Nanotechnology

Mechanical Engineering

Focus Area: Nanotechnology

The study and development of materials and devices with dimensions smaller than 100x10-9 meters (100 billionths of a meter or 100 nanometers) is the playground for engineers and scientists with a nanotechnology focus. For reference, viruses are typically 20 to 200 nm in size.

The mechanical engineering curriculum provides students interested in a career in nanotechnology with the fundamentals in math, chemistry, and physics to make sense of structures with dimensions 1,000 times smaller than red blood cells. When materials and devices can be designed and fabricated with desirable properties, an engineer has a very powerful method of creating devices and products that were never-before possible.

Broad Career Possibilities

Expertise in nanotechnology is broadly applicable across the technical fields. Nanotechnology holds promise for decreasing the power consumption of electronics and machines, providing unique treatments to disease, and enabling the creation of stronger and lighter materials.

Employers of mechanical engineers with a nanotechnology focus include large technology companies, small start-up companies, and government labs. Given the interdisciplinary experience gained by studying nanotechnology, mechanical engineers strengthen their breadth of knowledge across technical disciplines. Nearly any modern technology has aspects of mechanical, electrical, and materials engineering. Breadth of knowledge means employment stability by providing a large employment base.

Engineers have the ability to design, fabricate, and test devices. Nanotechnology engineers could focus on:

  1. the theory of nanotechnology and spend significant time simulating device function;
  2. the fabrication of nanotechnology and develop new techniques to make new products;
  3. or the characterization and testing of nanotechnology to verify theory and fabrication results.

According to BCC Research, the global market for nanotechnology will reach $48.9 billion by 2017 with a forecast of $37.3 billion for nanoscale materials and $11.4 billion for nanoscale equipment. Mechanical engineers have the proper depth and breadth across the science, physics, and engineering to make tangible contributions to moth materials and equipment for this burgeoning field.

mechanical engineering student looking at microscope slide
Educational Requirements

Educational requirements for nanoscale-focused engineers range from a B.S. to graduate degrees. Earning a M.S. degree with a research focus on nanoscale devices, materials, methods, and theory provides many opportunities into the research and development world of nanotechnology. Continuing on to earn a Ph.D. will enable true depth in your chosen interest area within nanotechnology. Given the true interdisciplinary nature of nanotechnology, research typically requires a strong knowledge of cross-disciplinary fields, e.g. mechanical and electrical engineering, materials science, chemistry, and physics.