Cool Companies: Alberta's Nanotechnology & Advanced Materials 2009


Excerpt from Cool Companies

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Nanotechnology and MEMS fall under the broader class of material science called advanced materials, which covers all man-made engineered materials with superior properties. Advanced materials include advanced composites, advanced ceramics, liquid crystals, semiconductors, superconductors, porous materials, silicon nanophotonics (aka light-emitting materials), magnetic materials, and thin films. 



Advanced Composites


Advanced Ceramics


Thin films


Silicon nanophotonics

Composites are structures made of two or more materials which remain distinct on a macroscopic level when combined yet produce a new material. Examples include fiberglass, cement, and steel-belted tires. Carbon fiber is an advanced composite used to make aircraft parts and some sports equipment. Pictured above is an advanced composite made of tungsten carbide particles embedded in a nickel matrix. More p.13, 16, 30, 39, 42.

Porcelain and brick are traditional ceramics. Ceramics are inorganic non-metallic materials formed by the action of heat. Advanced ceramics are engineered materials with superior performance properties such as high resistance to abrasion (aka wear resistance). Pictured above is a closeup of an advanced ceramic used to machine metals (p.24).

Semiconductor electronics and MEMS (p.6) are made using thin films. Thin films are thin layers (from fractions of nanometres up to several microns thick) of materials like metals, semiconductors and insulators. Thin films can be layered like a sandwich. Sputtering (p.23) is one technique for creating thin films. Channels and spaces can be carved into thin films, as pictured above, using the techniques of etching or lithography.

The fact that nano-sized silicon crystals emit light is something very new. It has given birth to silicon nanophotonics, which is the vision that instead of transferring data on an electronic chip using electricity, data is transferred using light, which is 100 times faster than current speeds. Pictured above is a two-color switchable nano-silicon LED. More p.43, 44, 46, 51.