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What is nanotechnology and why so much buzz about it
Nanotechnology is about dealing with materials and technology at microscopic levels. Nanotechnology is a new inter-disciplinary field and is gradually gaining focus. It does hold a lot of potential as it is expected to be able to come up with innovative solutions which will be useful in multiple domains/industries like :
- Environment management
- Medicine and healthcare
- Renewable energy resources
- New materials for space application, food packaging, sustainable building materials
- Auto and sporting goods
For example, a team from IIT Madras has used nanotechnology for arsenic decontamination of water. Another team from IIT Delhi has come up with a water based self cleaning technology for use in textile industry.
Being an inter-disciplinary field, it has the potential to impact practically every aspect of our life !
What is being done to promote this field
As stated earlier, it may be noted that this is a rather new area. Some leading institutes, like IIT Kanpur, IIT Kharagpur, Cochin University of Science & Technology are getting into this by having established nanotechnology schools where PG and research programmes are being undertaken. Worth noting that these are PG courses and high level research programmes, not UG courses yet.
- Inter University Centre for Nanomaterials and Devices (IUCND) at Cochin University of Science and Technology (CUSAT) is an inter-university research centre formed by the government of Kerala. The centre is established with a view to provide state of the art infrastructure to support research and development in the domain of nanotechnology and also provide a platform for collaborative research involving academia and industry. It is expected to promote research towards scalable technologies in the emerging areas of (a) Energy (b) Communication (c) Environment and (d) Medicine.
- IIT Kharagpur focuses on (a) Nanofabrication / Nanoelectronic & Photonic Devices / NEMS / Nanosensors; (b) Bulk nanostructured materials for structural applications, (c) Novel nanomaterials : Synthesis, self-assembly and applications; (d) Nanostructured coatings for energy conversion/storage and surface engineering, (d) Nano-biotechnology, (e) Computational nanostructures etc. The school has recently established two new facilities, viz. Spark Plasma Sintering (SPS) of nanopowders for fabrication of compacts and electron Beam Lithography (EBL) System for fabricating Nanoelectronic devices. In addition, the existing facilities in different laboratories of the institute are currently being utilized by the faculty members for the research in the broad area of nanomaterials and devices. The school currently has nine enrolled Ph.D. students and offers an elective subject on "Introduction to Nano-Science and Technology".
- IIT Kanpur is undertaking projects in (a) Multiscale Scaffolds as Fabrication Platform for Screening, Analysis and Development of in vitro 3D platform for Tuberculosis (b) Development of MEMS Microcantilever Sensors for Detection of Mycobacterium tuberculosis (MTB) (c) Polymeric composite grafted with Cu-nanoparticle-dispersed carbon nanofibers: An efficient electrode of the electrochemical immunosensor for the detection of Mycobacterium tuberculosis (d) Ready to use Mycobacterial culture growth media nanofiber mats (e) Paper Based Microfluidic Biosensors for Early Detection of Oral Cancer from Salivary Biomarkers
Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) has taken several major initiatives for the promotion of Nanoelectronics research and innovation in the country. Major Nanoelectronics Centres of international standards have been established at premier institutes in the country. The state-of-the-art nanofabrication facilities at these Centres have become very popular both in India and abroad. Also, the Indian Nanoelectronics Users Programme (INUP) initiated by MeitY is being implemented at Centre of Excellence in Nanoelectronics (CEN) at IISc and IIT Bombay and has provided a great opportunity for R&D community all over the country for accessing state of the art nanofabrication facilities for undertaking research and skill development in Nanoelectronics. About 400 researchers are being imparted hands-on training in Nanofabrication at these centres every year. The research activities have so far resulted in a large number of research publications and significant number of innovations for which patents have been filed.
So what course should one take up at UG level
As one can infer, to make a career in this field, one needs to take up a specialized PG level course. However, at UG level, courses like Ploymer Engg, Electronics Engg, Material Science, Biotechnology, Biomedical, Biosciences, Microbiology, Mechanical Engg, Environmental Science could be a good way to go.