Engineering Molecules: Tiny Solutions for Big Problems

Filed Under: News

Molecular engineering is an emerging discipline that is generating excitement and questions. How will it shape UW Engineering? How will it help solve tough problems in energy, health care, and other fields?

Imagine giving doctors the tools to pinpoint the exact location of disease molecules inside your cells. Imagine curing disease by sending safe biologic agents on a direct attack against these targets.

The power to do so is coming through the work of molecular engineers. They are capitalizing on a decade of advances in nanotechnology to design new molecules and systems of molecules that may not exist in nature. With great precision, they manipulate structure and function, often one molecule at a time, an exceedingly difficult challenge. They are making breakthroughs via advanced synthesis and characterization tools such as nanolithography.

In the next ten years, complex molecular nanosystems and devices will allow scientists to penetrate ever deeper into molecular and atomic processes. UW Engineering is leading the way, particularly in medical and energy research, as described in the sidebar examples.

Molecular engineering, MolE for short, also will develop self-repairing materials for a wide range of equipment and construction uses, as well as for electronic, photonic, and optical consumer goods. The environment will benefit too. MolE solutions will help us address global warming, monitor environmental pollutants, and safeguard food, water, and other resources.

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