Engineering's Superheroes

MNTL Director's Message for Summer 2018

Now that we are in the middle of summer, we are also in the middle of the summer blockbuster movie season, and superhero movies are among the most popular yet again. While some of the superheroes derive their powers from being the offspring of gods (Thor and Wonder Woman), and others from freak accidents (Spider Man), and yet others from an extreme dedication to martial arts training (Batman and Black Widow), a large portion of them derive their strengths from their own engineering genius (Iron Man, the Hulk), or from advances conferred by technologies that provide indestructible metal shields, super strength through genetic modification, compact power sources with infinite power, shrink suits, and insect telepathy. Although are all science fiction, the popularity of these characters shows how society has great enthusiasm and boundless imagination for the advances that can be derived from science and engineering. The engineering superheroes in the movies save the world countless times by using technology to overcome the evil villains who seek to wreck the world.  And at they same time they all have great hair and killer abdominal muscles!

MNTL, as seen from the roof of the Coordinated Science Lab
MNTL, as seen from the roof of the Coordinated Science Lab

Back in the real world, scientists at MNTL are also actively saving the world by solving the problems that weigh on our environment and our society. While in the movies, the screenwriters put the word “quantum” in front of every other word to make it sound powerful, mysterious, and novel, here at MNTL we use quantum dots to enable early cancer diagnostics and quantum wells to enable semiconductor lasers that power the internet. Not only that, but we have superlattices, photonic hypercrystals, metamaterials, bio-robots, and much more. Not only do these things sound cool, but they represent real fundamental science and engineering that is being applied towards providing efficient solar power, reducing the energy requirements for lighting the world, and making new semiconductor technologies that will create even more powerful computers. So, I ask, who are the real superheroes? Take a look at the stories in this issue of InstruMNTL to learn about the latest research news and accomplishments of our faculty and students to find out!

As always, I encourage you to subscribe to InstruMNTL, our enews, so that you can be part of our work and achievements.