While humans have been creating materials for centuries, now we can design them atom by atom, says new electrical and computer engineering professor Irene Goldthorpe.
“In the last 10 to 15 years, there’s been huge advances in the ways in which we can synthesize and characterize materials at the nanoscale,” she says.
In her newly established lab, Goldthorpe uses nanowires and thin films to create novel materials for electronic and optoelectronic applications like LEDs, transistors, solar cells and sensors. She loves nothing better than having a fellow researcher knock on her door, asking her to create material with specific properties. Recently, for example, she developed transparent films that can conduct heat, making them the perfect choice for defrosting car windows or outdoor LCD panels.
The results are transforming existing technologies and making new applications possible. “We can design materials for exactly what we want,” she says. “It’s pretty cool.”
What brought the bright young researcher to Waterloo were the Faculty’s undergraduate and graduate programs in nanotechnology, along with the Waterloo Institute for Nanotechnology, which now includes 60 faculty members. Most importantly, however, the Faculty has invested in big-ticket items like the electron microscopes and nanofabrication equipment that Goldthorpe needs for her research.
“Waterloo has chosen to make nanotechnology a priority,” she says. “And that’s great for me.”