Recent interest in nanotechnology is challenging the community to analyse, develop and design nanometer to micrometer-sized devices for applications in new generations of computer, electronics, photonics and drug delivery systems. To successfully design and fabricate novel nanomaterials and nanosystems, we must necessarily bridge the gap in our understanding of mechanical properties and processes at length scales ranging from 100 nanometers (where atomistic simulations are currently possible) to a micron (where continuum mechanics is experimentally validated). For this purpose the difficulties and complexity originate in the substantial differences in philosophy and viewpoints between conventional continuum mechanics and quantum theories. The challenge lies in how to establish the relationship between a continuum mechanical system and its atomistic counterpart in order to define continuum variables that are calculable within an atomic system.

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