Cambridge NanoScience through Engineering to Application Doctoral Training Centre: Assembly of Functional NanoMaterials and NanoDevices

Lead Research Organisation: University of Cambridge
Department Name: Physics


NanoScience is the emerging research discipline of building designer materials or machines which do entirely new things, by combining thousands of atoms arranged in intricate assemblies and connections. Understanding and controlling this new science results in NanoTechnology estimated to be one of the massive opportunities in the 21st Century, for making devices that really do what we want cheaper, faster, cooler, smarter and more efficiently. The process of assembly is the key to fostering widespread implementation of nanoscience discoveries. This is an area in which the UK must be strong to reap the rewards of increased investment. Most emerging opportunities depend on radically improving such nano-organisation, needed to impact major societal themes of Energy, Healthcare and Nano. However despite all these claims, which are mostly well-founded conceptually, the difficult is in how to really build on this extreme scale. Bigger than molecules but smaller than machinery, we have only learnt in recent years how to grow a plethora of nano-components. But perfecting ways to bring together these nano-components into active devices is the new challenge. Traditional approaches that piece things together laboriously are completely unfeasible here. The aim of our Doctoral Training Centre in Assembly of Functional NanoMaterials and NanoDevices is to hothouse training of a high-calibre cadre of inter-disciplinary nano-researchers and spur them to develop entirely new ways to assemble nano-machinery for doing something useful. The academics involved in this Nano DTC have all had experience of helping to teach young researchers across a range of research fields such as Physics, Materials Science, Chemistry and Engineering, and have also shown a real interest in developing novel ideas into practical inventions and engaged with companies (many of them their own spin-offs). The University of Cambridge has a large number of scientific programmes in this area, so a large opportunity exists to join them up, with the PhD students all interacting very widely across these disciplines, as well as engaging with the nitty-gritty tools of how nano-innovation can make it out into the real world.The Nano DTC will operate as a distinct PhD nursery, with the entry co-housed and jointly mentored in the initial year of formal courses and project work. Students from a range of undergraduate disciplines will thus spend considerable time together while each postgraduate will have a selection of 1st year courses crafted on entry by the DTC management committee, depending on their specific skill set and aspirations. The initial year provides additional skills in disciplines outside their degree, understanding of the Enterprise landscape relating to Nano-Innovation, specific knowledge of the nanoscience and application of self-assembly to NanoDevices and NanoMaterials, and miniprojects spanning different disciplines to broaden students' experience and peer networks, aiding final PhD project selection. A range of joint activities are programmed in later years including Nano DTC cohort student-led conferences, and industry reviews.Although individual examples of nano-entrepreneurship can be found across the UK, graduate students are rarely exposed to this experience, and frequently it is seen as detrimental to their research progress. A repeated theme emerging from nano research-to-application projects is how early-stage nano-construction strategies benefit from being informed by eventual scale-up, implementation routes, market potential and societal awareness. In turn, this joined up approach feeds back into the basic science process, frequently stretching research programs beyond the well-trodden paths and stimulating high impact science as well as innovation. The aim of the Cambridge Nano DTC is to make this experience pervasive for a new brand of UK Nano PhD students.


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