Nanoengineering refers to engineering done at the nanoscale. Particles at the nanoscale range from 1 to 100 nanometres (nm) in size. A nanometre is 1 billionth of a metre, or 0.000000001 m. Nanomaterials such as atoms, molecules, and proteins display properties that are not visible at the macroscopic scale (the naked eye).
The properties of particles at the macroscopic scale can be different from the properties of the same material at the nanoscale. For example, at the macroscopic scale, we see gold as yellow. However, the colour of a gold nanoparticle is red.
Nanoengineers use specialized equipment to work with particles at the nanoscale. They can create large changes in the physical properties of materials. For example, a material can be made stronger, more reflective, or better at conducting electricity. This can trigger behaviours not often seen at a larger scale.
Nanotechnology has applications across many industries, products, and processes. It is used in:
- Power production
- Sporting goods
The safety of nanomaterials is an emerging area of work due to their widespread application.
Duties vary greatly from one industry to another. In general, nanoengineers:
- Conduct research in fields within nanotechnology such as nanolithography
- Create designs or prototypes for applying nanosystems such as integrated biomedical diagnostic-and-delivery (lab-on-a-chip) circuits
- Design or engineer nanomaterials, nanodevices, nano-enabled products, or nanosystems
- Use software techniques such as 3-D computer-aided design (CAD), machine learning, and quantum mechanical simulation
- Design or conduct tests of new nanotechnology products, processes, or systems
- Develop processes for applications such as nanofabrication
- Identify equipment needed for pilot or commercial nanoscale production
Nanoengineers provide scientific or technical guidance and expertise to scientists, engineers, technologists, technicians, and others who work with micro and nanoscale systems.
- Prepare invention disclosures and patent applications
- Prepare reports, make presentations, and participate in program reviews to share engineering results and recommendations
- Coordinate or supervise suppliers or vendors who design, build, or test nanosystem devices
Other occupations in this field include nanoscientist and nanotechnologist.