A photo of Tony Leung holding a molecule model.The extraordinary range of possibilities offered by nanotechnology is based on the fact that the properties of materials change — sometimes radically — when their size approaches that of a few tens or hundreds of atoms. One early achievement of research into nano-engineered materials, for instance, has been the development of sheets in the form of carbon hexagons and pentagons rolled into tubes, creating nano-tubes whose wall is only one atom thick. These carbon nanotubes have extraordinary strength and unique electrical properties. The goal of nano-engineered materials is to build and engineer many more such materials with novel, useful, and tailorable properties. This involves both the synthesis of organic and inorganic structures and control of their structures on a very small scale.

A photo of nano flowers by Tony Leung.

Research in nano-engineered materials crosses many departments and faculties at Waterloo. Researchers in Chemistry, Chemical Engineering, Mechanical and Mechatronics Engineering, and Electrical and Computer Engineering are already exploring opportunities for collaboration on modeling, design, fabrication, processing, characterization and analysis of nano-scale properties of materials, structures, devices and systems. This is an unprecedented development at Waterloo which will be further driven by the need to address a critical issue also faced in the integration of nano-scale devices: the interface between nano-structured materials and the macroscopic world.

Projects in Nano-Materials

  • Development and characterization of ferromagnetic iron-particles as drug delivery vehicles. These particles act like tiny magnets, and can be directed to specific areas of the body by an external magnetic field. These magnetic nanoparticles can also be used to purify enzymes, proteins and to remove organic contaminants from waste water systems.
  • The design, synthesis, characterization, application and fundamental studies of new crystalline metal oxide nano-materials that may be used for next-generation rechargeable batteries.
  • Nano-engineering of polymer electrolyte membranes. Hydrogen fuel cells use these membranes to combine hydrogen and oxygen and produce energy.
  • Development of nano-particles as powerful catalysts for petrochemical refinery applications.
  • Basic and applied research in photonic and photonic band gap crystals for optical and microwave communications.
  • Design, synthesis, fundamental understanding and processing of polymer nano-composites, which are used in several applications for the automotive, aerospace, electronic components and packaging industries.

People in Nano-Materials