What Does a Nanotechnology Engineer Do? (With FAQs)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Updated October 23, 2022

Published May 7, 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Nanotechnology engineering is a field that involves studying, developing, or improving a product on a small scale by seeing and controlling its microscopic components. From researching existing materials to creating micro-electronics, a nanotechnology engineer typically has many duties at work. Learning about a nanotechnology engineer's role can help you understand why their work is essential and explore this career path. In this article, we answer, "What does a nanotechnology engineer do?", explain how to enter this field, discuss their average salary and work conditions of the role, cover frequently asked questions and answers, and review common products they work on.

What does a nanotechnology engineer do?

Learning the answer to "What does a nanotechnology engineer do?" can help you decide whether to work in this position. A nanotechnology engineer manipulates atoms and molecules to create or improve materials, devices, and systems. This means they build a product from microscopic components and control its properties to achieve a specific chemical or physical result. For example, they may create powders that enrich foods and medicines. While atoms are a product's smallest particles, a molecule is a group of atoms.

Nanotechnology engineering is an emerging field. It became popular with advancements in technology that can recognize molecules and atoms. It's also a multidisciplinary field that involves science, chemistry, physics, and engineering principles. Here are other duties and responsibilities of a nanotechnology engineer:

  • Determining the environmental impact of nanomaterials

  • Creating and evaluating the testing procedures for materials

  • Overseeing other engineers, scientists, and technicians

  • Training colleagues and new employees on operating scientific equipment and engineering devices

How to become a nanotechnology engineer

If you're considering a career in nanotechnology engineering, you can follow these steps to enter this field:

1. Earn an undergraduate degree

Completing a bachelor's degree in nanotechnology engineering or nanotechnology is typically the first career step for nanotechnology engineers. You can expect to take math and engineering courses during your first year at an accredited university. In advanced classes, you can expect to learn more about computer-aided design, electronics, biology, medicine, and production materials. You may also take elective courses in systems engineering and biomedical engineering if you're considering a specialization. Completing an undergraduate degree typically takes four years of full-time study.

Read more: What Is an Undergraduate Degree? (With Steps to Earn One)

2. Gain relevant work experience

Whether during or after school, it's essential you seek internship opportunities and cooperative programs to practise nanotechnology engineering. For example, you may work as a laboratory research assistant at a research institute or a polymer engineering intern at a medical company. While gaining work experience, you can build your network and connect with experienced nanotechnology engineers. Here are common sectors and industries a nanotechnology engineer can work:

  • Mining

  • Energy

  • Agriculture

  • Sustainability

  • Environment

  • Electronics

3. Consider advanced degree programs

You can earn a master's or doctoral degree in biophysics, bioengineering, chemical engineering, mechanical engineering, or electrical engineering. Doing this can present you as a more competitive candidate, especially as your expected role may involve research. For example, many nanotechnology engineers work as research or device development engineers. An advanced degree typically takes at least two years of full-time study.

4. Engage in continuing learning

Because nanotechnology engineering is an evolving field, it's important you stay current with developments. You can earn the Professional Engineer designation (P.Eng.) to show employers your engineering expertise. Consider nanotechnology conferences to connect with industry leaders, startup founders, and skilled researchers. Attending workshops and taking online courses can also help you become a successful nanotechnology engineer.

Average salary and work conditions

The national average salary for nanotechnology engineers is $81,076 per year. They often use the latest technology, such as electron microscopes and supercomputers. Nanotechnology engineers typically work in science research facilities, pharmaceutical companies, medical supplies and equipment organizations, and semiconductor manufacturing companies. They may also work as self-employed professionals or contractors.

FAQs about a nanotechnology engineer's duties

You can explore the following questions and responses to learn more about a nanotechnology engineer's role:

What are the skills of successful nanotechnology engineers?

Nanotechnology engineers require both hard and soft skills at work. While soft skills define how they work and interact with others, hard skills are qualities necessary to complete a job learned through training, education, and practise. Here are the most common skills to develop:

  • Attention to detail: Because nanotechnology engineers work with atoms and molecules, it's important to be detail-oriented. Developing this skill can help them find patterns in nanoparticles.

  • Creativity: Nanotechnology engineers often require creativity to identify how to improve or develop products from their microscopic components. Creativity is the ability to generate new ideas and concepts.

  • Analytical thinking: Objectively evaluating situations is essential for a nanotechnology engineer's role. For example, they might use their analytical thinking skills to evaluate the societal or environmental impact of nanotechnology engineering products.

  • Research: This skill refers to finding answers to questions or a solution to a problem. Nanotechnology engineers can expect to work on research projects, discovering scientific solutions.

  • Computer literacy: This skill refers to the ability to use computer systems well. Designing, constructing, or analyzing microscopic particles typically requires nanotechnology engineers to use computer systems and advanced technologies.

Related: Research Skills: Definition and Examples

What career paths are similar to nanotechnology engineering?

Here's a list of related career paths you can explore:

  • Nanoscience: the study of materials and structures on a microscopic scale

  • Nanobiotechnology: the application of nanotechnology to biology, such as generating new tissues, developing cures, and treating acute symptoms

  • Molecular engineering: the field concerned with designing and testing a molecule's properties, behaviour, and interactions to create better materials, systems, and processes

Related: 20 Types of Engineering Careers

What is the difference between a chemical engineer and a nanotechnology engineer?

Chemical engineers use their math and science skills to develop or improve materials that involve chemical processes. They help produce fuel, medications, and food. A nanotechnology engineer uses their science and engineering background to develop or improve materials by studying and controlling microscopic components.

Related: What Do Engineers Do? (With Tips on How to Become One)

What tips can help you succeed as a nanotechnology engineer?

Here are the best practices that can help you become a successful nanotechnology engineer:

  • Write articles for science and engineering journals and publications on nanotechnology engineering.

  • Consider participating in competitions for nanotechnology engineers to share products you developed or improved.

  • Consider working as a volunteer to design or improve commercial or industrial products containing nanoparticles.

Related: How to Become a Nanotechnologist in 5 Simple Steps

Examples of nanotechnology engineering products

Nanotechnology engineers work on various products, such as:

Solar panels

A solar panel is a platform designed to absorb sun rays and generate electricity. Because creating these devices typically requires energy, many researchers develop solar panels through nanotechnology engineering. They typically use coated materials with tiny particles called nanoparticles, which enable solar panels to absorb more sunlight.

Surface protection materials

Nanotechnology engineering can also apply to surface protection. For example, nanotechnology products resistant to high temperatures can help prevent surface damages. Many nanotechnology engineers also use their ability to manipulate atoms and molecules to create products that can easily remove dirt, stains, and oil substances from surfaces.

Food products and packages

Nanotechnology engineers also work in the food service and beverage industry. They may create a food item with a specific taste, texture, and nutrient density. For example, these engineers may replace microscopic components of mayonnaise to make it thinner. Nanotechnology engineers also research ways to improve the packaging of perishable products. For example, they may use nanoparticles in a beer bottle to retain gases, ensuring beer keeps its flavour longer.

Transdermal patches

A transdermal patch delivers a specific medication into a patient's bloodstream after placing it on their skin. Using one can enable patients to treat medical conditions without injecting or ingesting medications. Nanotechnology engineers often research ways to create transdermal patches containing microneedles. These microneedles can painlessly penetrate a patient's skin, enabling medications to enter the bloodstream quickly.

Bandages

A bandage is a material placed over a wound to protect it from infections. Through nanotechnology engineering, many engineers study how to enhance a bandage's ability to prevent bacterial infections. They typically create bandages containing nanoparticles and use them over injuries that can lead to infections, such as burn wounds. These nanoparticles can reduce bacteria growth and enable fast wound healing.

Body armour

Law enforcement officers and military personnel typically use body armour for protection. Nanotechnology engineering can help create materials more resistant to gunfire and reduce the energy impact by studying a body armour's microscopic components. They may also use nanoparticles to improve helmets and shields.

Salary figures reflect data listed on quoted websites at the time of writing. Salaries may vary depending on a hiring organization and a candidate's experience, academic background, and location. Please note that none of the companies, institutions, or organizations mentioned in this article are affiliated with Indeed.

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