As the field of nanotechnology continues to advance, mechanical engineers will play a crucial role in the advancement of manufacturing technologies and the design of systems and devices that exploit the new functionality of nanomaterials. As a result, there is a critical need to integrate nanotechnology education across all levels of the curriculum. This NUE program is working to establish a framework for the integration of nanoscale engineering concepts and current nanotechnology research throughout mechanical engineering curricula. The integration of teaching and research is a critical component of this NUE program and the collaborative research projects will act as a key source for curriculum development.

This NUE program encompasses (1) curriculum development, (2) undergraduate research and (3) involvement in extra-curricular programs. In all of these areas there is an emphasis on the need for interdisciplinary collaboration for the development of nanoscale materials and their devices. Research experiences for undergraduates in the laboratory are invaluable at teaching future engineers the manufacturing approaches for developing functional nanostructures as well as giving students hands-on experience in new characterization and modeling techniques required for nanoscale engineering.

The intellectual merit of this program is in the development of research-based educational activities and their integration across the mechanical engineering curriculum beginning with the college-wide Introduction to Engineering first-year course. The research-based educational activities are divided into three thrust areas that address emerging areas of nanotechnology: Thrust 1: Nanostructured Devices for Energy, Thrust 2: Anisotropic Active Nanostructures, and Thrust 3: Nanostructured Materials for Sensing Devices. These research and education thrust areas provide the basis for introducing and enhancing the subject of nanotechnology within the undergraduate curriculum in mechanical engineering. The faculty team assembled for this NUE program covers a broad range of engineering expertise. Collaboration of junior and senior faculty in the establishment of curriculum based on cutting-edge laboratory research ensures long-term impact on University of Delaware engineering education.

The three thrust areas address emerging areas of nanotechnology

The broader impacts of this program include enhancing the infrastructure for research and education through the collaboration of diverse research groups and co-advisement of students, and shared facilities and instrumentation. A particular effort will be aimed at recruiting exceptionally talented students from under-represented groups through the College of Engineering’s Resources to Insure Successful Engineers (RISE) and Women in Engineering (WIE) programs. The involvement of engineering student groups advised by the PIs in project-based activities emphasizes working in interdisciplinary teams and building scientific leadership skills. Research results are being disseminated broadly to the physics, materials science, and mechanical engineering research communities, because of the interdisciplinary nature of the projects. The investigators will incorporate the results of this work in their ongoing outreach programs as well as the College of Engineering Outreach programs.

A focal point for active exchange and interaction is our internationally renowned Center for Composite Materials (CCM). Numerous research activities at the Center involve the development of nanostructured materials and devices. The Center currently enjoys participation of faculty and students from nine academic departments throughout the University and almost 70 companies in CCM’s Industry Consortium Program. This close university/industry interaction facilitates rapid technology transfer between basic science and technological applications.