Foresight Update 16

page 5

A publication of the Foresight Institute

Foresight Update 16 - Table of Contents | Page1 | Page2 | Page3 | Page4 | Page5


Calling All Academics

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 and research?"

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 us:

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.

Foresight Update 16 - Table of Contents


White 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 affected. Miniaturization 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.

Foresight Update 16 - Table of Contents



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 welcome.)

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 Foresight.)

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 about them.

Foresight Update 16 - Table of Contents


Nanosytems 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 Publishers.

"With this book, Drexler has established the field of molecular nanotechnology.

-- William Goddard, Professor of Chemistry and Applied Physics at Caltech

"This is the book for starting the next century of engineering."

-- 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 Teknowledge

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 development.

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.

Foresight Update 16 - Table of Contents


Nobel 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 with nanotechnology:

"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 part.

"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."

Foresight Update 16 - Table of Contents


Upcoming Events

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

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, email

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

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 412-776-3770.

Foresight Update 16 - Table of Contents | Page1 | Page2 | Page3 | Page4 | Page5

From Foresight Update16, originally published 1 July 1993.