Nanoscale science and technology

Nanoscale science and technology 
R Kelsall, I Hamley, and M Geoghegan (eds)
Chichester, UK: John Wiley | 2005 | 448pp | ?55.00 (HB) | ISBN 0470850868 
Reviewed by Michael Gross

The science of small things is turning into big business. It appears to be lucrative not only for the makers of nanostructures that end up in optical or electronic devices, but also for the publishers who produce an ever increasing stream of books with the four letters ’nano’ on the cover. After the early vision books with their prophecies, we have had popular science books, then handbooks and academic monographs, and now there is the first (at least on my shelf) student textbook on nanotech.  

Like most textbooks, it is based on the editors’ own teaching experience, namely on the pioneering ’Nanoscale science and technology’ masters course they have been running as a joint project of the Universities of Leeds and Sheffield since 2001. Like the course, the textbook is targeted at postgraduates from the physical sciences.  

The nine chapters contributed by eight different authors are arranged vaguely from the simple to the complex. The book starts with fundamental things from atoms upwards, introduces both production and analytical techniques, and the basics of semiconductors. In the last third we find self-assembly, molecular films, and finally the most complex nanosystem known to mankind, the living cell, with some of its machinery.  

Overall the book reads well, abounds with instructive diagrams, and appears to be pitched at the right level for a postgraduate audience. As it is clearly rooted in the physical sciences (the ’bio’-chapter is the shortest of the book and only offers a few eclectic examples of bio/nano cross-fertilisation), it leaves an opening for a more biology-based text to help any biologists or even medical students who choose a nano subject in their postgraduate studies. Once that has been done, we only need the children’s guide to the nanoworld in order to complete the nano bookshelf.