Nanotechnology is becoming central to several fields of engineering in today’s high-tech world. It can be applied across many fields where improvements in materials and devices at atomic or molecular scale are expected to lead to significant improvements.
The power of computers is increasing but the size of devices is shrinking. The material properties at the nano-scale level can differ drastically from properties at the macro-level leading to the development of specialized technologies such as nanomaterials and nanodevices that can be used in the implementation of the advanced nano-technologies in engineering applications.
Nanotechnology in materials involves the modification of matter at the atomic, molecular, and supramolecular levels to create improved materials for advanced applications. BTech courses in advanced materials, nanotechnology can meet the global demand in designing and produce better materials for manufacturing modern products. Here materials not only need to be light, strong, and resilient but also need to become “multi-functional.”
For this, materials have to become “smart” by incorporating new features such as sensing, actuation, and computing capabilities; some of which must be addressed at the nano-scale. This is done by integrating new technologies and new materials comprising biomaterials and metamaterials.
The pay packages for nanotechnology graduates in the domestic market are on par with other engineering disciplines.
What is taught in nanotechnology?
Being one of the emerging fields in engineering and technology, nanotechnology offers students a wide array of genres such as materials science, materials processing, characterization, advanced manufacturing as well as advances in specialist materials that as shape memory alloys, polymers, and metal matrix composites, self-healing polymers, etc.
The field of nanotechnology stands on three key pillars of study: theoretical, processing, and modeling.
Theoretical understanding of the physics and chemistry of materials to build upon the basic atomic theory and quantum mechanics that students have studied in their senior high school. It further extends to the physical origins of electrical, magnetic, and optical properties of materials.
Nanomaterial processing — It covers different types of nanomaterials, such as nanoparticles, nanowires, graphene, and nanocomposites along with the various synthesis routes such as vapor deposition, laser deposition, and sol-gel are used to manufacture nanomaterials in laboratories and industries.
Materials modeling — It includes various computational techniques (such as DFT, atomistic simulations, and machine learning used to explore the structure, stability, and properties of nanomaterials.
Career options in nanotechnology and advanced materials
Research Scientist – A materials/nanomaterials research scientist synthesizes and studies materials at atomic scales to build new materials or improve existing ones for use in cutting-edge technologies.
Manufacturing Engineering – A manufacturing engineer is an expert in industrial production, who is responsible for research to establish the best methods to develop, design, and build parts to meet specialist requirements.
Materials engineers — Materials engineers create and study materials at multi-scale levels including nanoscopic, mesoscopic, and microscopic to modify their properties and behaviour. They study different types of materials such as polymers, ceramics, metals, and alloys through various methods to solve problems in several different engineering fields, such as mechanical, chemical, electrical, civil, nuclear, and aerospace.
Process Engineer – Process engineers are responsible for designing new industrial processes or modifying existing ones. By designing, controlling, and operating the biochemical processes, they turn raw materials into valuable products. Process engineers play a vital role in many industries.
ISRO/ DRDO/ CSIR Labs – There are many opportunities for materials and nanomaterials engineers in leading aerospace and defence organisations like ISRO and DRDO. Such engineers can further join research organisations like CSIR - Institute of Minerals and Materials Technology to advance their knowledge in the field of materials engineering.
(Authored by Prof Gurvinder Singh Virk, Dean, School of Engineering, UPES)