As a student enters into their academic journey, one of the most critical decisions they face is choosing a department within the university. This choice significantly impacts their future studies, career prospects, and personal growth. However, the process can be daunting, often leaving them with unanswered questions. BUET's recently established Department of Nanomaterials and Ceramic Engineering (NCE) holds vast potential yet remains largely undiscovered by many students. To address this, we’ve compiled answers to some frequently asked questions (FAQ) about this department.

Question: Tell me about the Nanomaterials and Ceramic Engineering (NCE) department.

The Department of Glass and Ceramic Engineering was established in 2010 as a new department to provide opportunities for post-graduate studies and innovative research to ensure the sustainable development of emerging glass and ceramic industries in Bangladesh. In the initial phase, the department was offering Masters and PhD programs. In the meantime, the Perspective Plan of Bangladesh 2021-2041, the country has recognized the importance of advanced technologies, particularly Nano-based materials, which are crucial for the Fourth Industrial Revolution (IR 4.0). Given the close connection between nanomaterials and advanced ceramics, the department changed its name in 2022, becoming the Department of Nanomaterials and Ceramic Engineering. This title distinguishes us as the only department of its kind in Bangladesh. In line with this, an undergraduate program in Nanomaterials and Ceramics Engineering was launched to produce engineers skilled in advanced new technologies for the industrial sector. The first batch of undergraduate students began their classes in the 2022-23 session.

Question: What are nanomaterials and ceramics?

Nanomaterials are the manipulation and engineering of materials and devices on a scale of less than about 100 nanometers. To put this into perspective, one nanometer is one billionth of a meter, making it around 100,000 times smaller than the width of a human hair. “Nano” is so small that we cannot see it with the naked eye, nor can we view it even under an optical microscope. We need ultra-high magnification electron microscopes to investigate nanomaterials. At such a small scale, materials exhibit unique quantum and surface phenomena that give rise to unusual properties leading to novel and revolutionary applications. All sorts of interesting and unusual things can happen when materials are at the nanoscale. For example, opaque materials become transparent (copper), materials change their color (gold), inert materials become catalysts (platinum), semiconductors turn into conductors (silicon), solids become liquids at room temperature (gold), stable materials turn combustible (aluminum), etc. Nanomaterials technology has enormous potential to solve some of our pressing problems and to advance our industry. Nanomaterial technology can benefit a wide range of industrial sectors, including electronic manufacturing, energy, automotive, water, environmental remediation, pharmaceuticals, healthcare, textile, agriculture, food, and cosmetics. Ceramic materials are generally composed of oxide or non-oxide compounds. Ceramics are generally divided into two categories: traditional and advanced ceramics. Traditional ceramics are made from naturally occurring materials, such as quartz sand or clay minerals. They are mainly used to create tiles and bricks, tableware, refractory linings, and industrial abrasives. Advanced ceramics - made from oxides, nitrides, carbides, and their composites - have unique combinations of engineering properties and are indispensable in many high-tech applications. Recently, Bangladesh has established itself as an important global player in traditional ceramic manufacturing. Bangladesh-made ceramic products are used in some of the most famous royal households in the world, which is a testimony to their quality. Moving into the future, the industry needs to diversify and venture into advanced ceramics for engineering applications to create more value addition. Many of the advanced ceramics are engineered at the nanoscale. The ceramic industry of Bangladesh needs qualified engineers with specialized knowledge to embrace the future.

Question: Why was it deemed necessary to introduce this new subject in BUET?

The current technological and industrial revolution depends, to a large extent, on advanced and smart materials which are an integral part of nanomaterials, the lion's share of which belongs to ceramic materials. Exploiting fundamental and unique properties of nano-materials stems from quantum size effects. These properties differ significantly from their bulk counterparts. By introducing nanomaterials and ceramics engineering, BUET aims to bridge the gap between conventional materials science and the emerging field of nanotechnology. This subject fills a void by emphasizing the study of materials at the nanoscale, where their behavior deviates from classical predictions. BUET is offering this program to create leaders who can lead the country's high-tech future. The program has been designed in consultation with relevant stakeholders and industry players in the country. There is enthusiasm for this new undergraduate program among industry leaders representing the ceramics, glass, and cement industries and those adopting nanomaterial-enabled products, e.g., pharmaceuticals, textiles, etc. Graduates from this program will be able to contribute wide wide-ranging industry including battery and other energy materials, manufacturing, and automotive.

Question: What makes this department a preferable choice for students over other departments?

The Department of Nanomaterials and Ceramic Engineering offers students an opportunity to learn from highly skilled faculty trained from various reputed universities worldwide including the MIT. Faculty members actively engage in basic and advanced technological research on nanomaterials and ceramics. Research topics span a wide spectrum, from microwave-based fabrication of nanosilicon to photovoltaic windows, photocatalytic nanomaterials, and more. Students benefit from exposure to ongoing research, contributing to their intellectual growth and understanding of real-world challenges. Importantly, the department facilitates hands-on engagement with state-of-the-art tools and techniques for nanoscale synthesis and characterization. This includes facilities like microwave synthesizers, hydrothermal reactors, thin-film deposition tools, scanning electron microscopes, and X-ray diffractometers. Access to such sophisticated equipment allows students to gain practical experience with industry-standard tools and conduct high-quality research. The department's combination of highly qualified faculty, cutting-edge research areas, and state-of-the-art facilities creates a learning environment that fosters intellectual growth, practical skills development, and preparation for successful careers in advanced materials science and related fields.

Question: What are the main courses taught in this department?

The undergraduate curriculum, which is multidisciplinary in nature, is designed to provide students with a solid foundation in science and engineering principles and a diverse and rich exposure to advanced technologies to take up future challenges both at home and abroad. This background will prepare them for jobs in traditional and high-tech industries and make them qualified for higher studies in high-ranking universities across the globe. Salient components of the curriculum include:
i) Strong base in physics, chemistry, and mathematics;
ii) Deep foundation in materials science and engineering covering major classes of materials e.g., ceramics, glasses, metals, polymers, electronic materials, biomaterials, energy materials, environmentally friendly materials, etc.;
iii) Synthesis of nanomaterials using both top-down and bottom-up approaches,
iv) Hands-on characterization of materials at the near-atomic dimensions using the most sophisticated techniques like electron microscopy, x-ray diffraction, spectroscopy, thermal analyzer, impedance spectroscopy, optical and magnetic measurements, etc. which are available in the NCE Department, and
v) Modeling and simulation.
i) Advanced structural ceramics and electro-ceramics, in addition to traditional ceramics, glass, cement, refractories, etc.,
ii) Nanomaterials for electronics, energy conversion and storage, photonics, magnetic, automotive, textile, environmental remediation, water treatment, and biomedical applications,
iii) Fabrication of smart structures, components, and devices for applications in the above sectors.
i) Engineering management, sustainability, exposure to engineering practice through industrial training and capstone design project;
ii) Ethics, communication, and leadership;
iii) Undergraduate research using the most sophisticated nanomaterials synthesis and characterization tools; and
iv) Exposure to innovation and entrepreneurship to convert ideas into solutions or products, thus exploring possibilities of creating impact through start-ups. The last component is particularly important in our national aspiration to produce entrepreneurs who will build new high-tech industries in the country. The brief introduction above hopefully provides some basic ideas about the new undergraduate program. The Nanomaterials and Ceramic Engineering Department invites interested candidates to visit our website for further information/clarification. The NCE Department equipped with the most sophisticated world-class laboratory facilities and collaborative links with prestigious universities in the world - looks forward to welcoming students who are excited to build their careers in advanced technology to serve humanity within and beyond the national boundary.