Do you wish to know how that small boy in Big Hero 6 built those tiny robots? How immensely powerful they were right? Nanotechnology is a futuristic field that will give us incredible applications in our professional and personal life the future. Right from nanorobots that could go inside a human organ to repair a diseased part and nanoparticles which can let us have wearable computers to spacecraft using much less fuel to propel to space – Nanotech will be applied in many fields.
Nanotechnologists discover, research, develop, manufacture and use nanomaterials, various types of nanoscale devices and systems which find applications in several fields – ranging from agriculture, healthcare (pharmaceuticals, medical technology, diagnostic devices, etc.), and environmental sustainability to aerospace technologies, energy (conversion, storage and saving), and consumer electronics.
Why Become a Nanotechnologist?
Nanotechnology is a futuristic field that will give us incredible applications in our professional and personal life the future. Right from nanorobots that could go inside a human organ to repair a diseased part and nanoparticles which can let us have wearable computers to spacecraft using much less fuel to propel to space – Nanotech will be applied in many fields.
Nanotechnology deals with materials, devices, or other structures, a single unit of which is sized between 1 to 1000 nanometers (in length, breadth, or height, or in more than one dimension). However, in most cases nanomaterials fit in the nanoscale, that is within 1 to 100 nanometers.
What is a nanometer by the way? A nanometer is one billionth of a meter. This means it is 1/1,000,000,000 or 0.000000001 meter.
At this size, the physical and chemical properties of materials vary widely compared to their larger counterparts. For example, nano-aluminum (Al) powder (grey or black in color typically ranging in size from 10 nm to 5 micrometers) is far more effective as a catalyst than metallic Al.
Nanotechnologists discover, research, develop, manufacture and use nanomaterials, various types of nanoscale devices and systems which find applications in several fields – ranging from agriculture, healthcare (pharmaceuticals, medical technology, diagnostic devices etc.), and environmental sustainability to aerospace technologies, energy (conversion, storage and saving), and consumer electronics.
To develop various types of nanomaterials, nanoscale devices and systems, Nanotechnologists modify and change materials in the atomic and molecular levels. They design devices that can use nanomaterials or devices, the dimensions of which are in the nanoscale.
Example of nanomaterials – Carbon Nanotubes
Carbon nanotubes are made of carbon molecules, the diameters of which are measured in the nanoscale. Carbon nanotubes have a very high degree of thermal and electrical conductivity and they have very high tensile strength. In simple words, carbon nanotubes are super strong and super flexible. They can conduct heat and electricity more efficiently than copper wire.
Carbon nanotubes are being used in many products nowadays or have the potentials to be used – such as dental implants (which are far stronger), aircraft structures (to make lighter but stronger aircraft and spacecraft to save fuel for flying them), smaller microprocessors (used in computers and electronic products), and so on. Smaller microprocessors will give you smaller and thinner computing devices that you can even wear.
Example of nanomaterials – LED displays
You could be already using LED screens in your mobile phones or in computers. Nanoparticles are being used nowadays in some high-tech LED displays for higher brightness and color variability (for those who have studied their Physics well, LEDs are light-emitting diodes). These nanoparticles are typically the nanoform of semiconductor metal oxides such as zinc oxide (ZnO). The nanoform is more effective than the solid crystalline form of these metal oxides.
Example of nanotechnology in cancer treatment
Nanoparticles are being developed now to deliver drugs directly to cells that are affected by cancer. So instead of chemotherapy or radiotherapy which affects healthy cells as well as surrounding the cancerous cells, nanoparticle-delivered drugs affect the cancerous cells only. So, this will improve cancer treatment quite dramatically reducing various side effects of chemotherapy and radiotherapy.
Functional Fields of Work
As a Nanotechnologist, you will be involved in any one of the following broad functional domains and will assume responsibilities accordingly:
- Fundamental (Academic) Research
This is essentially laboratory-based research without any particular application or product in mind. There will be planned outcomes though. However, no specific industry sector or market niche is targeted.
For example, research on ‘Quantum Dots’ (metal oxide-based nanoparticles with the properties of a semiconductor) can be applied to a vast range of display products like mobile phones, satellite television, etc. or maybe display systems in space research or astrophysical intergalactic flying units.
- Research and Development (R&D)
This is also laboratory research but application based and driven by the need of a customer or government. It is generally targeted at a specific sector of a certain industry and its end users. For example, research of the development of a drug named ‘Doxil’ which is the first FDA (Food & Drug Administration of the USA)approved nano-drug used in cancer therapy. Nano particulates are readily absorbed in cancerous tumors as unlike healthy normal tissue they are rich in porous blood capillaries that are permeable to particles sized 100 nm or smaller.
- Translational Development
Translational Development involves research to bring a product out of the lab to a commercial scale and subsequently deliver to the intended end users (who or what ultimately uses a product) or beneficiaries.
For example, a nanoparticulate nanomedicine (NNM-a specific type of drug) discovered and developed in a laboratory has to undergo a lot of clinical tests before it can be used for humans and also a lot of processes are required to be developed to produce the medicine in commercial scale (that is, in a large quantity for consumers). This is called translational research.
- Production and manufacturing / Quality Control
When a discovered product has passed all stages of translational development and has been approved for commercialization/marketing by the concerned authorities, then it is manufactured in factories or industrial units.
Let us consider another example, Nano packaging for the preservation of fresh strawberries. In this case, the fruits are preserved with a packing material that is a mixture of polyethylene and nano-powder of silver and titanium dioxide (TiO2). You will have to check whether the packing material actually works with real fruits. You will also have to analyze how stable it is by testing it for a long duration and how it will assist commercial producers and retailers in the future.
Education involves the roles of an academician in colleges and universities teaching Nanotechnology or related subjects. Typically, in universities, all educators are involved in research too – both fundamental and basic research as well as applied research. For example, they may work to discover or develop a nanomaterial for various applications, or they may develop a nanotech solution to solve an industrial problem.
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Popular Specialization in Nanotechnologist Profession
It involves the application of nanotechnology in the many avenues of life sciences domain such as medicine (like intelligent drug delivery), agriculture etc. A significant number of promising medical projects are in an advanced experimental stage currently. A Nano-biotechnologist is primarily involved in applying information technology & nanotechnology into contemporary biological issues.
For example, nano gold particles affixed with short segments of DNA are being increasingly used for gene sequencing and assays.
What Does a Nanotechnologist do?
As a Nanotechnologist depending on your functional field of work, you will be engaged with one or more of the following roles and responsibilities: –
- You will be involved in conducting research regarding new technologies, experimental techniques, instruments and laboratory supplies that can improve research standards as well as operating procedures and outcomes.
- You will be mixing raw materials or catalysts for manufacturing nanoparticles following specifications, ensuring proper shape, particle size, or organization.
- You will be analyzing large molecular datasets for research purposes.
- You will be comparing the performance of nanoparticles by their size, shape, or organization and analyzing their life cycles to determine their environmental impact.
- You will be using tools, and technologies to produce images or measurements with help of a variety of specialized laboratory techniques and equipment like microscopes, cell sorters etc.
- You will be collaborating with engineers or scientists to design or conduct experiments for the development of nanotechnology materials, devices, components, or systems.
- You will be developing industrial-scale processes for lab-scale models of various research projects.
- You will be preparing detailed written or verbal presentations, technical reports and compilations based upon research outcomes for engineers, scientists, or upper management.
- You will be contributing written material or data for publication, grant or patent applications.
For Production and Manufacturing / Quality Control
- You will be analyzing production, quality control, maintenance, or other operational reports, developing or implementing production tracking to detect production problems.
- You will be setting and monitoring product standards, examining samples of raw products or directing testing during processing, to ensure finished products are of prescribed quality.
- You will be coordinating or recommending procedures for equipment, process or facility modification or maintenance, including the replacement of machines, techniques or technology.
- You will be reviewing plans and conferring with research or technical laboratory staff to develop new products or processes.
- You will be proposing new products, processes, technologies or applications based on findings from applied research projects.
- You will be maintaining current knowledge of the quality control field, researching on current literature related to technological advances, materials use, or statistical studies.
- You will be involved in teaching/demonstrating to a class of students or a team of research scholars pursuing this stream of study.
- You will typically be engaged in supervising or outlining research projects for doctoral or post-doctoral scholars working in your team.
- You will demonstrate techniques or handling of apparatuses to your students inside a laboratory and counsel / guide students in the performance of laboratory course experiments.
- You will participate in seminars, science congresses, and conferences across the world.
- You will be involved in conducting regular research regarding new technologies, experimental techniques, instruments and laboratory supplies that can improve research standards as well as operating procedures and outcomes.
How to Become a Nanotechnologist – Eligibility Criteria
After your Class 11-12 Physics, Chemistry, and Mathematics or with Physics, Chemistry, Mathematics, and Biology (for all Biological Engineering fields and all Bioscience fields) along with any other subject as per the scheme of studies, you can study for an undergraduate degree in a field of Engineering / Physical Science/ Bioscience / Biotechnology. Then you can do a Master’s degree. If you do a Master’s degree in Physical or Bioscience, then you should do an M.Tech. and M.S. degree. Then you may either opt for a job opportunity or do a Ph.D.
You can study for a Bachelor’s / Master’s / Doctoral degree in any of the following fields (Note that all these fields may not offer you a degree at all three levels, that is in Bachelor’s, Master’s and Doctoral. Some fields may offer a degree only at the Master’s or at the Doctoral level):
- Agricultural Biotechnology (Engineering)
- Biochemical Engineering
- Biochemical Engineering & Biotechnology
- Biochemistry & Biophysics
- Biochemistry & Molecular Biology
- Bioelectrical Engineering
- Bioelectronics Engineering
- Biomechanical Engineering
- Biomedical Engineering
- Cellular and Molecular Biology
- Chemical & Materials Engineering
- Chemical and Bioengineering
- Chemical and Metallurgical Engineering
- Chemical and Pharmaceuticals Technologies
- Chemical Engineering
- Electrical and Computer Engineering
- Electrical Engineering
- Electronics & Communication Engineering
- Electronics and Biomedical Engineering
- Electronics and Computer Engineering
- Electronics Engineering
- Life Science
- Material Physics
- Materials Science and Engineering
- Mechanical Engineering
- Mechatronics Engineering
- Metallurgical Engineering
- Molecular Biology
- Nano Biology
- Nano Engineering and Nanotechnologies
- Petrochemical Engineering
- Petroleum and Petrochemical Engineering
- Pharmaceutical Biotechnology (Engineering)
- Pharmaceutical Technology
- Pharmaceutics & Pharmaceutical Engineering
- Plastic Engineering & Technologies
- Polymer Chemistry
- Polymer Engineering
Nanotechnology can find its applications in numerous fields and is applied to almost all branches of science and engineering today. This is a highly cross-disciplinary field and any Scientist or Engineer can by virtue of her work experience contribute as a Nanotechnologist.
You may be involved in research-based roles working in a laboratory (Fundamental/Academic research, R&D, Translational Development).
Various companies/trusts/organizations/academies may also sponsor your laboratory-based research in an educational institution where you will be working as an Enterprise Fellow. You will be on the official payroll of the company/trust/organization/academy however and not the educational institution. The grant is given only to innovative, creative entrepreneurial engineers who may be researchers, recent graduates, or international Ph.D. students, wishing to spin out a company or start-up. These companies are recognized as ‘spin-offs’. For example, NanoSniff is a commercial spin-off from the Center of Excellence in Nanoelectronics (CEN) at IIT Bombay.
You can find work in pharmaceutical/therapeutics companies or allied companies, healthcare research-based companies, nuclear engineering/science laboratories, biotechnology companies, electronics and electrical devices manufacturing companies, optometric device manufacturing companies, power/energy industry etc. as:
- Assistant Engineer (Nanotech)
- Research and Development Engineer (Nanotech)
- Research Scientist
- Program Specialist
- Product Research Engineer
- Research Associate
- Manufacturing Design Engineer (Nanotech)
- Product Compliance Engineer
- Assistant Project Scientist – Nano Engineering
- Process Engineer Entry Level
- Instrumentation Specialist
- Energy Storage Technology Engineer
Some of the leading companies include:
- Adnano Technologies
- Mittal Enterprises
- NanoSniff Technologies
- Sisco Research Laboratories (SRL)
- Advanced NanoTech Lab
- Auto Fibre Craft
- AVANSA Technology & Services
- Eris Technologies
- Kerala Minerals & Metals (KMML)
- NanoXpert Technologies
- Navran Advanced Nanoproducts Development
- Nanocyl S.A. (Belgium)
- NanoMaterials Ltd. (Israel)
- Shenzhen Nanotech Port Co., Ltd. (China)
- Nanosys, Inc. (USA)
- Advanced Nano Products Co., Limited (South Korea)
- Altair Nanotechnologies Inc. (USA)
- Advanced Diamond Technologies, Inc. (USA)
- QuantumSphere, Inc. (USA)
- Bruker Corporation (USA)
- Catalytic Materials, LLC (USA)
- Chemat Technology Inc. (USA)
- ELITech Group (France)
- eSpin Technologies, Inc. (USA)
- Hanwha Chemical Corporation (South Korea)
- Hybrid Plastics Inc. (USA)
- Hyperion Catalysis International, Inc. (USA)
- Integran Technologies, Inc. (Canada)
- Rogue Valley Microdevices, Inc. (USA)
- Starpharma Holdings (Australia)
Salary of a Nanotechnologist
At the entry-level jobs, after your Master’s degree in Engineering/Technology depending upon the institution where you are graduating, you may expect to get about Rs. 40,000 – 1,50,000 or even more a month. In junior-level jobs (after 4-5 years of experience), you can make about Rs. 60,000 – 2,00,000 or more per month.
In mid-level jobs in India (after having 8-10 years of experience), you can expect to earn about Rs. 1,50,000 – 5,00,000 or even more a month.
In senior-level jobs in India (after having 15 years of experience), you can expect to earn about Rs. 2,50,000 – 15,00,000 or even more a month.
Remember that, if you are not a US citizen, getting a job in USA after a bachelor’s degree will be a rare case. However, after your Graduate (Master’s or Ph.D.), you may look forward to if you do well in your course. The chances of getting a job after graduate courses increase with the reputation of the university from where you graduate. However, if you are from a premier institute like IIT, you may get a campus placement in USA. But even that is few and far between.
At the entry-level jobs, after your Bachelor’s degree depending upon the institution where you are graduating, you may expect to get about USD 3,000 – 6,000 or even more a month.
After 4-5 years of work experience, you may expect to earn around USD 4,500 to USD 8,000 a month or more depending on your job location and roles.
At the entry-level jobs, after your Graduate (after your Master’s or Ph.D.) degree depending upon the institution where you are graduating, you may expect to get about USD 4,500 – 7,000 or even more a month. In junior-level jobs (after 4-5 years of postgraduation), you can make about USD 5,000 – 8,000 or more per month.
In mid-level jobs (after having 8-10 years of experience), you can expect to earn about USD 7,000 – 12,500 or even more a month.
In senior-level jobs (after having 15 years of experience), you can expect to earn about USD 10,000 – 18,000 or even more a month. Senior corporate leaders get much more than this; their total remuneration including performance bonuses could be as high as half a million or even a few million dollars a year.
Middle Eastern, North African and South East Asian countries
Remember that unless you have 5-10 years of good work experience, it is not feasible to get a job. If you get one, that’s a rare case or you may get placed in these countries only from your campus interview.
After having 5-10 years of experience, in these countries, you may get about Rs. 1,50,000 – 4,50,000 or more a month along with other benefits like tax-free salaries, travel expenses, etc. Mid-level salaries range from Rs. 3,00,000 – 7,50,000 or more a month. Senior-level salaries range from 5,00,000 – 30,00,000 or more a month. All salaries are mentioned when exchanged for Indian Rupee. Salaries could also be lesser in some countries like Egypt and Malaysia.
Career Progression in Nanotechnologist Profession
You may grow through the following roles depending on your functional field of work.
- Academic Research / R&D / Translational development:
Postdoctoral Research Specialist, Senior Scientist/Engineer, Senior Facilities Engineer, Project Supervisor, Principal Scientist, Research Investigator, Principal System Design Engineer, Senior Principal Research Scientist, Manager-Applications Development Engineering, Head of Technical/R&D, Director-Technical Programs
- Production & Manufacturing / Quality Control:
Technical Communications Specialist, Senior QA Associate, Biosecurity Officer, Safety Auditor, Supplier Quality Specialist, Raw Material & Stability Leader, Sustainable Materials Manager, Director-Project Management, Senior Director / Head of Engineering
Industrial Fellow, Associate Lecturer, Lecturer (Level B), Lecturer (Level C), Senior Lecturer/Associate Professor, Emeritus Professor, Visiting Senior Research Fellow, Honorary Senior Research Fellow, Director of Department
What does Industry Trends Say – Future Prospects
You can expect a very good future in this field as the industry growth prospects are encouraging. The global nanotechnology market is expected to exceed US$ 125 Billion mark by 2024. The largest expansion is expected between the years 2023 and 2028. However, the top three applications of nanotechnology are electronics, energy (conversion, storage, saving) and biomedical. Together, they account for over 70% share of the global nanotechnology market. Nanotechnology will be applied at all stages of drug development – from formulations for optimal delivery to diagnostic applications in clinical trials. Nanomedicine and healthcare market are expected to grow at a rate of 9.50% compounded annually, rising from US$ 89.783 billion in 2018 to US$ 154.809 billion in 2024. North America is expected to hold the largest share in the Nanomedicine market.
- Career as a Biomedical Engineering
- Career as a Chemical Engineering
- Career as a Food Technology
- Career in Environmental Engineering
- Career as an Energy Engineer
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