UW Faculty of Engineering Event: Inaugural Nanotechnology Fourth Year Design Symposium

March 27, 2010 § Leave a comment

WHO: 65 fourth year UW Nanotech students (the inaugural class! – from 2005! woot!)

WHAT: Design symposium with 16 interactive projects, posters, and student presentations.  According to the nanotech site, this engineering program teaches students “how to exploit the special properties that arise when materials are fabricated on the nano-size scale.”

WHEN: Friday March 26 2010 from 9:30 AM to 8 PM.

WHERE: William G. Davis Centre


Figure 1: Jamie Durham explaining her shoe-warming project.

Figure 2: Rajesh Kumar talking it up with Michelle Chan (I think) over her bench-scale electrospinner.

Figure 3: Not sure who this fellow is, but I talked to him, and he was extremely nice. I think his name tag reads "Goran Vlacic". His project - Electrochromic Eyewear.

Figure 4: This picture was totally taken by Graeme Williams. He has not idea who I am and I have no idea who he is, but facebook albums are accessible and this is a good photo. Aerial view of Nanotech Symposium.


The projects were divided into 3 categories: (i) Nanophotonics and Electronics, (ii) Nanofluidics and Nano Bio Applications, and (iii) Nanomaterials. I had one hour between classes to check out the Nanotech Symposium. I got around to seeing at least one from each category, 5 tables in total, without being late for my next class.  (I was pretty smug about it myself.)  Here are the projects I learned about, annotated with a few words on what stuck out to me the most after speaking with the presenters:

(i) Nanophotonics and Electronics

  • Electrochromic Eyewear

    Transition lenses with batteries that enable glasses-wearers to manually control level of tint almost instantaneously.  Compare with slow lag time of 5-10 minutes of traditional Transitions lenses.  Can be operated using a simple watch battery.  The nanoparticles in question that makes the glasses tinted purple? A network of monomers that looks like dog bones, with Iron atoms in between.  Cobalt and rubidium atoms also work, but Iron being the least expensive, was the preferred element of choice for this project.  In addition, Goran assured me that Cobalt and Rubidium conferred no significant advantage over Iron in terms of UV-protection.

(ii) Nanofluidics and Nano Bio Applications

  • Anti-microbial Coatings with Titanium Dioxide Nanoparticles

    Painting synthetic leather car seats with Titanium Dioxide solution to act as an antibacterial and antifungal agent for use in taxis and other public transportation vehicles.  Requires UV rays from natural sunlight (probably at least 15 minutes) to activate nanoparticles and destroy surface microorganisms.  Tested on Escherichia coli and Bacillus cereus as well as with fungi controls.

(iii) Nanomaterials

  • Bench-scale Electrospinner for Quick Prototyping

    Can make quality nanofibres (about 1/100th the width of a strand of hair) using the economic and versatile electrospinning method.  Fibres can be used for medical or electronic applications: bandages, filters, growing artificial tissues, or electronic devices.
  • Night Vision Stealth Coating

    Based on black body radiation principles and crazy wavelength stuff, carbon nanotubes (CNT) are applied to fabric to facilitate “invisibility” when the temperature of the fabric is akin to that of the external environment.  “Infrared camouflage”.  Military applications – “stealth operations”.

  • High Resistance Carbon Nanotube Film for Rapid Shoe Insole Heating

    A battery-powered heat-supply that fits in the insole of your shoe to keep your feet warm and cozy during cold winter days.  The heat supply comes in the form of a black filter-looking like membrane, coated with carbon nanotubes and gold sputtering for good conductivity of heat generated from the battery supply.

(I really wanted to check out Xyloclear, a project that develops a method to make alternative windows out of plant cellulose! Holy crap!)

Overall, though, I had an awesome time.  For me, the inaugural nanotechnology symposium represented the apex of Waterloo geeks at their finest.  I walked away realizing three things:

  1. My other alias could very well be, “the Biology Girl who really, really, really likes Engineering.”
  2. I’m a total techie groupie.
  3. So this is where all the cool kids went.

(OK so maybe those 3 things mean exactly the same thing: the geeky world of fancy technology-that-I-can-barely-comprehend-the-underlying-principles-of-but-can-still-appreciate-the-significance-of still rules my biology-wired brain.)

Regardless, afterwards, I almost regretted not skipping my next class just to have the time to get around to seeing all the projects!  Instead, I contented myself with reading about all 16 projects in class and dreaming about other ways to become the coolest tech groupie yet.


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