Ideas breed opportunity

Carleton’s Dean of Engineering and Design explains how the new technologies of today will create many jobs tomorrow.

Innovations and creativity continue to be the main drivers for economic progress and wealth creation in modern societies. The advent of the microchip led to the widespread use of computers and the development of packet switching technology has ushered in the Internet era. Computer and network technologies form the core of information systems, and are vital for every organization. At present, information technology industry provides new jobs at a rate faster than most other sectors of the economy. The future of the information technology sector will be made even brighter by new technologies that are certain to lead to the foundation of new successful companies.

Two technological developments that will have major economic and social impact are miniature devices known as micro-sensors and actuators, and a revolutionary technology known as nano-scale technology, that deals with the synthesis of even smaller devices. In each case, information technology specialists will be crossing the boundaries of their discipline and working closely with other specialists in order to realize the full potential of these new technologies.

The new miniature devices, called microsensors and micro-actuators, will enable us to achieve many desirable goals in our living environment, transportation systems and in healthcare. The key is to produce them at a very low cost using environmentally safe materials. When deployed and networked to monitor the condition of our highways, these devices can broadcast timely warning signals to drivers of icy road sections or foggy weather ahead. Future buildings equipped with these devices can inform tenants of deteriorating air quality, detect the presence of toxic materials in drinking waters, sense advanced signs of earth tremors, and even permit the structure of the building small adjustments so that it can withstand the effects of such tremors. In healthcare, it will be possible to equip heart and stroke patients with non-intrusive micro-sensors to signal to care givers advanced signs of any change in the patient’s condition, without limiting the patient’s mobility. Our safety and quality of life can thus be enhanced considerably through early warning for impending disasters and better preparations for emergencies.

The nano-scale technology implies our ability to build devices at a much smaller scale than has been previously possible. A nano-scale device will typically be 1/100 smaller than a micro device. At such small scale, we are able to exploit certain properties of materials that are not revealed at larger sizes. The potential of such technology and the range of new applications that will be made possible are enormous in magnitude. In medicine, it is contemplated that nano-scale particles will be produced to function as guided engines that can perform non-invasive treatment of cancer, unclog arteries and treat stroke victims. Nano-scale clusters of particles with certain properties can be deployed to detect and fight toxic pollutants in air and water. Using nano-scale particles for treatment of surfaces of certain materials will allow the development of new non-corrosive metals. It will also make it possible to manufacture materials with self-cleaning surfaces, thereby reducing the need for detergents and other cleaning agents.

We are on the cusp of major technological developments that promise to create tens of thousands of well paying and challenging information technology jobs and improve the overall quality of life.

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This entry was written by Samy Mahmoud and posted in the issue. Tags applied to this article are: , . Leave a comment, bookmark the permalink or share the following short URL for this article via social media:

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