Mesoscopic Physics

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Circuits of small capacitance superconducting tunnel junctions.  Such circuits have interesting quantum electrodynamic properties.

What is Mesoscopic Physics?

The Greek prefix "meso" means middle, or in between, and mesoscopic refers to the physics of objects in between the microscopic realm of atoms, molecules and quantum mechanics, and the macroscopic realm of continuum electrodynamics or continuum mechanics.  Mesoscopic physics  has emerged together with advances in Nanotechnology, where lithography and self-assembly are used to make very small, nanometer scale objects after a prescribed design. We will study electronic properties of small circuit elements, so-called “Nano-electronics”, and we will look at nano mechanical systems.  We therefore might call this course “Nano-physics”.

With physical models we can understand how nanometer-scale systems behave and to construct these models we need to combine ideas from macroscopic and microscopic physics in new and interesting ways.  For example, we will study the quantized conductance of a quantum point contact, where a nanometer scale structure made with lithography is treated as a wave guide for the quantum wave function of the electron.  Another example is the Coulomb blockade, where the electrostatic capacitance of a small metallic grain or "island", carefully placed in between source and drain electrical leads, gives a blocking of electrical current in the circuit, due to the significant charging energy needed for adding one single quantum of charge on to the island.  The Coulomb blockade is particularly interesting in superconducting circuits, where the complementarity of superconducting phase and particle number give rise to a duality in the electrodynamics superconducting nano-circuits.

The course is designed to give an overview to 4th year undergraduate students and beginning graduate students who are interested in both the fundamental physics of the mesoscopic, and the many technological applications that are emerging. We will take a look at the historical development of many of these ideas, which were first observed in rather crude ways, for example by electrical measurements on composite materials of very small grains.

The course is aimed at preparing students for further advanced study, and one "learning outcome" is  to be able to read and comprehend current scientific literature in the field.  The course exercised are also aimed at preparing students for writing comprehensible scientific english, where particular emphasis is placed on preparing pedagogical graphical material, with clear and concise captions.

The exact content of this course will vary from year to year and some of the reading at the end of the course will be from recent research literature.  The lectures will be given by Prof. David Haviland (Nanostructure Physics, KTH). There will be weekly homework assignments and a project involving computer simulations in Python, as well as a study visit to the Albanova Nanofabricaton Facility.

Course Syllabus:

The Syllabus for previous years is found here.

Homework problems:

Home work problems will be assigned weekly, due the following week.  The homework and lab reports will be the basis for the course grade. Homework assignments will be posted on the web in and area with restricted access (Link).

Course Literature:

We will work from materials distributed to participants through the web via a restricted access (Link).
Here is a list of books and articles which are helpful in this course:

  • Electronic Transport in Mesoscopic Systems, by Supriyo Data, ISBN 0-521-59943-1
  • Mesoscopic Physics, by Yoseph Imry, ISBN 0-19-510167-7
  • Single Charge Tunneling, Nato ASI series, eds.  H. Grabert and M. H. Devoret, ISBN  0-306-44229-9
  • Quantum Coherent Effects, Phase Transitions and Dissipative dynamics in Ultra small tunnel Junctions, by G. Schön and A. D. Ziakin, Phys. Rep. 198, p 237 (1990).
  • Other review and journal articles – information given during the lecture.


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