Materials Science and Engineering: Nanotechnology


This is a carbon nanotube, just a bit over 1 nanometer in width (100 nanometers is 1000 times smaller than the width of a human hair). Nanotubes are up to 100 times stronger than steel at only 1/6 the weight. They have a thermal conductivity near that of diamonds, and an electrical conductivity that can exceed that of copper. Inside this nanotube are "buckyballs", spherical carbon molecules. This combination has the potential to be used to create nanomechanical structures.

nanowire model

Professor Oded Rabin's research group is modeling the efficiency with which a nanowire can convert heat into electrical energy.

nano storage

Professor Gary Rubloff's research group is designing nano-sized structures capable of storing solar or wind energy 10x more efficiently than what is currently available.

One of our students using a transmission electron microscope (TEM) during a class.

One of the most interesting things about nanotechnology is that the properties of many materials change when the size scale of their dimensions approaches nanometers. Materials scientists work to understand those property changes and utilize them in the processing and manufacture of materials at the nanoscale. The field of materials science covers the discovery, characterization, properties, and end-use of nanoscale materials.

Most other engineering majors work with nanotechnology, but materials science and engineering is at the heart of it across all disciplines. For those who are passionate about nanotechnology, MSE is place to be for the most research, coursework, and experience in nanotechnology. Our department also administers the Clark School's Interdisciplinary Minor Program in Nanoscale Science and Technology, a program open to any student majoring in Engineering, Physics, or Chemistry.

How is MSE at UMD Working with Nanotechnology?

Saving Silver: MSE Professor Ray Phaneuf's research group, in collaboration with conservators at the Walters Art Museum in Baltimore, Md., have developed atoms-thick coatings designed to protect silver artifacts from tarnish and corrosion longer and more effectively than nitrocellulose lacquers. More »


Volumes So Small, a Drop of Water is a Lake: Members of the undergraduate Class of 2008 studied the behavior of fluids at the nanoliter level, and proposed a "micro-mixer" design that could enhance the performance of lab technologies used in chemical engineering, biology, bioengineering, DNA analysis, and pharmacology. More »


lasersTiny, Threat-Detecting Lasers: MSE professor Aris Christou "grows" lasers at the mico- and nano-scale that are used as sensors detect biological threats. More »



indiumHow Do You Test a Device You Can't See? MSE professor John Cumings and his research group have developed a new electron microscopy technique that will allow scientists to test nanoscale devices in real-time while they are observed in a transmission electron microscope. More »


template "Growing" Computer Components: MSE Professor Ray Phaneuf has developed a template nature can follow to produce "self-assembling" structures. The template causes atoms to be arranged in a defined pattern that can serve a variety of purposes—a semiconductor in a laptop, a component in a cell phone or a sensor in a wearable device. More »


nanotubePositioning Nanoparticles Where You Need Them: Professor Oded Rabin and his graduate student have developed techniques to position silver nanocubes in predetermined locations on a substrate (surface). These techniques are needed to study interactions between neighboring particles. In recent work the group succeeded to show that pairs of silver nanocubes, positioned face-to-face or edge-to-face, are very effective as chemical sensors utilizing a phenomena called Raman scattering. More »


For more information online:

  • When Things Get Small
    "What could a stadium-sized bowl of peanuts, a shrinking elephant, and a crazed hockey player have to do with nanoscience?" Adam Smith and Ivan Schuller from the University of California San Diego (UCSD) will tell you in this Emmy Award-winning short film.
  • Weird, Weird Science
    John Sizemore offers a movies on a variety of topics on his Dailymotion site. His "Zoom Into..." series of videos about materials includes Zoom Into A Carbon Fiber

Back To: Metamaterials | Next Up: Plasma