The University of Texas – Austin, TX, USA
- Msc/Bsc, Electrical Engineering and Applied Physics, Case Western Reserve University, 2010
- Ph.D. in Electrical Engineering, Stanford University, 2009
Akinwande is focused on 2D materials and devices. This is a very multidisciplinary research covering materials science, physics, and engineering applications. As such, he has students and researchers with different technical backgrounds working with him on these topics in order to make significant progress in bringing ideas towards practical applications.
Advice to Students:
Pursue innovation and critical thinking.
In which technical fields within Nanotechnology does your work apply best?
- Nanosensors and Nanoactuators
Q: When did you first find that your career path focused on nanotechnology?
Akinwande: When I started graduate school, I realized the field was very young and started exploring carbon nanotube materials. I was particularly looking for a nascent topic and after 1year of reading about different emerging frontiers, I decided to focus on CNTs especially for radio-frequency applications because it was an area I had some prior experience.
Q: What current nanotechnology applications are you working on?
Akinwande: I am working on several applications including wearable tattoo sensors, flexible electronics, and memory devices for information storage and computing. Our main driver is to explore near-term important applications of nanomaterials such as graphene and related atomic sheets. These aforementioned applications are both very important from a technology point of view and might also be commercializable in a reasonable timeframe compared to some more fundamental applications that might need decades to develop.
Q: What’s the most rewarding thing about working with nanotechnology?
Akinwande: The field is very vast with ample room for innovation and creativity to bring an idea from concept towards practical applications.
Q: Is there an example you can provide that shows how something you’ve worked on has positively impacted the world?
Akinwande: We wrote the first textbook on carbon nanotubes in 2011 and this book has been translated to other languages and is used in many institutions across the World to teach aspects of nanomaterials and nanotechnology.
Q: In which areas do you anticipate future commercialization of nanotechnology having the greatest positive impact on the world?
Akinwande: The future is hard to predict. I expect nanotechnology will increasingly impact many aspects of society in due time. We already see commercial examples in energy devices such as batteries, thermal management packages in smart phones, and a variety of sensors including diagnostic testing for health.
Q: What do you think is the single greatest impact nanotechnology has had on the world thus far?
Akinwande: Nanotechnology has given us modern semiconductor technology which has benefited virtually all industries and society across the World. From electronic gadgets to mobile health. This was enabled by developing a variety of techniques to make smaller features and components and integrate them on a semiconductor wafer. A lot of technical breakthroughs and invention went into the science and engineering of making things very small (i.e. nano-size), much smaller than a hair strand. This is an example of how nanotechnology has advanced the predominant semiconductor electronics industry.
Q: Over the past decade, nanotechnology has moved out of the lab and is making a real impact in society. Have you worked on any efforts that helped to commercialize nanotechnology and resulted in new products or processes?
Akinwande: Our earlier research on graphene growth and transfer has become commercial process technology. This research involved growing graphene, which is a single sheet of carbon atoms on a substrate of silicon that is suitable for semiconductor technology. With graphene on silicon, advanced electronics can be made that combines the outstanding properties of both materials to realize electronic gadgets superior to what can be achieved with just one of the materials.
Q: Did your university training help you in your nanotechnology work?
Akinwande: Yes, it provided foundational understanding in the physical sciences and engineering. Math classes gave me strong quantitative skills in modeling and analysis that requires skills in calculus and statistics. Physics is good for the necessary understanding of thermodynamics, solid-state materials, and quantum mechanics. And electrical engineering classes are crucial for developing applications based on the unique characteristics of nanomaterials. These applications are what we broadly call nanotechnology.
Q: If you had to do it all over again, would you still focus on nanotechnology applications?
Akinwande: Yes. Nanotechnology is a frontier field with a lot of room for innovation and as such, it is a very enjoyable field for discovery research.
Q: If a high school or college student was interested in nanotechnology, what advice would you give them to help prepare take on those roles?
Akinwande: Pursue innovation and critical thinking. There are many challenges in the world from a technology point including the exponential power consumption of data centers, the need for mobile personalized healthcare, portable filtration for clean water, etc. All these global challenges require innovative ideas and new ways of looking at problems.