Foresight Institute offers a $250,000 prize for the first
persons to design and build two nanotechnology devices - a
nano-scale robotic arm and a computing device that demonstrates
the feasibility of building a nanotechnology computer.
Nanotechnology is an emerging technology based upon the ability
to assemble individual molecules and atoms into precise
structures. Its realization will pave the way for building such
devices as supercomputers the size of a sugar cube, and
nanorobots that could repair damage inside human cells. The large
cash prize is expected to focus the efforts of many researchers
working in nanotechnology-related fields.
$250,000 Feynman Grand Prize
Foresight Institute Offers $250,000
Feynman Grand Prize
For Major Advances In Molecular Nanotechnology
Palo Alto, CA - Foresight Institute, a
not-for-profit organization dealing with nanotechnology-related
issues, is offering a $250,000 cash prize to the first individual
or group to achieve specific major advances in molecular
To win the Feynman Grand Prize, entrants must
design and construct a functional nanometer-scale robotic arm
with specified performance characteristics, and also must design
and construct a functional nanometer-scale computing device
capable of adding two 8-bit binary numbers.
Nanotechnology is an emerging technology based on the ability to
assemble individual molecules and atoms into precise structures.
Its realization will allow the construction of supercomputers the
size of a sugar cube, pollution-free manufacturing, and
molecular-scale robots that could repair damage in individual
human cells. More than one billion such nanorobots would fit
inside a single drop of blood.
"Foresight Institute expects this large prize to attract the
interest of talented people working in the many sciences and
technologies bearing upon molecular nanotechnology," said K.
Eric Drexler, Ph.D., Founder of Foresight Institute and author
of several books defining the technology.
Prizes have long played a key role in technological advancement.
For example, Charles Lindbergh flew the Atlantic Ocean to claim a
$25,000 cash prize. More recently, the £50,000 ($95,000) Kremer
prize led to the realization of man's age-old dream of
man-powered flight. "The Feynman Prize will recognize one of
the most significant technological breakthroughs in human
history," Drexler said."However, the rewards awaiting
those who achieve significant nanotechnology breakthroughs will
be far greater than the prize itself."
Funds for the $250,000 Feynman Grand Prize have been donated to
Foresight Institute by individuals interested in advancing the
progress of nanotechnology, and are being conservatively
invested. Fund raising is continuing in an effort to increase the
prize to $1 million, Drexler said.
Foresight Institute will continue to offer its annual Feynman Prize
for the most significant recent advance in nanotechnology.
Specifications for the Feynman Grand Prize require the winning
design, construct, and demonstrate the performance of a
robotic arm that initially fits into a cube no larger
than 100 nanometers in any dimension, meeting certain
performance specifications including means of input. The
intent of this prize requirement is a device
demonstrating the controlled motions needed to manipulate
and assemble individual atoms or molecules into larger
structures, with atomic precision; and
design, construct, and demonstrate the performance of a
computing device that fits into a cube no larger than 50
nanometers in any dimension. It must be capable of
correctly adding any pair of 8-bit binary numbers,
discarding overflow. The device must meet specified input
and output requirements.
The Feynman Grand Prize is named in honor of Nobel Prize
winning physicist Dr. Richard
P. Feynman, who in 1959 pointed in the direction of molecular
nanotechnology in a talk at California Institute of Technology,
Plenty of Room at the Bottom." Carl Feynman, son of the
late Nobel laureate, has participated in the definition of
requirements for the Feynman Grand Prize and comments, "I'm
delighted that Foresight Institute chose to name this prize after
my father. It will be an important prize for an important
Foresight Institute is a not-for-profit organization
headquartered in Palo Alto, California. Its mission and
fundamental goal is betterment of the human condition, especially
as it is related to molecular nanotechnology. It seeks to pursue
its mission by:
promoting understanding of nanotechnology and its
informing the public and decision makers;
developing an organizational base for addressing
nanotechnology-related issues and communicating openly
about them; and
actively pursuing beneficial outcomes.
Funds for the Feynman Grand Prize have been donated by two
entrepreneurs associated with Foresight Institute who support its
goals. They are James R. Von Ehr II, formerly founder of Altsys
Corporation, and currently vice president at Macromedia, a
leading computer software company; and Marc Arnold, chief
executive officer of Angel Technologies, a St. Louis-based
wireless telecommunication company.
Foresight Institute is open to membership by any interested
individual or organization. It sponsors major conferences on
molecular nanotechnology and provides technical and policy
development information through its World Wide Web site located
Official detailed specifications of the Feynman Grand Prize
requirements will be posted there. The site also provides links
to many other nanotechnology-related sites on the Internet.
Foresight Institute also publishes a quarterly Foresight
Updatenewsletter for members. For more information
about membership and its benefits, interested persons may contact
Foresight Institute at (650) 917-1122 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
for Winning the Feynman Grand Prize
1) Design and Construct a Functional Nano-scale Robotic Arm
The prize winner must design, construct and demonstrate the
performance of a robotic arm or other positional device that
initially fits into a cube no larger than 100 nanometers in any
dimension. The device must:
carry out actions directed by input signals of specified
types (see below).
be able to move to a directed sequence of positions
anywhere within a cube 50 nanometers in each dimension.
perform all directed actions with a positioning accuracy
of 0.1 nanometer or better.
perform at least 1,000 accurate, nanometer-scale
positioning motions per second for at least 60
The intent of this robotic arm specification is a device
demonstrating the controlled motions needed to manipulate and
assemble individual atoms or molecules into larger structures,
with atomic precision.
2) Design and Construct a Functional Nano-scale Computing
The prize winner must also design, construct and
demonstrate the performance of a digital computing device that
fits into a cube no larger than 50 nanometers in any dimension.
The computing device must be capable of:
adding accurately any pair of 8-bit binary numbers,
accepting input signals of specified types (see below).
producing its output as a pattern of raised
nanometer-scale bumps on an atomically precise and level
The intent of this computing device specification is a
nanometer-scale device that is capable of performing the
functions of a conventional 8-bit adder.
Devices may accept inputs from acoustic, electrical,
optical, diffusive chemical, or mechanical means. However,
any mechanical driving mechanism used for input shall be
limited to a single linkage that either slides or rotates on
a single axis. The Panel of Judges may specify additional
acceptable input methods. It will not remove any methods
previously designated as acceptable.
To demonstrate that the device can be mass produced,
contestants must provide at least 32 copies of each item for
analysis and destructive testing by judges. Entrants must
provide design specifications and theory of operation to
allow judges to evaluate the submitted devices.
The proposed devices will be tested for performance using
Scanning Probe Microscopes (available now) and other
appropriate devices available at the time the entrant's work
is being evaluated.
Decisions whether entrants have met the Prize
specifications will be made solely according to the judgement
of a Panel of Judges appointed by Foresight Institute; their
decision is final. Both specifications (robot arm and 8-bit
adder) must be met by the entrant before the Prize is
Application for Prize:
Parties interested in applying for the Feynman Grand Prize
should contact Foresight Institute to announce their
intentions and to obtain specific procedures for application.
Intellectual Property Rights:
All entrants will retain all intellectual property rights
to their work.
Prizes in Science and Technology
An Important Stimulus for Breakthrough Thinking
Although scientific grants today are the most common source of
funding for scientific and technological research, prizes awarded
for specific accomplishments have played an important role in the
advancement of science and technology. In the 18th and 19th
centuries, prizes were the most common form of funding for
scientific advancement. That was particularly true in France, the
leading scientific nation of that era. Goal-specific prizes
remain important today as a means to stimulate breakthrough
thinking. The Feynman Grand Prize offered by Foresight Institute
thus continues an important tradition in the funding of
scientific and technological advance.
The Longitude Prize
One of the most famous prizes in science history led to the
development of accurate nautical navigation. Skilled mariners
have known for more than two millennia how to establish their
latitude. However, accurate positioning at sea also requires
knowing the ship's longitude. The means to do so had eluded the
world's best thinkers for centuries. As the leading maritime
power in the 18th Century, England had a vast strategic interest
in finding a useful means for its ships to establish their
precise location at sea. Thus, the English Parliament passed the
Longitude Act of 1714. It specified a prize of £20,000
(equivalent to about $2.5 million in today's funds) for the
person who devised a reliable means for a ship captain to
establish his longitude within half a degree of great circle (30
nautical miles at the equator). Two smaller prizes were also
designated for lesser accuracy.
Although scientists of the era sought celestial solutions to the
problem, the question ultimately was answered not by an
astronomer but rather by a clock maker, John Harrison. He
designed and built the world's first chronometer - a special
clock capable of keeping accurate time under the adverse
circumstances of life at sea. By comparing the difference between
the time of a known location and the ship's local time
(established by the sun's position), navigators could tell
longitude accurately. An early test voyage proved Harrison's
chronometer's ability to establish longitude within a few miles
through the duration of a trans-Atlantic voyage.
The Orteig Prize
In 1919 Raymond Orteig, a wealthy French hotel owner, offered
$25,000 for the first nonstop flight between New York City and
Paris. In 1927, Charles A. Lindbergh won the prize in a modified
single-engine Ryan aircraft, the Spirit of St. Louis. Others
had been pursuing the prize diligently, using different
approaches. Two weeks after Lindbergh's feat, Clarence
Chamberlain and Charles Levine flew nonstop from New York to
Germany in a Bellanca monoplane. A month later U.S. Navy Lt.
Cmdr. Richard E. Byrd and a crew of three also crossed the
Atlantic, in a Fokker trimotor. Their efforts changed the way
people thought about flight, and about the world itself.
The Orteig Prize was one of many offered to stimulate the
development of the fledgling aeronautical industry. Between the
first flight by the Wright Brothers and 1929, over 50 major
aeronautical prizes were offered by governments, individuals,
newspapers and corporations. In 1926 and 1927, Daniel Guggenheim
offered more than $2.5 million in prizes and trophies.
The Kremer Prizes
The Kremer Prize for Human Powered Flight was offered in 1959
at £5,000 by British industrialist Henry Kremer. It grew to
£50,000 (worth $95,000 at that time) before it was claimed by
Dr. Paul MacCready and his team in 1977 for flying a figure eight
along a half-mile course with his Mylar-skinned Gossamer
Condor. Kremer immediately offered a second prize of
£100,000 for the first human powered aircraft to cross the
English Channel. Only two years later, MacCready's Gossamer
Albatross won that prize as well. The lightweight
construction techniques MacCready developed for these
human-powered aircraft contributed to MacCready's more recent
design for the General Motors Impact, the first modern car
designed "from the wheels up" as an electric vehicle.
Prizes Offered by Richard Feynman
A defining moment in the history of molecular-scale technology
was a 1959
speech at the California Institute of Technology by Nobel
Laureate physicist Dr. Richard
P. Feynman. "There's Plenty of Room at the Bottom,"
he declared in his discussion of the possibilities of
molecular-scale engineering. To spur work in that direction, he
offered $1,000 prizes from his personal funds to the first person
to construct a working electric motor 1/64 inch or less on a
side, and to the first person to produce written text at 1/25,000
scale (the size required to print the entire Encyclopedia
Britannicaon the head of a pin).
The motor prize was claimed in 1960 by an engineer who found a
way to construct a very small motor using conventional mechanical
techniques. Dr. Feynman had unfortunately set the size limits
slightly too large to require breakthrough technology. He paid
anyway. The printing challenge took longer; but in 1985 a
Stanford University graduate student named Thomas Newman
reproduced the first page of Charles Dickens' novel, A Tale
of Two Cities, on a page measuring only 1/160
millimeter on a side (20 times smaller than the human eye can
see), using electron beam lithography. Dr. Feynman paid that
prize enthusiastically, since it had produced technological
Super Efficient Refrigerator Prize
In 1992, a consortium of U.S. electric utilities, seeking to
enhance environmental quality and energy efficiency, announced a
prize of $30 million to be awarded to the most energy-efficient
refrigerator design that did not using environmentally harmful
CFC refrigerant. Fourteen manufacturers submitted entries. The
winning company, Whirlpool Corp., devised a refrigerator that
used 25% less energy than the most energy-efficient available
model before the contest, and 40% less than the Federal energy
efficiency standard for new refrigerators.