Nanotechnology: A new revolution

PATHFINDER

Nanotechnology: A new revolution

PROMISING Nanotechnology is the Fifth Revolution the world is witnessing currently.On December 29, 1959, the irrepressible icon of physics and noble laureate Richard P Feynman addressed the gathering at an American Physical Society meeting in the California Institute of Technology with the opening remark, “There is plenty of room at the bottom.” The punchline alluded to the possibility of direct manipulation of individual atoms as a more powerful form of synthetic chemistry than that used then. The conclusion? It is possible to make nano-scale machines that “arrange atoms the way one wants” and engineer chemical synthesis by mechanical manipulation. This was the vision of future technology - later named 'Nanotechnology' by Norio Taniguchi - which is the science of designing, producing and using structures and devices from single atoms and molecules. Nanotechnology is the Fifth Revolution the world is witnessing currently.

BITS Pilani offers courses on MEMS (Micro-Electro-Mechanical Systems) and Nanoscience at the undergraduate level. The courses are available as electives to students from engineering and science streams at BITS Pilani, as a fourth level course. There are no additional fees for this course and is available to students at BITS. The eligibility for this programme is first degree of BITS in Group A/ Group B/ Msc (Tech) (ET) and (IS) or equivalent. Courses like Introduction to MEMS (EA C415) and Introduction to Nanoscience (EA C412) are very popular among students, especially higher degree students with peak registrations touching over sixty-five students. Based on the facilities and expertise available, BITS is planning to start a higher degree program on Nanoscience/ Nanotechnology in a year’s time.

“The programme will focus on the design and characterisation aspects of technology. Currently, a post graduate candidate of Nanoscience/ Nanotechnology program has high demand in nodal research centres in India and abroad.

Nanoscience courses are currently being offered at Pilani, Hyderabad and Goa campuses of BITS,” says Dr Niti Nipun Sharma, associate professor, Mechanical Engineering Department, BITS.

The way forward

Nanoscience and nanotechnology are at the intersection of almost all disciplines, including biology, engineering, medicine, physics and chemistry. As a result, research and development arenas at the nanoscale are interdisciplinary and overlapping. Individuals therefore have the opportunity to choose engineering or research jobs and career paths in fields as diverse as biomedical and biotechnology, material science, optoelectronics, energy and environment, pharmaceuticals, cosmetics, and microelectronics. The recently concluded 3rd Bangalore Nano enabled experts, scientists, researchers, industry and start-ups to meet and exchange notes on tomorrow's nanotechnology. Nanotechnology is expected to revolutionise every area: medicine, aerospace, engineering, industry, technology, health and other fields. Nano-biotechnology can make tiny medical devices and sensors for precision military and civilian use. Converting sunlight into power, targeting a drug against a single malignant cell, cleaning ponds and creating sensors in the form of a biochip to be inserted in the human body are some of nanotechnology's landmark breakthroughs. The technology has the potential to produce garments that block chemical and biological weapons from touching a person’s skin.

According to Dr Arindam Ghosh, assistant professor, Department of Physics, IISc, “Graphene, the building block of graphite, can be used to produce a variety of products from electronic conductors to many other materials using nano manufacturing methods. Very soon, we can make much faster transistors using grapheme in place of the present silicon. It can be used to manufacture clothes with biosensors. As an active material in photovoltaic cells, grapheme can be used to manufacture toxic gas sensor instruments.

“Many application areas of nanotechnology can benefit energy sector, whether it is nano-optimised fuel cells or efficient solar cells. In energy storage, reducing transmission losses, and reducing consumption, nanotechnology can play a vital role. Cost reduction in the production of renewable energies is another thrust area for nanotechnology.”

As nanotechnology opens up hitherto unexplored frontiers, there are opportunities galore for students willing to delve into the smallest denominators.

Opportunities

Qualified nanotechnology employees are required in established industries such as microelectronics, information storage, and optoelectronics that have traditionally used micro-technology and are expanding research into smaller technology, structures and devices. New industries created as a result of nanotechnology: nanotechnology materials and coatings, nanotechnology structures (crystal, wires, tubes, etc.), MEMS/ NEMS, nano-biotechnology, nano-electronics and microfluidics, also look at nanotechnologists. Many research, nanofabrication, foundry, and user facilities are funded by the National Nanotechnology Initiative.

“Nanotechnology being interdisciplinary, the requisite qualifications include molecular biology, biochemistry, physics, chemistry, electrical and mechanical engineering. Companies hiring people with nanotechnology skills range from industries such as automobiles, chemicals, pharmaceuticals, electronics, energy and many others. To locate these openings, define the type of job required and make a list of target companies who might hire people for that or related jobs. Also, check out resources in the university or alumni career centres and visit the career resources sections of professional associations. Stay focused, follow up every lead diligently and the hard work will ultimately be rewarded with a challenging job in a rapidly growing field with great potential,” says Dr S K Chakarvarti, Director —Research and Development, Manav Rachna International University, Faridabad.

Many exciting new fields are likely to open up for nanotechnology experts, including health industry research and consulting, pharmaceuticals, medical, agriculture, food and beverage, environment industries, R&D in government, universities and private research institutes, and others. According to the National Science Foundation estimates, up to one million nanotechnology workers will be needed in the United States itself. The demand from other nations can well be imagined.

Colleges offering nanotech courses

*Amity Institute of Nanotechnology (AINT), Noida
*Amritha Centre for Nanosciences (ACNS), Kochi
*Biosys Biotech Lab and Research Centre, Chennai
*BITS, Pilani, Hyderabad and Goa
*Central University of Jharkhand, Ranchi
*Central Scientific Instruments Organisation, Chandigarh
*Defence Materials Store Research & Development Organisation, Kanpur
*Guru Jambheshwar University of Science and Technology: Dept. of Bio-Nano Technology, Hisar
*Indian Institute of Science: Centre of Excellence in Nanoelectronics (CEN), Bangalore
*Integral University, Lucknow
*International Centre for Nanobiotechnology (ICN), Kanyakumari
*International Institute of Information Technology : School of Interdisciplinary Science and Technology, Pune
*The IITs at Mumbai, Kanpur, Chennai, Guwahati and Delhi
*Jawaharlal Nehru Centre for Advanced Scientific Research, Bangalore
*Maulana Azad National Institute of Technology (MANIT), Bhopal
*National Institute of Technology (NIT), Kurukshetra
*National Physical Laboratory, Delhi
*National Chemical Laboratory, Pune
*Sastra University: Centre for Nanotechnology and Advanced Biomaterials (CeNTAB), Thanjavur
*University of Madras: School of Physical Science, Guindy

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