Study Nanotechnology

Nanotechnology is ever-present in today’s modern world. You may not realise it, but everyday we use products that contain technology engineered on the micron or nanometre scale. Mobile phones, ink-jet printers and car airbag systems all employ components made with nano- and micro-technology.

What is Nanotechnology?

Nano-technology is the applied science of systems and devices that have dimensions measured in nanometres, where 1 nanometre (nm) is equal to 0.000000001 metre. It is an emerging field in which expertise from different disciplines comes together to create new products and devices, often engineered at scales approaching molecular or atomic dimensions. The nanotechnology industry includes sectors as diverse as printing, electronics, photonics, healthcare, automotive engineering and telecommunications.

Despite the public perception of nanotechnology being a brand new subject, much of what we now consider to be nanotechnology has in fact evolved from its parent disciplines of micro-engineering on the one hand, and chemistry on the other. For example, in the past 10 years the feature sizes in integrated circuits have decreased from around 1 micron to only 45 nanometres (the smallest feature size on the latest Intel chips), however this progression has been evolutionary, rather than revolutionary, emphasising the importance played by a solid foundation in micro-engineering techniques.

Study Nanotechnology – Which First Degrees are Accepted?

Nanotechnologists come from different disciplines, including engineering, physics, materials science and chemistry, so a good postgraduate programme in nanotechnology must be able to accommodate students from a wide range of backgrounds. Although progress in the subject is often technology-led, experts in nano-technology always need a detailed knowledge of the underpinning science, and postgraduate nanotechnology masters courses are a well-recognised means of gaining experience in state-of-the-art techniques and applications. In the UK, most postgraduate nanotechnology masters degrees lead to the award of an MSc and comprise a taught component corresponding to 120 credits (60 ECTS) and a summer research project which provides the remaining 60 credits (30 ECTS).

Mobile PhoneNanotechnology Courses – What Should I Look For?

When choosing a graduate nano-technology program at masters level it is always important to identify a course that is sufficiently broad in terms of its taught material to keep your career options open, but which still offers the possibility of studying certain topics in depth. Nanotechnology jobs for graduates from nanotechnology masters programmes are diverse, and most companies will provide training to new graduates in their own specialist technologies. That said, employers always look for graduates who are familiar with a range of techniques. Problem solving and analytical skills are also highly valued by the nano-technology industry, and a successful research project in a nanotechnology masters programme provides graduates with an ideal opportunity to demonstrate how they have used their own initiative to solve real research and engineering problems.

Study Nanotechnology – Where Can I Study it?

A number of universities in the UK offer postgraduate nanotechnology degrees at masters level, and a good starting point to search is the Institute of Nanotechnology who operate a Nanotechnology Masters Courses Directory and Recognition Scheme. The Institute of Nanotechnology listing allows prospective students to compare different masters programmes in nanotechnology, and for each course there is a breakdown of the main subjects that students will study.

Four universities – Heriot-Watt in Edinburgh, Cranfield, Lancaster and Liverpool – offer nanotechnology masters courses that combine the disciplines of nanotechnology and micro-engineering, allowing students to gain exposure to the widest range of technologies used by industry. The research project component of such courses is often the point where students begin to focus in depth on a specific aspect of the subject. For example, students on Heriot-Watt University's Nanotechnology and Microsystems masters course have carried out projects in surface-plasmon resonance, laser micro-engineering, quantum dot devices, nano-particle tracking and micro-fluidic devices. Almost without exception, it is the time spent working with world-leading research groups that makes a nano-technology masters course most rewarding and gives students the confidence to enter the employment sector with valuable practical experience of a research and development environment.

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