Exploring this Job
There are many ways to learn more about nanotechnology. Read books about nanoscience such as Introduction to Nanoscience and Nanomaterials, by Dinesh C. Agrawal. Explore the field by participating in nanotechnology-related experiments. Visit https://www.sciencebuddies.org/science-fair-projects/project-ideas/MatlSci_p042/materials-science/exploring-nanotechnology-paper#summary to learn how to fold, roll, and stack super-strong nanomaterials. Ask your science teacher to suggest other experiments.
Web sites such as Nanotechnology 101 (https://www.nano.gov/nanotech-101) provide a good introduction to the subject. To obtain more information about the general field of chemistry, check out Explore Chemistry (https://www.acs.org/content/acs/en/education/whatischemistry.html) and read inChemistry (https://inchemistry.acs.org/content/inchemistry/en.html), the official student member magazine of the American Chemical Society (ACS), and ChemMatters (https://www.acs.org/content/acs/en/education/resources/highschool/chemmatters.html), an ACS magazine for high school chemistry students that’s published four times every school year.
Participate in nanotechnology- and chemistry-related competitions such as the Chemistry Olympiad (https://www.acs.org/content/acs/en/education/students/highschool/olympiad.html). Some colleges offer summer internships for high school students who are interested in nanotechnology. Participants get to work closely with the center’s nanoscience and engineering research team to do basic nanotechnology research. Universities sometimes host competitions for college students. The University of Notre Dame sponsors an annual Competition in Nanoscience and Nanoengineering (https://nano.nd.edu) for students who are actively engaged in undergraduate research at their respective universities.
Other methods of exploration include talking to nanomaterials scientists about their careers, joining the Technology Student Association (https://tsaweb.org), and participating in summer programs and classes at colleges and universities that give you the chance to explore nanotechnology, chemistry, and science in general.
According to Louisiana Tech University’s Nanosystems Engineering Program, this is the branch of engineering that “deals with the design, development, and characterization of materials, devices, and systems in the range of 1-100 nanometers, as well as their integration with macroscale devices and systems.” The career of nanosystems engineer should not be confused with that of nanomaterials scientist. Theodore von Kármám, the founder of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, once explained the difference between nanoscience and nanoengineering by stating that scientists describe things that already exist while engineers create new things.
Nanosystems engineers work in many industries and, as a result, their duties vary significantly. For example, in the medical field, nanosytems engineers develop devices and drug delivery vehicles to diagnose and treat cancer and other diseases. In the semiconductor industry, nanosystems engineers design and develop nanoscale transistors that can be combined with circuits composed of more than one billion devices. These transistors can fit onto a single silicon chip that’s the size of a thumbnail. In the consumer goods industry, nanosystems engineers create stain-resistant fibers for clothing and more effective sunscreens and cosmetics.
Here are some other examples of the work of nanosystems engineers:
- develop green building nanocoatings, such as self-cleaning, anti-fogging, anti-icing, antimicrobial, anti-stain, depolluting, moisture-resistant, or ultraviolet protective coatings
- develop green chemistry methods to synthesize nanomaterials, such as nanotubes, nanorods, nanocrystals, or nanowires
- re-engineer nanomaterials to improve their biodegradability
- integrate nanotechnology with antimicrobial properties into products, such as household or medical appliances, to prevent or reduce the development of bacteria or other microbes
- design nanosystems with components such as nanofiltration devices to cleanse specific pollutants from hazardous waste sites
- design nanoparticle catalysts to detect or remove toxic chemicals or other pollutants from soil, water, or air
- apply nanotechnology to improve the performance or reduce the environmental impact of energy products, such as fuel cells or solar cells
In addition to designing and developing products and processes, nanosystems engineers:
- supervise technicians and technologists engaged in nanotechnology research or production
- conduct engineering studies and product evaluations to support new product development
- conduct studies to determine the feasibility, costs, and performance benefits of new and existing nanosystems
- troubleshoot and solve problems with nanosystems