From An Introduction to Nanoscience and Nanotechnology

2.4. Solid Matter

After molecules, another important construction is that of solid bodies, some of which have a particular status in the nanoworld. How can we consider an atomic aggregate of several nanometers in diameter to be an insulator or conductor with the magnetic and electrical properties according to size? First of all, we need to understand the behavior of the electron in solids when affected by external factors which is the case for crystalline bodies. After this, we will be able to analyze the effect of the size of the aggregates.

Whether the solid is an insulator, conductor or semi-conductor, everything depends on the circulation of electrons within it.

2.4.1. Insulators or conductors

The fact that a body is an insulator or a conductor is only the consequence of the electron s ability to move.

Let us take the example of an insulating material. It has no free electrons because they are all taking part in interatomic bonds. One particular class of insulator corresponds to transparent bodies. All the electrons are so tightly packed together that the luminous photons do not have enough energy to unlock them and the light travels through the solid body without being absorbed, as in the case of glass (silicon oxide) or diamonds (covalent crystal of carbon).

On the other hand, metal is a conducting material. Its properties can be described in a relatively simple way by considering it as a box with free electrons. This box is made up of atoms of ionized...

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