Dr. Poetro explained the role of nanotechnology in tackling future challenges.
Jakarta, 19 August 2016 – Dr. Poetro Sambegoro from Institut Teknologi Bandung (ITB) visited the Sampoerna University campus to deliver a special guest talk about future applications of nanotechnology. Dr. Poetro graduated from Teknik Mesin ITB and earned his Master and PhD in Mechanical Engineering from Massachusetts Institute of Technology. During his PhD, he studied energy transport phenomena at the nanoscale. His current research interests focus on the application of nanotechnology in energy conversion devices and cancer treatment.
History of Nanotechnology
Dr. Poetro started his lecture by introducing the history of nanotechnology. Nanotechnology is a technology which utilizes tools and manipulates matter at the nanoscale size, where 1 nanometer is 1/1000000th of a millimeter. The scale is so small that materials will exhibit unique properties and behave unconventionally. The term “nanotechnology” was first coined by Norio Takiguchi in 1974 when he studied semiconductors. However, the concept of nanotechnology was first introduced decades before in 1959 by Richard Feynman. One of Feynman’s famous quotes was “Why can’t we write the entire 24 volumes of the Encyclopedia Britannica on the head of a pin?” It is not a surprising thing today for us to have modern gadgets such as smartphones or tablet computers, but back then in the 50s, putting that much information in a small thing was unimaginable. Nanoscale materials and structures were first closely observed using scanning tunneling microscopes invented by Gerd Binnig and Heinrich Rohrer in 1981, for which they were rewarded a Nobel Prize in 1986.
Why Is It Important?
Nanotechnology is an important area that has become a focus of scientific and technological research and development today. Transistors used for computing in the 1940s were at the scale of 1 cm. Nowadays, transistor sizes have been reduced to the order of nanometers and are utilized to develop faster electronic devices like processors or hard drives. Nanotechnology also has an important role in the field of renewable energy technology such as solar cells. Solar energy, if it were to be harnessed, would make up 1,400 times the world’s current energy consumption. However, we globally still depend very heavily on fossil fuel based energy sources. Develop alternative and sustainable energy through, for instance, solar cell technology would go a long way to solve the world’s current and future energy demands. Currently, 40% of the cost of solar cell development is in the materials required to make the solar cells. Solar cell efficiency is also very low (around 10-15%, with the most efficient cells having efficiencies up to and around 35%). Nanotechnology plays a crucial role in producing cheaper and more efficient solar cells by making it possible to fabricate thinner films that are still capable of absorbing sunlight.
Nanotechnology has also been applied to the development of graphene. Graphene is a material that consists of exactly one atomic layer of carbon. Andre Geim and Konstantin Novoselov won the Nobel Prize following their work on graphene. Graphene’s materials properties can be leveraged to develop lighter solar cells, high conductivity materials, chemical sensors, and automobile and aeroplane components, among other applications.
The last example of nanotechnology application that Dr. Poetro discussed is thermoelectric materials. Thermoelectrics are devices that convert a temperature gradient into electricity. In other words, thermoelectrics can exploit excess heat and transform it to electrical power. It is very useful in harvesting residual power, for instance, those in gas turbines.
A Message to STEAM Students
Dr. Poetro’s lecture was followed by a question and answer session where students and lecturers asked questions about other nanotechnology applications, such as applications within the medical field and in space satellites. At the end of the lecture, Dr. Poetro emphasized that development of nanotechnology is very important for the future of human life. He also left an important message for all of the students: that while it is important to learn the topics they will see in the classroom; it is so important to always be systematic in problem-solving. He emphasized that systematic problem solving is a way of life for those working in STEAM or STEAM-related fields, and that this habit will allow the students to work on anything because they will know how to structure and solve the problems and challenges that they will face.
About Special Guest Talk Series
This series of events invites many speakers from various fields related to STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts, and mathematics) to present their work to students and faculty at the university.
Martinus D.K. Dewa, Research Specialist and Junior Lecturer at the Faculty of Science and Technology, Sampoerna University