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Present Status of
Japanese Nanotechnology Efforts

Tanya C. Sienko*

First Theory-Oriented Research Group

This is an abstract for a talk to be given at the
Fifth Foresight Conference on Molecular Nanotechnology.
The full paper is now available.


Japanese nanotechnology as it is now proceeding is almost completely the outgrowth of work in semiconductor processing (nanostructures) and micromachines. "Nanotechnology" is taken to refer at present to the construction of nanostructures on semiconductors and other inorganic surfaces. At present, the semiconductor-inorganic efforts are driven mainly by the consortia (government and business) investigating future technology for computers. Japan is also seeing the rapid development of equipment for use at the nanometer level (STMs and AFMs) and its integration into the research laboratory.

Biotechnology still remains separate from nanotechnology efforts. Over the last two years, certain areas of interdisciplinary research linking biotechnology and electronics which could have lead further towards the development of nanotechnology in the Drexlerian sense have fragmented into separate sub-disciplines.

The first part of this talk provides a quick overview of Japan's science and technology organizations and their respective areas of research. The second section is a summary of Japanese efforts in nanostructure research starting with government projects such as the Future Electronic Device project (MITI), JRCAT (Joint Research Center for Atom Technology), ERATO projects (STA), then moving to efforts by government/industry consortia (SELETE).

The third section covers more speculative areas which in Japan are not considered nanotechnology but have possible relevance. This includes many of the ERATO projects (protein lattices, electrochemical characterization using STMs, etc.), work with fullerenes (various universities) and some of the ISTF projects under MITI (protein assemblies, new structured materials).

Finally, some of Japan's earlier bio-electronics research has mutated over to become research on biological neural networks, artificial intelligence, and molecular computing efforts, which may have relevance to Japanese nanotechnology efforts in the future.

The present Japanese conception of "futuristic technology" may be said to consider biotechnology, the construction of new materials, and the realization of artificial intelligence as its main goals. On the other hand, Japan is well along the path of developing enabling technologies such as micromachines and instrumentation and could rapidly decide to go completely towards strong nanotechnology if it wished.

*Corresponding Address:
Tanya C. Sienko, First Theory-Oriented Research Group, 1-11-39 Nagata-cho, Chiyoda-ku, Yorktown Heights, Tokyo 100 JAPAN, ph: +81-3-3581-2396, fax: +81-3-3503-3996 or +81-3500-5240, email:


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