Present Status of
Japanese Nanotechnology Efforts

Tanya Sienko

Sumitomo 3M
Corporate Development Lab

This is a draft paper for a talk at the
Fifth Foresight Conference on Molecular Nanotechnology.

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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.

An overview of Japan's Science and Technology organizations

Science Policy Organizations and Research Plans

The Council of Science and Technology (CST) provides general advice to the Prime Minister's Office on basic science policy, establishes long-term research goals, and formulates guidelines for the research supported by the various agencies and ministries. CST is considered to be by far the most influential advisory body on science and technology policy. In 1983 the CST created a permanent Committee on Policy Matters consisting of fourteen experts who monitor and evaluate new trends in technology and the natural sciences. Every year, prior to finalization of the national budget, the Committee identifies important issues related to science and technology and prepares a set of guidelines for Science and Technology Promotion.'These guidelines are considered by ministries and agencies when they come to draw up their budgets.

The Committee on Policy Matters has sub-committees on policy studies, research evaluations, and research projects. The latter sub-committee supervises the Special Co- ordination Fund for Promoting Science and Technology. CST uses this fund to make substantial adjustments to the research funding patterns of individual ministries and agencies. In addition, the CST sometimes develops its own policies in specific areas of science and technology which involve a number of different ministries and agencies. (Ex: the Human Frontiers Program)

The Prime Minister's Office receives advice from the Science Council of Japan, as well as science policy advice on specific research areas from eight other bodies which plan overall policy and co-ordinate the activities of government institutions concerned with their respective fields.

The role of STA in Science Policy

Although the Science and Technology Agency supposedly has responsibility for ensuring that co-ordination and balance are achieved in all non-Mombusho supported science and technology research, in practice it has difficulty in doing so due to the more powerful ministries competing for control of particular areas of science and technology. In any case, each agency and ministry is responsible for its own science and technology program, and receives advice from various bodies associated with each organization. (Mombusho is advised by a Science Council, a University Council, and the Geodesy Council. MITI receives advice on policy and programmes from the Industrial Technology Council; the Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications (MPT) has the Telecommunications Council, etc.)

How Science Policy Actually is Created

In spite of the aforementioned policy structure which would seem to indicate a micromanaging of research policy, concrete proposals for individual research projects actually are generated in a much more "bottom-up" fashion. Usually one or a few well-known researchers has the beginning idea and takes it to the parent organization. This is then "investigated" unofficially through "study groups" (benkyou- kai) which incorporate people from industry, government, and academia and act both as opportunities to brainstorm and to provide criticism. At a certain point the plan crystalizes, is written down, and starts on the route of trickling up and down through the bureaucracy to be accepted or rejected. At present, "nanotechnology" is not considered to be an "important" technology which is under consideration by any of the major policy bodies. Nor is it considered an area the progress of which should be tracked, although this has been changing. As mentioned, "nanotechnology" is considered equivalent with nanostructures (usually on semiconductors and other inorganic materials), with the tracking of research in this area being quite adequately carried out by companies.

Nanostructure research

Nanostructure research in Japan is occurring for the most part under MITI and for the most part with the idea of developing future-generation computer chips. Japan is undertaking a massive amount of research in areas related to advanced computer chip technology. Informed sources estimate that there are probably more advanced materials fabrication systems in just both NTT Atsugi laboratories and Fujitu's Quantum Electron Devices Laboratory than in the whole of Europe. Japan's other electronic giants--Hitachi, Matsushita, Mitsubishi,NEC, Sony, Sumitomo Electric and Toshiba--are also working on quantum devices, as well as smaller companies. At the same time, Japan's corporate counterparts in the US and Europe have either scaled back their activities (Bell Labs) or left the field altogether (IBM, Bellcore, Philips.) In addition, research conferences in Japan on semiconductor devices and materials feature long sessions devoted to techniques for the fabrication of extremely small structures, with such sessions seemingly rare elsewhere outside Japan.

Japan's argument is as follows: at some point the conventional semiconductor technology based on silicon is going to reach its limit. As more and more memory is packed into future generations of DRAMS, the width of circuit lines will continue to decrease--to the point that quantum effects become paramount. Electrons start to tunnel at random, leading to "leaky" devices. As researchers in the field see it, if quantum effects like tunneling present problems, then quantum devices that exploit these effects can be a solution. Hence the interest in resonant tunneling devices, Coulomb effect devices, and the entire family of "quantum effect devices."

Coulomb Effect Devices

The "Coulomb effect" and all of the related phenomena (Coulomb staircase, etc.) are due to the discreteness of charge and the fact that electrons repel each other. In nanoscale tunnel junction systems formed of two leads and one or more "islands" between them modulated by gates, a fully developed "Coulomb gap" arises which can be exploited to control a current by means of a single charge on a gate and to transfer single charges from one island to another in a controlled way. Such devices exploit the feedback effect of the Coulomb interaction energy of a charge with other charges in the system. More generally, this feedback effect characterizes what we call single charge tunneling (SCT) phenomena. Much of the fascination of single charge tunneling devices from the idea that in the future, a single bit in an information flow might possibly be represented by a single electron. At present, all of the large Japanese electronics corporations are working on so-called Single Electron Transistors (SET) and their uses. Part of the appeal in SETs is that present day lithographic technology is sufficient to create the devices, although one major roadblock has been the necessity to work at low temperatures (milli-Kelvin range), which has kept SETs in the laboratory.

On the other hand, a group at Tsukuba's Electrotechnical Laboratory [ETL-aps] has been able to produce devices that demonstrate a Coulomb staircase signature at room temperature. This was possible due to the narrow width of the lines in the circuits. The bulk of the circuit was built using standard photolithography techniques, with the last two contacts being etched with a Scanning Tunnelling Microscope. If parallel STMs can be built--an objective of many research groups around the world--this could lead to a useable manufacturing process.

Consortia--Who is doing what, and why

Ironically for all of the fury and panic engendered in the U.S. by Japan's Fifth Generation Computer project, it has been the U.S. response in the form of Sematech and its touted success which has sparked off in Japan in return a renewed determination to not be left behind. There are many players in the field--the large electrical companies as well as several of the ministries, all linking together to form a variety of consortia. At present the consortia structure in Japan is multi-layered, with the technology under investigation being qualified by its distribution along a 2-D grid structure. One of the axes of the grid would refer to at what point in the process from raw material to fabricated device the technology is used. The other axis would refer to how speculative and "futuristic" before the technology becomes available. Hence, Japan has layers of consortia, depending mainly on when the technology is expected to become available. As time goes by, it is expected that the more speculative technology will be shifted "down-stream" into the more near-term consortia.

The original consortium was the SIRIJ Semiconductor Industry Research Institute Japan, founded in 1994. This is a think-tank put together by Japanese industry in an attempt to "find a road-map for the future", given a) the U.S.'s remarkable rebound in the chip market and b) the intense activity of Korea and other "little dragons" in this area. When SEMATECH came out with their 300 mm wafer project and asked for international participation, Japan declined. They preferred to set up the following: 1) Advanced Semiconductor Technologies Inc. (AST), which has been renamed SELETE (SEmiconductor Leading Edge Tech., Inc.). Ten major Japanese semiconductor manufacturers (Fujitsu, Hitachi, Matsushita Electric, Mitsubishi Electric, NEC, Oki, Sanyo, Sharp, Sony, and Toshiba) established in early February 1996 SELETE as a joint venture company to share the R&D costs for 12-inch wafer manufacturing equipment and materials. SELETE, envisioned as a 10-year effort, will spend about 35 billion yen for R&D within the next five years, and will gather at least 100 researchers from member companies. Part of Hitachi's Production Engineering Research Laboratory in Yokohama will be used for research, with a clean room being constructed there for further R&D work. Interestingly enough, semiconductor manufacturers will not get financial support from the Ministry of International Trade and Industry for SELETE, in order to "keep some freedom (from government 'guidence')", While all members of the new company belong also to SIRIJ, SIRIJ's activities are focused more on next-next generation technology. Supposedly SIRIJ had sought to oversee more advanced research efforts in SELETE, but observers say they were turned down by Japanese government agencies, which wanted to retain control over the work. R&D efforts at SELETE are targeted towards the more immediate "next generation technology" areas, such as development of TCAD software, which seeks to forge tighter links between the manufacturing and design processes. In an attempt to create more links between universities and industry (an area which has been sadly neglected in Japan in the semiconductor area), another consortium which has just been started up is the Semiconductor Technology Academic Research Center (STARC),which has issued its first round of contracts to university researchers, as it begins its mission of linking corporate and academic researchers, much like the Semiconductor Research Corp. in the U.S.. Here, STARC is taking advantage of the revised regulations from the Ministry of Education, which now allow companies to provide research funds to universities directly (previously forbidden.) A total of 94 applications were received for the FY96 awards; the winners were: Osaka University's Prof. Taniguchi, for development of advanced oxidation and diffusion processes, as well as computer simulations; Prof. Komiyama of Tokyo University, for design optimization of ULSI CVD applications, using computer-aided chemical reaction design techniques; Prof. Iwata of Hiroshima University, for development of high-functionality mixed- signal (analog/digital) LSI technology; Toyohashi University's Prof. Imai, for a study of hardware/software design methodology for sub-quarter-micron designs; and Prof. Ishikawa of Tokyo University for development of super vision chips.[consort],[consort2]

The above consortia are all private. The Ministry of International Trade and Industry has entered the game with its ASET (Association of Super-Advanced Electronics Technologies) consortium. To confuse matters further, the usual suspects (Toshiba et al) are also members of this consortium, which is being managed under MITI's New Energy Development Organization. ASET will handle one of MITI's five-year large-scale R&D projects covering three fields: gigabit-class ULSI circuits, next-generation liquid crystal displays and alternative flat-panel display technologies; and very high density data storage technologies. According to the timeline, SELETE (Also called the Japan 300I project) is involved with the development of chips up to 1G. The NEDO projects are involved with technology maturing during the 2001-2006 time period (1-4G chips) and are more speculative. Another consortium, more specialized, is the Parallel Distributed Processing Research Consortium (PDPRC) formed in October 1995. PDPRC, brings together 21 universities and 10 major electronic companies (again the usual suspects) in a partnership that seeks to establish industry standards. By the turn of the century, the consortium will spend some 1 billion (half contributed by participating companies, half from the Ministry of Education) in research and development activities. These will focus on two main development projects: high-speed main processor units and operating systems for parallel computers, as well as dedicated languages for distributed processing.[kikaishinkou]

Government Projects in Nanostructure Research

At this point we turn to a review of the governmental projects which can be considered directly related to nanostructure research. The three agencies or ministries which have related projects are MITI, STA, and the university-based research under Mombusho. Several of MITI'S Industrial Science and Technology Frontier Program (ISTF)[ISTF] existing projects fall into the class of research on future chip technology, while STA has the ERATO projects, which will be covered afterwards.

Background of MITI's ISTF projects

In 1981 MITI inaugurated a system of budget sponsoring for the "Research and Development of Basic Technologies for Future Industries"(JISEDAI program), which aimed to develop revolutionary technologies essential to the establishment of new industries. The objective fields covered new materials, biotechnology, and new electronic devices, and as of April 1988, 14 themes were under way.

Several of the projects were still in the planning stages when MITI decided to incorporate them into the Industrial Science and Technology Frontier Program, started under MITI's newly formed New Energy and Industrial Technology Development Organization (NEDO)

The ISTF projects deal with research in either obviously important areas (Non-linear Photonics Materials, for example), or leading- edge technology. Each project lasts for 3 to 12 years, and receives anywhere from $2 million to $200 million of funding. For each of the individual projects of the program, there exists a public/governmental partner and a private partner, usually a consortium set up by private industry.

The idea has been to attempt to push a) leading edge research and b) the fusion together of researchers from academia, industry, and government laboratories. Different projects have had relative levels of success along these lines--JRCAT (see below) has been the most successful at incorporating researchers from all three sectors working together in the same laboratories, while other projects have either had researchers remain at their individual laboratories with sharing the research, or a relatively limited form of personnel exchange. During interviews with managers of the other ISTF projects, the bureaucratic difficulties involved in incorporating researchers from academia were often mentioned. At present, there is a feeling that although the system is starting to change, it will be several years before researchers from academia will be involved to the same extent as researchers from the other two sectors.

Nanostructure-related ISTF projects

Quantum Functional Devices (1991- 2000)

This project is working on the design and fabrication of highly functional quantum devices as well as integrated circuits based on such. So far, results have been a) the fabrication of TiOx quantum wires of 18nm width using a scanning tunneling microscope, and b) proposal and basic operation of several kinds of quantum functional transistors.

Bioelectronic Devices

This project has just been completed. The idea was to analyze essential principles followed in learning, memorization, and pattern recognition in biological nerve systems. Based on this, a new technology was developed which realized special functions such as placticity, operations, and multi-input/output characteristics by means of self- assemblies of organic molecules. Spinoffs expected from the research project are the development of new types of information processing schemes and in the future the development of a "bio-computer"

Femtosecond technology project (1995- 2004)

This is a project for ultrafast information processing and communication technology through better understanding of physical phenomena in the femtosecond range. Projects are as follows: a) research on an ultrafast femtosecond laser- -technology for realizing the ultimate short optical pulse in a wide wavelength range, b) research on femtosecond materials science--technology for measuring and manipulating ultrafast phenomena in materials, c) research on femtosecond electronics--basic technology for realizing ultrafast and large-scale information processing and communication, and d) research on femtosecond system technology--application technologies utilizing femtosecond technology, including ultrafast measurement, environmental measurement, and medical applications.

Ultimate Manipulation of Atoms and Molecules (1992-2001)

The purpose of R&D is to develop technology for exactly observing and identifying atoms or molecules, and arranging them in a desired layout. In combination with mechanical probe techniques and beam techniques, the new technology allows the identification, observation, measurement and manipulation of atoms and molecules on the surface of various materials, organic molecules such as DNA, and atomic assembly in free space. R&D of simulation technology will also be pursued to exactly predict atomic and molecular processes. In JYF 1994, it was found possible to manipulate structures down to the atomic level by means of magnetic fields. This suggests the possibility of creating new materials through the control of materials' structures at atomic and molecular levels.

This last project is the most "nanotechnological" project at present, although it has been insisted that the main idea is the manipulation of individual atoms with an eye towards creating materials with new properties. The original impetus for the project was a small band of researchers at Tsukuba's Electrotechnical Laboratory (ETL), who approached MITI with the concept which then found interested partners in the private sector. (Supposedly the ETL researchers' ideas were sparked by Dr. Aono's Atomcraft project carried out under ERATO.)

Original plans were for this to be one of the "large-scale" projects run under MITI, but with the development of the ISTF program, the decision was made to incorporate it as one of the ISTF projects. MITI seems to be very insistent on attempting to bring together national laboratories, academia, and the private sector. This project has the Angstrom Technology Partnership as the private sector partner, and the National Institute for Advanced Interdisciplinary Research (NAIR) as the public sector partner. Both have come together to form the Joint Research Center for Atom Technology (JRCAT) to carry out the above- mentioned research. Although universities are not officially associated with the project, several of the researchers are graduate students (mainly from Tsukuba University)or professors working half-time at national laboratories. The research groups involved are the same as those in NAIR (See JRCAT research results below for complete list)

A list of targets to achieve by the final date (2001) include (intermediate goals in parentheses):

A list of the individual members of the Angstrom Technology Partnership (private partners) shows all of the larger Japanese semiconductor companies, as well as a few of the US and Korean ones. Perhaps the most interesting partner is Molecular Simulations, Inc. (formerly Biosym), which is a US company known for its simulation software, particularly for biotechnology and pharmaceutical development.

Intermediate Results reported from JRCAT

JRCAT has now reached the half-way point in its 10-year project. The first phase of the project terminated after the intermediate evaluation at the end of fiscal 1997, with the second phase starting in fiscal 1998. The second phase is to focus its research on the following four subjects:

Below are listed the nanotechnology-related results from each of the different groups [JRCAT].

Measurement and Control of Atomic Level Structures by Mechanical Probes [Tokumoto Group]

The prime objective of this group is to identify chemical species of atoms and molecules on a solid surface, for reasons of either observation or manipulation. In order to attain this goal, efforts have been concentrated on developing a multitude of instruments and techniques, including a composite STM/AFM system for measuring surface force and elastic modulus at atomic/molecular levels as well as the interaction of tunneling electrons with light and microwave. Also developed were a composite STM/AP (atom probe) system to do chemical analysis for atoms picked up by a STM probe, a cross-sectional STM system to locate the spacial position of impurities in compound semiconductors, a composite SNOM/spectrometer system to determine local optical properties to identify molecular species, a magnetically controlled AFM system to determine precisely the interaction between a probe atom and a surface atom (measurement of local elastic modulus and force spectroscopy), and a microwave-STM system to measure non- linearity between a probe and a sample. Supposedly the composite STM/AP and magnetically controlled AFM system are the first time in the world such applications have been developed.

The composite STM/AP first of all a) observes surface atoms b) picks up selected atoms at the probe tip by using the field emission effect, and c) identify the atoms using mass spectroscopy.

The validity of this technique was checked by investigating atoms picked up off of clean silicon and deuterium-capped silicon. Immediate applications are for studies on silicide-forming processes, which is currently one of the most urgent problems in the field of Si-ULSI.

The magnetically-controlled AFM system is a remodeled version of a commercially available UHV-AFM system, with a small permanent magnet installed at he cantilever tip underside of the probe and a small electromagnet coil placed around it. The stiffness of the cantilever can be increased by controlling the coil current. This technique is expected to be applicable to understanding the mechanism of atomic image observation with UHV-AFM and to in situ characterization of properties of biopolymers such as DNA in an aqueous solution.

Observation and Formation of Atomic Scale Structures Using Beam Technology [Ichikawa Group]

This group was able to develop a mask technology in which atomic-layer SiO film (< 1 nm thickness) is selectively desorbed using a focused electron beam. They were able to create 10 nm-wide germanium wires using this technique. They were also able to develop a nanostructure formation technology using self-organization on the surface of silicon.

Measurement and Control of Surface Reactions for Nanostructure Fabrication [Ozeki Group]

(This group spent most of its time looking at growth processes on semiconductors.)

Atomic Level Analysis and Control of II-VI Semiconductor Surfaces [Yao Group]

Nanotechnology-related research results were mainly the development of In Situ characterization techniques for the Surface/Interface using reflectance difference spectroscopy (RDS), beam-locking reflection high energy electron diffraction, and in situ chemical anaolysis of surface layer elements through total relection angle X-ray spectroscopy (TRAXS).

Exploration of Transition Metal Oxides and Organic Molecular Systems [Tokura Group]

The work done by this group focused on various perovskite- type manganese oxides and conductive organic radical salts. Nanotechnologists may be interested in that the target in using organic radical salts is to create a conducting molecular ferromagnet.

Exploration of Amorphous Semiconductors, Magnetic Thin Films, Solid-Liquid Interfaces [Tanaka Group]

This group studied the dynamic process of structure formation and physical properties at the level of atoms and molecules in three different systems: (1) fabrication of semiconductor nanostructures and investigation of defect structure, (2) magnetic thin films and (3) electric double layers at the solid-liquid interface.

Formation and Control of Clusters in an Ion Trap and on Solid Surfaces[Kanayama Group]

This research group is researching the building up of nanostructure using clusters or atomic assemblies of definite structures as units for structure formation. The ultimate goal is to establish formation technology of nanostructures with atomic precision by utilizing self- organizing processes of clusters. The first phase has dealt with the development of basic technologies required for attaining this target.

The first section of research dealt with the development of techniques for trapping and growing cluster ions, next was growing hydrogenated Si clusters in the ion trap, the third section was using metal clusters on a solid surface as templates for etching masks. Finally, this group used fullerene films for electron beam nanolithography.

Organic Molecular Structure [Okada Group]

This group was able to quantitively determine the length of DNA molecules using an AFM. Also developed was a method to identify protein-binding sites on a single molecule of DNA and determining the base sequence at that site. The group also is working on developing a photonic method for detecting and identifying single biomolecules, with an eye towards ultra-fast DNA sequencing.

Quantum Simulation of Atomic and Molecular Processes [Theory Group]

(The Theory group consists of three subgroups covering 1) semiconductors and surfaces, 2) transition metal oxids, and 3) exotic materials.) Nothing obviously nanotechnological was mentioned.

Final Comments on ISTF

None of the above ISTF programs should be considered to be on the level of the Fifth- Generation Computer project. MITI at present seems to have two areas of great interest at present: micromachines, and future computer chip technology. In both cases large scale projects are being carried out like MITI's ISTF Program "R&D of Micromachine Technology" and various consortia for researching future leading edge computer technology, as mentioned above. Both of these are in areas of which there is an obvious market need and (also) obvious applications.

At the same time, looking over lists of what is being done and what is considered to become possible with micromachines--such as manipulation of DNA using micromachines--one cannot help but feel that a lot of the technological predictions that in the U.S. and Europe are associated with the development of nanotechnology are here in Japan linked with the development of micromachines. In fact, the U.S. is starting to see the uses of micromachines as "intermediate steps" and auxiliary equipment for nanotechnology development. (In this context, mention should be made of the Nanotechnology Conference held in San Diego, Dec 8-9th, 1996, where one talk linked quite explicitly the use of micromachines and nanotechnology development.)

STA nanostructure research

The Science and Technology Agency is involved in more long- term and basic science research. Most nanostructure research under STA has already occured [Sasaki Quantum Device project, Aono Atomcraft project] under the aegis of the ERATO projects, which are now being devoted more and more to biotechnology.

ERATO projects are 5 year projects, each with a total budget of 1.5-2.0 billion (US$14-18 million). Although labeled as "interdisciplinary," each project focuses on one research topic, under one well-known research scientist. ERATO is more a mechanism for top-class, young researchers to concentrate on particular research areas than an institute by itself, since research is carried out in rented labs in universities, government labs, and industry.[ERATO]

ERATO nanostructure research

Yamamoto Quantum Fluctuation Project[1993-1998]

The Yamamoto Quantum Fluctuation Project[Yamamoto], underway at Stanford University and the NTT Basic Research Laboratory, can be said to cover many different areas related to using quantum effects in next-generation devices. Areas under research are: Quantum Measurements and Quantum Computers, Squeezing of electrons in quantum wells and lower- dimensional structures, Cavity QED,Mesoscopic quantum physics, and Microscopy and atom manipulation.

Of interest for nanotechnologists is the following: the use of an STM tip as tweezers to create a low-dimensional electronic structure, [leading towards so-called Atomic Chain electronics, for which a patent is pending] and the extension of the strain induced growth of InAs quantum dots vertically by layering the quantum dots into an ordered 3-D structure, separating them by spacer layers of GAAs. Here, the vertical aligning of InAs islands is the result of an energy balance between interface free energy terms and the lattice mismatch-induced strain energy.

Also of related interest is this group's work on AFM design and measurements of the mechanical characteristics of GaAs AFM microcantilevers.

Takayanagi Particle Surface Project [1994-1999]

This project focuses on the surface of well-defined particules containing several hundreds to several thousands of atoms, and research their atomic structures and mesoscopic properties in relationship to their nanoscale sizes. The Basic Structure Group has developed a new UHV high-resolution electron microscope. So far they have done a systematic structural analysis of nested carbon fullerenes, carbon onions, and three-horned nested fullerenes with negative curvature. [The Quantum Property Group is mainly computer-calculations, while the Design and Synthesis Group has not reported much besides their development of time-of-flight mass spectrometers, and "other instruments which can generate particle surfaces of suitable size and structure."]

NRIM (National Institute for Metals)

NRIM is yet another of the STA laboratories, and seems to have quite a lot of STM-related work, although it is difficult to track down by the Web. One laboratory, the so-called Atomic Scale Phenomena Unit is working in Nano-scale line fabrication, self-assembly of molecules, and other STM-related work.

RIKEN (Institute of Physical and Chemical Research):

RIKEN (Institute of Physical and Chemical Research) is another research organization under STA. Known for its international flavor and interdisciplinary flair, three of its laboratories out of the 20 are noted for their nanotechnology slant: Laboratory for Nano- Electronics materials, Laboratory for Nano-photonic-materials, and Laboratory for Exotic Nano-materials. So far, research seems to have been geared towards construction and characterization of quantum device structures. [RIKEN]

RIKEN projects which are related to nanotechnology research are under its Frontier Materials Research Program:

Perhaps the laboratory of most interest to nanotechnologists is the following:

"The laboratory conducts fundamental research and development of the fabrication, characterization, functionalization and manipulation at a nano- scopic/molecular level of novel organic/polymeric, biological, and inorganic (metal, semiconductor,ceramic) materials . The aim is to obtain a better understanding of the physical and chemical principles underlying the preparation, performance and stability ofartificial supramolecular architectures. The structure-property- function relationof purposefully designed molecular assemblies is to be evaluated by means of nano-tools such as electron microscopy (EM), scanning tunneling microscopy (STM), scanning near-field optical microscopy (SNOM) and atomic force microscopy (AFM) as well as nano-spectroscopic techniques. "[Knoll] [This group mentions their development of a neuron-silicon junction, using Organic Molecular Beam Epitaxy [OMBE]]

We call it nanotech but Japan doesn't

This section covers research which in Japan is not considered "nanotechnology" but which falls under the U.S. definition of the term, such as self-assembling lattices, more biotechnological research, and fullerene work. Moving away from nanostructure work, we next look at Japanese research with carbon materials and fullerenes. Work in this area is being done mainly under a few ERATO projects (just completed), and university research (Ministry of Education).

ERATO projects

Nagayama Protein Array Project [ERATO project, 1990-1995]

This project was attempted to establish a universal technology for fabricating two-demensional protein arroys. They were able to create a new fabrication method allowing for the self-assembly of proteins and other colloidal particles in films. Of interest to the nanotechnologist is their ability to create 2D crystals with different symmetries (hexagonal, tetragonal, and oblique lattices of ferretin) through tailoring interprotein interactions by introducng mutations on the protein surfaces.

Itaya Electrochemiscopy Project [ERATO project, 1992-1997]

This uses new in situ techniques to investigate electrochemistry on the atomic and moleuclar scales. One of the most important achievements of this group has been the development of an electrochemical STM. The main focus has been on the electrode/electrolyte interface and the ability to take observations in situ during the etching process. Prior work concentrated on developing techniques to produce extremely well-defined, atomically flat surfaces of metals and semiconductors. Recently this group was able to do the first clear visualization of organic molecule adlayers at a solid/liquid interface.

Yokoyama CytoLogic Project[ERATO 1996-2001]

"The cell manipulates biological information carried by biomolecules such as nucleic acids and proteins in a very sophisticaed manner, and therefore can be viewed as a type of computer....This project is investigating the cell's infromation-processing system in order to learn more about how it works, how it can be modified, and how its features can be used in artificial information-processing systems...." (Projects mentioned):"Molecular Devices; by drawing on knowledge of the cell's information-processing systems, it should be possible to create new molecular devices and new logic systems. These engineered molecules will be included in "artificial cells", and can perform a parallel computing at the molecular level."

Japanese work in fullerenes

ISTF projects[MITI]

Frontier Carbon Technology (1996 onwards)

Buckyballs, buckytubes, and buckyplate. Development of basic technologies for synthesis, characterization, and application of new carbon materials. Determining which technologies need intensive development, and determining targets for specific applications.

ERATO projects: (I have already mentioned the Takayanagi Particle Surface Project, which dealt with fullerenes.)

Yoshimura Pi-Electron Materials [1991-1996]

Nanotech-related research results were: a) the synthesis of non-benzenoid graphite (buckyplate), b) carbon nanotube formation at relatively low temperatures[600 degrees C],and c)intercalation into carbon nanotubes.

There also exists a sizable number of university-based research groups. A good list [English] exists covering these groups although many of the sites mentioned seem to take one to Japanese home pages.

Maybe neither of us call it nanotechnology

Japan also has a large number of projects, government or otherwise, which deal with the creation of new materials described down to the nanometer level. Since the number of possible projects which could conceivably fall into this category is very large, I simply run through the ISTF projects, as being those which will probably spark the most attention abroad:

ISTF Projects-Other New Material Projects

Technology for Novel High-Functional Materials ( FY1996-FY 2001

Here, the purpose of the project is to investigate the generation of extremely high performance an highly functional materials through better techniques of synthesizing materials. Also as a target is to developing spin-off technology by learning how to precisely control the structure and process of an organic high-weight polymer or a molecular assembly at the molecular level.

Synergy Ceramics: (1994 onwards, first phase 5 years)

The idea is to simultaneously control structural elements at diverse scale levels in order to"Synergy Ceramics": a new family of advanced ceramics in which various widly different properties are integrated in thesame material. One example is controlling grain growth by preferential growth of seed particles, as well as orientation of seed particles by Tape Casting Lamination. Silicon Nitride formed in such a manner demonstrates the same values of thermal conductivity as brass.

Development of New Measuring Devices

One area where Japan may prove to be an extremely strong player is in the development of new instrumentation which can work at the nano-meter scale. Aside from the many different varieties of STM and AFM which Japan has developed, there is also the beginnings of a wide number of instruments created to work at the micrometer scale, the experience of which may prove useful to nanotechnology development later on.

I have already mentioned above the new instrumentation developed at JRCAT. There exist a bewildering variety of SNOMs, STMs, and AFMs developed by different groups, although most of these are still not available commercially. My previous article mentioned Wada's work at Hitachi in developing the combination of an electron microscope and a STM together to monitor exactly what is occurring under the tip of the STM needle. Another interesting example, arising from work in biotechnology, is the following:

Development of Intermolecular Force Microscopy

This was part of the Yanagida Biomotron Project [Yanagida], done as one of the ERATO projects .[1992-1997] The instrument developed is a variation on the standard AFM, using much more sensitive cantilever probes, allowing for sub-piconeuton measurement. Since flexible probes fluctuate vigorously due to Brownian motion, it was essential to develop a novel technique to keep the position of the probes constant. Light pressure from a laser diode, modulated by feedback from the probe, is used to control the position of the probe. The fluctuations can be reduced down to 0.8 nm. Researchers using this probe were able to trap single protein molecules and measure the interaction between single molecules of myosin mounted on the head of the probe and actin filaments.

Also, the system was able to be used to measure electrostatic repulsion forces of less than a piconewton, as well as similar hydrophobic interactions in water.

Tabletop factories et al.

I already mentioned in my last talk Tokyo University's Institute of Industrial Science project, the so-called "table-top factory" project, which is an attempt to create a micromachine factory. Other information, also related to Japan's micromachine development, can be found at the MMC site.

(Note: For those who are interested, the WWW site for the International Field Emission Society (IFES) is located in Japan at NRIM.

Comments on present Japanese bio- nanotechnology

Since from one point of view all chemistry is simply inefficient nanotechnology, it is slightly more difficult to draw lines and know what to include as nanotechnology when dealing with biotechnology. It should be emphasized that Japan still has not yet made the biotech/nanotechnology link. Partly this is due to the heavy advance it is felt that the US has in biotechnology, and partly because Japanese biotechnology efforts prefer to concentrate on areas they feel they have existing strengths in, such as enzymes, food processing, and microorganisms. Although some work has been done on protein lattices and functional protein analysis, the developing biotech/nanotech/information link which I reported on two years ago at the last Foresight conference seems to have fallen apart into two completely different areas: biosensors and neural computers work. Research in the former area is being done (various companies, RCAST) with an eye towards applications for pollution monitoring and food processing; the latter is research toward AI and is being carried out for the most part by RIKEN.


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. 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. On the other hand, Japan is well along the path of developing enabling technologies such as micromachines and instrumentation. Also, such a technique avoids the mistake of putting all one's eggs in one basket in an attempt to go towards any one definite goal.

Part of the difficulty is due to the confusion between "nanostructure" and "nanotechnology", and part is due to how Japan tends to handle research. Although there exists a feeling of unease in Japan about its lack of basic research, for the most part the research system is set up to handle applied research. Culturally, as well, Japan has traditionally been a country which has imported the seeds of new technologies from other countries and then refined and improved them to the point where they are commercially viable. On the whole, Japan feels uncomfortable in the position of being the front-runner when it comes to areas of basic research and will hesitate to fund such, unless it is pulled along by a mavarick researcher who strongly feels in the project. As it now stands, "nanotechnology" in Japan means "nanostructure", which is expected to lead the way towards the next generation of computer chips. In other areas, Japan is still waiting, and keeping an eye on the U.S. If a few more breakthroughs occur in nanotechnology, or if we start to see an obvious strategy towards the development of an assembler, there is no doubt to my mind that we will see a great deal of attention paid by MITI and other Japanese organizations.


App Phys Let Vol 68, 1 Jan 96, pp 34-36 "Room temperature operation of a single electron transistor made by the scanning tunneling microscope nano-oxidation process for the TiO=x/Ti system" by K.Matsumoto, M. Ishii, et al.
article by Peter N. Dunn - size 8K - 5 Jun 96
(article on consortiums, 29/7/96
"Future projects in Japanese semiconductor research"(in Japanese)
Information in this section was based on pamphlet by Japan Industrial Technology Association "Industrial Science and Technology Frontier Program"; also interviews and brochures from the individual projects
"JRCAT research results 1991-1996", JRCAT
Information in this section was based on the individual ERATO project reports.(1996-1997) Also, once a year symposia are held to release results to the public. (Abstracts of presentations in Japanese)
Yamamoto WWW site
[Knoll] (Go to RIKEN Home page, follow pointers to Frontier Research Program)
ERATO pamphlet, Symposium 1996 proceedings "Abstracts of Presentations"