

Fourier transform

Dirac delta

Green’s function

second quantization

1.1 Introduction

The rapid development in the 1990s of nanoscale technologies and devices which span material and electronic engineering, semiconductor physics, device fabrication and characterization technologies, theoretical and computational physics, optics and chemistry turns this field into a sort of assembly hall that congregates cross-disciplinary expertise. We want to provide in this chapter a revision of the mathematics and physics that many (apart from perhaps physicists) may have forgotten but are necessary for a better appreciation of the many qualitative discussions in this book. This book is intended to be easy to read; its derivations may thus appear long-winded for those who are already familiar with them. Field theoretic, many-body and topological concepts are introduced ‘gently’ to readers to minimize psychological aversion.

This chapter contains a number of exercises, with the solutions given in most of them. It presents a number of useful mathematical subjects that we think are most relevant to the study of electron transport and nanoscale physics. As these are well-established topics that can be found in many textbooks, our presentation here will be brief, exercise based and summarized in tables.

The main purpose of this chapter is to provide a quick revision, a reminder of what most readers may have learnt in their younger (undergraduate) years and a quick look-up for equations or standard techniques (e.g. integration) that might come in handy for understanding the rest of the book.

1.2 Vector calculus

Vector calculus is usually covered in undergraduate mathematics and electrodynamics courses. As mentioned earlier, most are not repeated here.

However, some useful identities will be handy for solving advanced quantum mechanics or engineering problems, and these are summarized in Table 1.1. Here A, B and C are differentiable vector functions, while Φ is a scalar function. The following is the vector calculus of some common expressions presented in the form of exercises and solutions.

Table 1.1

Summary of useful vector identities

Exercise 1.1

A, B are differentiable vector functions and show that:



Exercise 1.2

(1) Prove that

(2) With the above where δ³(r) = δ(x)δ(y)δ(z), prove that



(2)Let R² = r² + v²

and applying volume integral to both sides:

One derives by divergence theorem that:

,one now has:

1.3 Fourier transform and Dirac delta functions

The mathematics of Fourier transform has extensive use in engineering and physics and can be found in most second year textbooks for engineering and physics undergraduate courses. Here we dole out the quick reminder that, if f(x) is periodic with period L, it can be written in Fourier series as follows:


, then:


In the case where f(x) is not periodic but a function, one can find its spectrum g(k) using the Fourier transform with which one has:


where g(k) = ℑ{f(x)}. Note that we have followed the convention of unitary, angular frequency. Table 1.2 summarizes some useful Fourier transform (FT) identities.

Table 1.2

Summary of useful Fourier transform identities

The Dirac delta function is an important mathematical object that simplifies calculations required for the studies of electron motion and propagation. It is not really a function but a symbol for physicists and engineers to represent some calculations. It can be regarded as a shorthand notation for some complicated limiting processes. Once the role it plays, for example, as a distribution function is implicitly understood, many derivations can be greatly simplified. Table 1.3 contains a few useful identities.

Table 1.3

Common relations and identities involving the Dirac delta functions

Exercise 1.3


Let f(x) be δ(x) One then has:

Exercise 1.4


Let u = |a|x. It is straightforward that:

leading to:

By comparing integrand, one has:

Strictly speaking, the above is an integrand identity. By quick inspection, it is clear that the Dirac delta is an even function where δ(x) = δ(− x). With some ingenuity, the Dirac function can be represented explicitly by mathematical functions that are truly functions. One very useful and common example is:


Now δc(x) is a true function. The conventional limiting process with Dirac delta should therefore be written in a mathematical manner, that is:



. Let us prove the second equation:


where 0 takes on any value of x

Table 1.4 provides a summary of three Dirac delta representations commonly used in Green’s functions and the physics of nanoelectronics.

Table 1.4

Representation of the Dirac delta by smooth functions. More representations can be found in standard textbooks

Exercise 1.5

everywhere except at x = 0, but there seems to be a freedom in choosing A. Find A.


which leads to

In fact A has a fixed value.

1.4 Basic quantum mechanics

Standard quantum mechanics textbooks normally consist of the following topics:

1. Wave mechanic description – well-known in Schrodinger’s equation

2. State vector formalism based upon Dirac’s bra-ket notations

3. Green’s function formalism

4. Principle of gauge and symmetry

5. Second quantization

6. Relativistic quantum mechanics.

In this book, emphasis is given to the applications of these well-known theories and formalism in the new context of electronics that are now fast approaching the nanoscale dimension. The foundational and mathematical aspects of quantum mechanics are not discussed in detail in this book. Instead we refer readers to textbooks¹, ² for foundational knowledge.

1.4.1 Vector spaces

In this section we show that, under the generalization of vector spaces, the physical states of a system can be described by state vectors in so-called braket formalism, as well as by wave mechanic representation in Schrodinger’s wavefunctions. In an n-dimensional space, one can choose a set of n linearly independent vectors |ui〉…… |un〉 as the basis vectors for a particular state vector. These basis vectors span the vector space and form a complete set of vectors as shown in Table 1.5 where the standard bra-ket notations are now used.

Table 1.5

Bra-ket representation of quantum states in discrete and continuous pictures

An electron in a momentum state with momentum p is often denoted by |p〉. On the other hand, a spin up state with spin quantization axis chosen along z , respectively, as these vectors are linearly independent and they are complete in two dimensions, thus satisfying the requirements to represent a single particle’s quantum spin states.

One wonders who might have imposed these requirements of linear independence and completeness. The answer lies of course in the law of nature. Since this is not a quantum mechanics or mathematical physics book, it suffices to accept that these are mere rules imposed by nature. In applied physics, all one needs to do is find the mathematical methods or objects that satisfy these rules. In the above, |ui〉 has been introduced as state vectors that are linearly independent. But linear independence does not imply orthogonality or orthonormality (e.g. 〈ui|ui〉 = δijare linearly independent but they are not orthogonal.

Exercise 1.6

Prove that ∑ i|ui〉〈ui| = 1


Thus one can write:

In the following, we discuss the coordinate and momentum representations in slightly more detail as these two pictures will be suitable for different types of nanostructures. In nanoelectronics and mesoscopic physics, knowledge of the flow or distribution of electrons in nano-sized structures or devices is required to understand some important measurables (e.g. conductivity, spin or charge accumulation). Let us now write the position operator Xv in vector space (bra-ket) notation, and write the state vector as |ψ〉. The position operator could provide at least ‘rudimentary’ insights into the whereabouts of an electron. In coordinate representation, the position eigenvectors {|xi〉} are chosen as the basis set. Since:


one can find Xv in the function space, i.e. Xf Since:




one arrives at Xfx|ψ〉 ≡ 〈x|Xv|ψ〉. On the other hand, if the above is to be carried out in the momentum representation, the basis set will be the momentum eigenvectors |p

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