Nanotechnologists study and manipulate particles 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, the colour of gold is yellow. However, the colour of a gold nanoparticle is red.
Nanotechnologists 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 uses across many industries, products, and processes. It is used in:
- Power production
- Sporting goods
The safety of nanomaterials is also an emerging area of work due to their widespread application.
Nanotechnologists work under the supervision of engineers or scientists. Their duties vary widely from one employer to another. In general, nanotechnologists:
- Design or conduct experiments with other scientists or engineers to develop nanotechnology-based materials, components, devices, or systems
- Implement new or enhanced methods and processes for processing, testing, or manufacturing nanotechnology materials or products
- Inspect or measure thin films, such as coatings made of carbon nanotubes, polymers, or inorganic materials, using a variety of techniques and analytical tools
- Collect and compile nanotechnology research and engineering data
- Develop or modify wet chemical or experimental industrial-laboratory techniques for nanoscale use, such as measuring, mixing, and weighing liquid chemicals
- Operate, maintain, and conduct experiments in a “clean room” using tools such as electrospinners and spray coaters, and techniques such as atomic layer deposition
- Operate, maintain, and conduct experiments on samples in an analytical lab using different types of instruments such as GC-MS, HPLC, PCB fabrication, digital microfluidics, and 3-D printers
- Produce images and measurements, using tools and techniques such as atomic force microscopy, scanning electron microscopy, or optical microscopy
- Install nanotechnology production equipment at customer or manufacturing sites
- Prepare capability data, training materials, or other documentation to transfer processes into production
- Prepare detailed verbal or written presentations for scientists, engineers, project managers, or upper management
- Contribute written material or data for grant or patent applications
Other occupations in this field including nanoscientist and nanoengineer.