PerspectiveApplied Physics

Taking temperature at the nanoscale

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Science  06 Feb 2015:
Vol. 347, Issue 6222, pp. 611-612
DOI: 10.1126/science.aaa5311

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Measuring temperature has become commonplace since Fahrenheit, Celsius, and others introduced thermometers and temperature scales in the 18th century. However, the definition of temperature is not at all obvious, as it is now described as a statistical quantity given by the rate of change of entropy with respect to the internal energy of a system with volume and number of particles held constant. This is by itself not an easy concept to grasp. In addition, determining temperature raises thermodynamical questions when considering systems with further and further reduced dimensions (1). Consequently, measuring temperature at the nanoscale constitutes a challenge in many fields of science and technology. On page 629 of this issue, Mecklenburg et al. (2) report how they have elegantly met this challenge.