Foresight Update 16
A publication of the Foresight Institute
We receive many requests from students and researchers at all
levels -- post-docs, graduate students, undergrads, and even some
precocious high-school students -- all asking the same question:
"At which universities can I pursue nanotechnology studies
Currently we have only very incomplete information to provide;
instead we describe an information-gathering procedure which will
turn up some answers. But this is inefficient: young researchers
need a central location to turn to when selecting an institution
for nanotechnology work. We're asking Foresight members to help
us gather this information about their institutions, to be
entered into our database. If you can provide any of the
following data about your university, please communicate it to
- Is relevant work already going on, e.g. in proximal
probes (STM, AFM), supramolecular chemistry,
macromolecular or protein engineering, molecular
modeling, or other related fields? If so, which
professors or labs are involved? (Keep in mind that we
are focusing on molecular nanotechnology, not just any
work at the nano scale.) Are there any interdepartmental
projects that combine these fields?
- Are relevant courses already being taught? What are their
names, at what level are they taught (advanced undergrad,
graduate), and which staff members teach them?
- Are relevant degree programs already offered? Ideally
these would be interdisciplinary and interdepartmental.
- If no degree program is offered in nanotechnology (as is
almost certainly the case, particularly for U.S.
readers), are students permitted to design their own
degree programs? If so, at which levels: bachelor's,
- Which thesis topics would you like to see students pursue
to further progress toward nanotechnology?
- Perhaps most important: which professors are interested
in supervising students with these interests, or in
teaching a course on the topic? (Now that Nanosystems
is available, teaching such a course has become much
easier.) If a course is seen as premature, an informal
study group such as Stanford's can be a starting point.
Documentation of any of the above, such as written course
descriptions, would be most appreciated. With your help,
Foresight can become a much better resource for researchers and
students, helping to direct them to where they can be most
effective in conducting nanotechnology work.
House Science Office on Nanotechnology
A recent report from the White House Office of Science and
Technology Policy, entitled "Science and Technology: A
Report of the President," included coverage of molecular
nanotechnology and molecular manufacturing:
MOLECULAR MANUFACTURING -- Molecular nanotechnology,
unlike micromachining, starts at the bottom and works up,
building materials and structures one atom at a time. This
process has been described in the literature since 1986 and
could eventually be used to build both nanoscale and
macroscale structures. It is already made possible on a
primitive level by the advent of scanning tunneling
microscopes, which allow atoms to be picked up and positioned
at will, subject to the laws of chemistry. To achieve
economically viable nanoscale assembly, namely, the
aggregation of large numbers of atoms in a finite time, a
system of molecular "assemblers" has been proposed.
"Assemblers" are self-replicating molecules capable
of reproducing themselves in large numbers and then gathering
and positioning other atoms and molecules in desired
constructions. By analogy to biology, these electromechanical
devices would use only those atoms needed, building up to the
desired product. In such processes, industrial waste would be
minimized, recycling of materials would be almost total,
energy would be used most efficiently, and a vast number of
new products and capabilities would be made possible.
Research in mechanical engineering, molecular biology,
chemistry, and physics is leading to advances in this
interdisciplinary field. With a realizable system of
practical molecular manufacturing, the very definitions of
design, manufacturing, and factories would be profoundly
Technologies, a recent study published by the
Congressional Office of Technology Assessment, estimated that
the first versions of the molecular "assemblers"
may be realized in 5 to 10 years.
Dr. Arlan Andrews, a researcher at Sandia National
Laboratories, contributed this section of the report while
serving as an ASME Fellow for Technology Adminstration at the
White House Science Office. The phrase "has been described
in the literature since 1986" refers to the book Engines of Creation.
We're happy to report that Foresight's computer fund drive was
entirely successful, thanks to the many members who sent
donations earmarked for this fund. The new computer has been
purchased, a Macintosh LCIII with extra memory, making both our
database and desktop publishing work much faster. (We are using a
color monitor on loan from Jonathan Shapiro; he'll be needing it
soon, so donation of a monitor or funds for same would be most
Special thanks go to members Dean Tribble and Dan Spitzer who are
working on a major revision and merging of the Foresight family
databases. Retroactive thanks to Jamie Dinkelacker for bringing
the current databases out of the dark ages into modernity.
More special thanks go to Bob Schumaker for both installing
Eudora (a Macintosh front end for UNIX email), and helping us get
the illustrations for this issue from a CD-ROM onto our hard
disk. Foresight members who communicate with us by email are
seeing dramatic improvements in response time.
Yet more special thanks go to our new Managing Editor, Jane
Nikkel, for her work on getting this issue out. With Jane taking
this role we can expect future issues to be on time. (And thanks
go to advisor Jamie Dinkelacker, who recruited Jane for
The first Nanotechnology Prize (exact name to be determined) will
be presented at this fall's nanotechnology conference, described
in this issue. Thanks go to Marc Arnold and Ted Kaehler for
establishing the prize fund, and to Vic Kley and Ted for
researching prize procedures.
Vigorous thanks go to members who send in relevant articles and
news, including but not limited to: Jon Alexandr, John K. Clark,
Allan Drexler, Joan Eslinger, Donald Fears, Dave Forrest, Norm
Hardy, Stan Hutchings, Alvin Steinberg, Philip Witham, Jerry
Foss. Please send these in even if you think we might have seen a
given article; we often miss items in the best-known
publications, because so many members assume we must already know
Author Named 1993 Young Innovator
Nanotechnologist Eric Drexler
has won the Kilby Young Innovator Award for 1993. Presented on
May 8 in Dallas at a black-tie event attended by 500 business and
technology leaders, the award was given to Dr. Drexler in
recognition of his work in the field of molecular manufacturing.
The award is named in honor of Jack St. Clair Kilby, inventor of
the integrated circuit.
Dr. K. Eric Drexler, chairman of the Foresight Institute and
senior research fellow at the Institute
for Molecular Manufacturing in Palo Alto, California, founded
the field of molecular nanotechnology (also termed molecular
manufacturing). Molecular manufacturing is the emerging ability
to build structures with atomic precision: cleanly and
economically. This technology promises to revolutionize many
industries, from manufacturing to computation.
Dr. Drexler, 38, authored Nanosystems:
Molecular Machinery, Manufacturing, and Computation
(Wiley Interscience, 1992), the first book to present the
scientific basis for the field, from its theoretical foundations
to its applications in computation and atomically-precise
manufacturing. Nanosystems recently was named the outstanding
computer science book of 1992 by the Association of American
"With this book, Drexler has established the field of
-- William Goddard, Professor of Chemistry and Applied
Physics at Caltech
"This is the book for starting the next century of
-- Prof. Marvin Minsky of MIT
"We believe this work to be of fundamental importance,
leading to major benefits in manufacturing, the economy, and
the environment. It's gratifying to see IMM's lead researcher
being recognized at the national level."
-- Neil Jacobstein, IMM board member and president, Cimflex
Dr. Drexler did his doctoral work at MIT, earning the first
Ph.D. granted in the field of molecular nanotechnology. He also
taught the first university course in nanotechnology (at Stanford
in 1988) and has chaired the first conference series,
including this fall's event focusing on computational
nanotechnology: using computers to speed nanotechnology
Dr. Drexler's work is funded by the Institute for Molecular
Manufacturing (Palo Alto, Calif.), a nonprofit research institute
promoting this research toward environmentally-sound, efficient
manufacturing. IMM Executive Director Kathleen Shatter states
"Our goal is to be a center of excellence for R&D in
molecular manufacturing. This award will gain attention for our
goal, just as Nanosystems itself will enable many
more reseachers to move into this field."
Interest in these topics is increasing both inside and outside
the U.S. In Japan, the Ministry of Trade and Industry (MITI) has
announced a ten-year, $200 million project which includes the
goal of building structures with atomic precision. Forty-six
companies are assisting in the project, some based in the U.S.
including Texas Instruments, the company at which Jack Kilby
invented the integrated circuit.
Winner Rohrer on Nanotechnology
IBM Zurich physicist Heinrich
Rohrer won the 1986 Nobel
prize in physics for coinventing the scanning tunneling
microscope (STM). In the May issue of Bilanz, a
Swiss financial magazine, Dr. Rohrer was interviewed on the topic
of nanotechnology and the response of Swiss industry to this new
field. Below are excerpts of his comments, roughly translated
from the German by Markus Krummenacker of IMM:
"Nanotechnology has been discussed intensively in
certain scientific circles for a couple of years. In a couple
of decades, nanotechnology will have the same kind of
importance that microtechnology does today. . .
"It sometimes seems to me that companies would prefer to
avoid [considering] nanotechnology so that they don't get
disturbed, so that they don't have to rethink. I really see
the low interest level of companies at seminars and
conferences: very rarely do companies or people in their
research and development departments come to us nano
researchers asking what it is that is actually important...
"In part, it's the reluctance to embrace something new.
On the other hand, entry into the nano domain shouldn't pose
any barrier that is unsurmountable. We in Switzerland have a
very good scientific foundation in nanotechnology...
"Disinterest of industry in nanotechnology demonstrates
a certain insular existence of science and industry. Often
both are proceeding much too separately... Unfortunately,
science in the domain of microtechnology was neither a
communication partner nor a driving force. We will try to do
that better with nano this time around..."
In response to the question of what products could be produced
"You're asking the question the wrong way around, the
same as most companies do. At first it's not important that
companies produce nanoproducts... At first it's important
that people get interested and ask questions such as what is
nanotechnology? What could nanotechnology give us today? And
it's important that people start to understand how to handle
the nanometer scale. The question of products cannot really
be answered by scientists. Companies will have to answer that
"With nano we can look at properties of materials
with much higher resolution and much more precision, namely
with atomic precision. . .
"With nanotechnology, development time is shorter and
competition is greater than with microtechnology, because a
lot of experience already exists in the area of
miniaturization. But I'm not pessimistic about our
[Switzerland] being able to accomplish this step. See, for
example, we are now talking about nanotechnology; that is
already a big advance. If now a couple of people from
industry, after reading this interview, would go on to say 'A
nanoscientist should perhaps study my materials, and maybe
he'll find something'; if these people from industry would
say that, then that already would be a beginning."
NANO II, August 2-6, Moscow. Second
International Conference on Nanometer Scale Science and
Technology. Contact Dr. Vinogravoda E.M., Academy of
Technological Sciences of the Russian Federation, 9 Leninsky
Prospect, 117049, Moscow, Russia.
STM '93, August 9-13, Beijing, China. Contact
Prof. Chunli Bai, fax 86-1-256-9564.
International Society for Molecular Electronics and
Biocomputing, Sept. 21-23, NIST, Gaithersburg, MD.
Contact Lori Phillips, tel 301-975-4513, fax 301-948-2067.
Third Foresight Conference on Nanotechnology:
Computer-Aided Design of Molecular Systems, Oct. 14-16,
Palo Alto, CA. An open technical meeting on molecular
nanotechnology, especially designed for computer professionals.
See article in this issue. Contact Foresight Institute, tel
415-324-2490, fax 415-324-2497, email email@example.com.
Foresight/IMM Senior Associate Gathering, Oct.
15, Palo Alto, CA. See article
in this issue.
First International Symposium on Research into Artifacts,
Oct. 26-27, University of Tokyo. Sponsored by Japan's Ministry of
Education, University of Tokyo's Faculty of Engineering, 13
academic societies. Includes "Molecular Manufacturing and
Global Concerns" by Eric Drexler.
Society of Minds Symposium, Oct. 18, Cambridge,
MA. In honor of Foresight advisor MIT Prof. Marvin Minsky.
Contact Betty Lou McLanahan, tel 617-253-5864, fax 617-253-6699,
Supercomputing '93, Nov. 15-19, Portland, OR.
Sponsored by IEEE and ACM. Includes Eric Drexler on
nanotechnology. Contact Karen Friedman, tel 303-497-1276, fax
303-497-1137, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Nanometer Science and Technology Division,
American Vacuum Society Conference, Nov. 15-19, Orlando, FL.
Contact AVS at 212-661-9404.
Nanotechnology Session, American Society of
Mechanical Engineers Annual Meeting, Dec. 2, New Orleans.
Speakers: Eric Drexler, Clayton Teague of NIST, Burgess Laird of
Los Alamos Lab. Contact ASME, tel 212-705-7795, fax 212-705-7100.
Symposium on Materials Technology on the Nanoscale in
Year 2000, Minerals, Metals, and Materials Society, Feb.
28, 1994, San Francisco. Contact TMS, tel 412-776-9042, fax
From Foresight Update16,
originally published 1 July 1993.