Pathway for mechanical engineering into the nanotech era

from the What's-in-it-for-ME? dept.

In an interesting article in the ASME journal Mechanical Engineering, ("A Frontier for Engineering," January 2001), Mihail Roco suggests that focused education and training, and collaborative research and development programs offer a pathway for mechanical engineering to enter into the developing nanotechnology "industrial revolution."

Roco is a senior advisor for nanotechnology at the National Science Foundation's Directorate for Engineering, and was a key figure in the formulation of the U.S. National Nanotechnology Initiative.

According to an accompanying editorial by John G. Falcioni, Editor-in-Chief, Roco's article is the first in a year-long series that will "invite leaders in the field of nano-technology to explore scientific and engineering issues influencing research, testing, development, manufacturing, and commercialization."

Note: These URLs may change. You can access the Mechancial Engineering Magazine site at

Read More for excerpts from Roco's article and Falcioni's editorial.

In his article, which was based on a presentation he made at an ASME meeting, "Beyond Microdevice Engineering: Nanotechnology," in Washington, in December 2000, Roco writes:

"The mechanical engineering community may consider several lines of action. For instance, education and training might aim to give engineers a better understanding of phenomena and processes from the atomic, molecular, and macromolecular levels. Nanotechnology could be the subject of new sections in established mechanical engineering courses, of overview courses at all levels, and of continuing education and retraining programs.

"Research institutions could address problem-driven, interdisciplinary R&D through interdepartmental collaboration. Not only does this suggest close collaboration of mechanical engineers with chemical, electrical, and biological counterparts, but also with physicists, chemists, and biologists.

"Biology, electronics, and other areas have already moved their research and education areas of focus to the nanoscale. Mechanical engineering needs to do the same thing. One can foresee significant rewards and challenges. Mechanical engineering has a wide net, from molecular thermodynamics, nanoparticles, nanostructured materials, and nanoelectro- mechanical systems to nanoscale interpretation of transport phenomena and solid mechanics."

Roco concludes his article:

"Research and education grant challenges in nanotechnology could give engineering, particularly mechanical engineering, an important role. Nanoscale science, engineering, and technology are seen as emerging, strategic areas for the next decades that will be at the backbone of the next industrial revolution. Researchers foresee a strong synergism among nanoscale science and engineering, digital technology, and modern biology.

"We are just at the beginning of the development curve. The current nanotechnology applications are based on simple dispersion or layered nanostructures. New architectures, devices by design, and economical replication methods at nanoscale are challenges for the future. Imagination and creativity are needed."

In his editorial commentary, ME Editor-in-Chief John G. Falcioni writes:

"This is a technology that promises to change the way we live, the way we combat disease, the way we manufacture products, and even the way we explore the universe. Simply put, nanoscale manufacturing allows us to work with the building blocks of matter, at the atomic and molecular levels. This enables the creation of systems that are so small that we could only dream about their application years ago.

"It is mostly pundits who dare make claims of a far-fetched reality where life will resemble a scene from our dreams. But politicians and businessmen will tell us that spending money is not for those who put bravado ahead of pragmatism. Interestingly, when it comes to nanotechnology, pundits, politicians, and businessmen agree: Nanotechnology will change the way we live."

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