Foresight Update 22

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A publication of the Foresight Institute

Foresight Update 22 - Table of Contents | Page1 | Page2 | Page3 | Page4 | Page5


RAND Presents Nanotechnology Assessment

Recommends Evaluation of Prospects

RAND Corporation, the Santa Monica-based think tank, has released a major new research paper entitled The Potential of Nanotechnology for Molecular Manufacturing , by Max Nelson and Calvin Shipbaugh.

RAND says the research was undertaken to explore the potential for advanced manufacturing based on molecular nanotechnology. The authors contend that much basic and applied research needs to be undertaken to realistically assess the far-term viability of many of the most interesting emerging concepts. Taking a U.S.-oriented perspective-a natural one for a U.S. defense-derived organization-they also say that a careful and objective feasibility assessment could help stimulate near-term achievements and prevent technological surprise by foreign players.

In the report's preface, the authors state that "proponents of the application of nanotechnology to molecular manufacturing suggest that environ-mentally clean, inexpensive, and efficient manufacturing of structures, devices, and 'smart' products based on the flexible control of architectures and processes at an atomic or molecular scale of precision may be feasible in the near future (i.e., 10-20 years from the present). The ambitious goal is to produce complex products on demand using simple raw materials; e.g., inserting the basic chemical elements in a molecular assembly factory to yield a common household appliance, perhaps with sensors and actuators built-in to respond to commands or environmental conditions. The question of whether it is possible to achieve a stage in the foreseeable future when such extreme capability might be viable, and if so how to develop the field, is a point of contention in both scientific and policy circles."

The authors review scientific progress in nano-related fields, including "recent developments in scanning force microscopes (SFM), using probes that can position atoms or molecules to nanometer scales, and interest in investigating the means by which complicated molecules with desired properties can be modeled, synthesized, and perhaps even self-assembled. These recent developments have motivated advocates of a 'bottom-up' approach for manufacturing molecule-by-molecule."

They contend, however, that "exclusive use of this approach however, misses the longer-lived history and some of the benefits being achieved through the more familiar 'top-down' approaches. The top-down approach is one in which macroscale components are utilized to create nanoscale structures. This differs from the bottom-up approach, which uses nanoscale components to create structures. In particular, top-down structures and methods might help with the interfacing of bottom-up structures into a system." From the perspective of Foresight and IMM, this statement is not controversial. It is extremely unlikely that nanotechnology will be developed without also using top-down technologies, since the latter comprise most technologies now in use, including computer chip fabrication.

The RAND report addresses timing issues. "Extensive molecular manufacturing applications, if they become cost-effective, will probably not occur until well into the far term," it says. "However, some products benefiting from research into molecular manufacturing may be developed in the near term. As initial nanomachining, novel chemistry, and protein engineering (or other biotechnologies) are refined, initial products will likely focus on those that substitute for existing high-cost, lower-efficiency products. Likely candidates for these technologies include a wide variety of sensor applications; tailored biomedical products including diagnostics and therapeutics; extremely capable computing and storage products; and unique, tailored materials (i.e., smart materials using nanoscale sensors, actuators, and perhaps controller elements) for aerospace or similar high-cost/high-capability needs."

RAND also reviews the prospects of national competitors to the US in molecular manufacturing. While "the United States is a leader in this fielda number of countries are engaged in some level of effort relevant to the foundations of molecular nanotechnology. Although the United States has many groups performing work related to nanotechnology and molecular manufacturing, there are several strong competitors and potential collaborators. Japan has large efforts that are funded individually at a significantly higher rate than their US counterparts and are coordinated by a dedicated national effort. Other nations with strong research centers include China, Denmark, France, Germany, Russia, Sweden, and the United Kingdom," the authors state.

"The potential is enormous and could lead to extreme miniaturization in space systems, capabilities in human performance enhancement and medical treatment, as well as ability to manufacture a wide variety of sophisticated products on demand," the report says. However, it cautions, "achieving the manufacture and control of sophisticated molecular nanodevices from current conceptual designs may be more difficult than anticipated. A fully credible assessment of how far molecular manufacturing will progress in the next two decades is not possible until incremental steps have been undertaken, although tentative indications appear positive."

RAND addresses the key policy question of how the US should proceed in its nanotechnology-related research, formulating four options:

"To prevent the possibility of technological surprise, yet not prematurely enact policies that commit funds and valuable resources, a prudent course of action would be to create a working group of biotechnology experts, chemists, computer scientists, electrical engineers, materials scientists, mechanical engineers, and physicists. This group's assessment of a laissez-faire posture versus coordination and cooperation should then be implemented as a basis for a rational policy about support for molecular nanotechnology," the authors suggest. They propose that a positive assessment of nanotechnology's potential should lead to increased and more coordinated funding of research, and a negative assessment should lead to a decision to continue current funding levels.

The report's table of contents indicates its scope:
Chapter One: Introduction
Chapter Two: Trends and Goals
Historical Developments
Potential Benefits
Near Term
Far Term
Chapter Three: Developing Incremental Checkpoints
Elements of Nanofabrication
Key Steps
Development Risks
Chapter Four: National and International Research Efforts
Leading Nations
The United States and Japan: A Comparison of Support
Chapter Five: Conclusions and Recommendation
Competitive Status
Fundamental Research Support
Incremental Actions Needed
Delay or Forego New Policy Action
Establish Coordinator(s)
Establish New Program(s)
Cooperative Efforts
Appendix: Research Centers in Nanotechnology and Related Areas by Nation

One oversight: despite a history of the field and a bibliography, the report does not cite the journal article generally regarded as the first scientific paper published in the field of molecular nanotechnology, "Molecular engineering: An approach to the development of general capabilities for molecular manipulation," Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA (1981). The paper has been widely cited, especially within the protein engineering (i.e. self-assembly) literature. But this is a relatively minor omission in what is overall a creditable first effort by a policy think tank. We look forward to further work by the authors in charting the progress of this field.

The report is available from RAND for $7.50 plus handling charges and applicable California sales tax. Normal delivery is 3-4 weeks, but rapid delivery can be arranged at extra cost. It can be ordered via the World Wide Web through RAND's Home Page ( You may also order by telephone, (310) 451-7002; fax, (310) 451-6915; e-mail; or mail at: Distribution Services, RAND, P.O. Box 2138, Santa Monica, CA 90407-2138.

Foresight Update 22 - Table of Contents


Nanotechnology Conference Doubles in Size

Fourth Foresight Conference on Molecular Nanotechnology

[Editor's Note:
The above link is to the conference archive web site. For additional information about the conference, see Update #23.]

November 9-11, 1995
Palo Alto, California


Foresight Institute


Caltech Materials and Process Simulation Center
Institute for Molecular Manufacturing
USC Laboratory for Molecular Robotics

Corporate Sponsors

Key Sponsor: Apple Computer, Inc.
Major Sponsors: Beckman Instruments, Inc., Molecular Manufacturing Enterprises, Inc
Supporting Sponsors: JEOL, Loral Electronic,
Weil, Gotshal & Manges

With conference registrations running over double the number last time, conference chairman Dr. Ralph Merkle urges Foresight members to register and reserve their hotel rooms promptly. For the latest on the conference, including abstracts and preprints, see on the World Wide Web: /nano. Abstracts and preprints will continue to be uploaded as they are received.

The fourth event in this series-the first nanotechnology conference series, started in 1989-this conference is a meeting of scientists and technologists working in fields leading toward molecular nanotechnology: thorough three-dimensional structural control of materials and devices at the molecular level. The conference will cover topics relevant to the pursuit of molecular control, drawing from fields such as:

Developments in these fields are converging, opening opportunities for fruitful collaboration in developing new instruments, devices, and capabilities.

In addition to the oral presentations, there will be a poster session.

Feynman Prize

The 1995 Feynman Prize in Nanotechnology (and accompanying $10,000 award) will be presented at the meeting.


Leading vendors will demonstrate products useful in the pursuit of molecular control, including molecular modeling software and hardware, and proximal probe systems (e.g. STM).

Journal and Book Publication of Proceedings

The proceedings of the conference will be refereed and published in a special issue of the international journal Nanotechnology (and later in book form). Preprints and abstracts will continue to be available on the Web.

Site and Accommodations

Conference sessions will be held at the Hyatt Hotel in Palo Alto. Accommo-dation arrangements should be made directly with the hotel. Reservations should be made by October 23; when making reservations, mention that you are attending the "Foresight Nanotech-nology Conference" to obtain the lower conference room rate. Deposits in the amount of the first night's stay plus tax are required to guarantee reservations; these are refundable up to 6 PM on the date of arrival. Room rate: $93, single or double occupancy, plus 10% local tax.

Hyatt Hotel
4219 El Camino Real
Palo Alto, CA 94306
(415) 493-8000 tel
(415) 858-1151 fax

Registration Fees
Regular $400
Academic, nonprofit, government $325
Student $125
One day (specify day) $160

Registration forms are available from: Foresight Institute,
Box 61058, Palo Alto, CA 94306, USA; tel. 415-324-2490; fax 415-324-2497;
email Forms are also available via the World Wide Web at

Foresight Update 22 - Table of Contents


Preliminary Conference Schedule


Wednesday Evening, November 8

8:00 - 10:00 Welcome Reception

Thursday, November 9

9:00 - 9:30 Introduction, Ralph Merkle, Conference Chairman
9:30 - 10:15 Richard Smalley, Rice University, Nanotechnology at Rice
10:15 - 10:45 Break
10:45 - 11:30 William A. Goddard III, Caltech, Computational Chemistry and Nanotechnology
11:30 - 12:15 J. Fraser Stoddart, University of Birmingham, UK, The Art and Science of Self- assembling Molecular Machines
12:15 - 1:45 Feynman Prize Luncheon
1:45 - 2:30 Eric Drexler, Institute for Molecular Manufacturing, Directions in Nanotechnology
2:30 - 3:15 Aristides Requicha, USC, Molecular Robotics
3:15 - 3:30 Break
3:30 - 4:15 Admiral David Jeremiah, USN (Ret.), Technology Strategies and Alliances, Nanotechnology and Global Security
4:15 - 9:00 Demos, exhibits, posters, sign up for Park Scientific Instruments field trips on Saturday, Nov. 11
Dinner on your own

Friday, November 10

9:00 - 9:45 Tracy Handel, UC Berkeley, Protein Design
9:45 - 10:30 Richard Colton, NRL, Tip Surface Interactions
10:30 - 11:00 Break
11:00 - 11:45 Charles Musgrave, MIT, Chemical Synthesis of Nanomachinery
11:45 - 12:30 Donald Brenner, North Carolina State University, Simulated Engineering of Nanostructures
12:30 - 2:00 Luncheon: Elizabeth Enayati, Weil Gotshal & Manges; Intellectual Property Update
2:00 - 2:30 Ralph Merkle, Xerox PARC, Design Considerations for an Assembler
2:30 - 3:15 George Whitesides, Harvard, Self Assembly and Nanotechnology
3:15 - 3:45 Break
3:45 - 4:15 Gernot Pomrenke, ARPA, Nanoelectronics at ARPA
4:15 - 4:35 Neil Jacobstein, Teknowledge and IMM, Entrepreneuring in Molecular Manufacturing: Lessons from the Computer Industry
4:35 - 5:20 Panel: Paths to Molecular Manufacturing
Dinner on your own


1:30 pm, 4:30 pm, Field Trips to Park Scientific Instruments for STM demonstration

Saturday Morning, November 11

9:00 - 9:30 Bruce Paul Gaber, NRL; Towards the Molecular Machine Shop - Spatially Controlled Enzymatic Modification of Solid Surfaces
9:30 - 10:00 Paul E. Sheehan, Harvard; Nanomachining, Manipulation and Fabrication by Force Microscopy
10:00 - 10:30 Geoff Leach, Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology; Advances in Molecular CAD 10:30 - 11:00 Break
11:00 - 11:30 Rod Ruoff, Molecular Physics Lab, SRI; Experimental Study of the Mechanical Properties of Nanotubes and Nanorods
11:30 - 12:00 Subhash Saini, NASA Ames; High Performance Parallel Computation Nanotechnology
12:00 - 1:30 Lunch on your own

Saturday Afternoon, November 11

1:30 - 2:00 Tom McKendree, USC, Implications of Molecular Nanotechnology Technical Performance Parameters on Previously Defined Space System Architectures
2:00 - 2:30 Stephen L. Gillett, University of Nevada, Near-Term Nanotechology: Nanotechnology, Pollution Control and Resources
2:30 - 3:00 David C. Turner NRL; Patterned Microtubule Assemblies for Kinesin-Based Transport
3:00 - 3:30 Break
3:30 - 4:00 Paul S. Weiss, Penn State University, Nanometer-Scale Features and Properties in Self-Assembled Systems
4:00 - 4:30 Tanya C. Sienko, National Institute of Science and Technology Policy, Japan; The Track of Japanese Nanotechnology Efforts: Present, Players, and Possibilities
4:30 - 5:30 Optional conference planning meeting for the 1997 Foresight Conference
5:30 End

Foresight Update 22 - Table of Contents


1995 Feynman Prize Judges

Judges for this year's Feynman Prize in Nanotechnology are:

For further information on the Prize, contact Foresight or see on the Web:

Foresight Update 22 - Table of Contents


A Conference Research Preview: AFM

Atomic Force Microscope Measurement of
Binding Force between Complementary Strands of DNA

Richard Colton of the Naval Research Laboratory will speak on "Tip Surface Interactions" at the Fourth Foresight Conference on Molecular Nanotechnology.

Poly-inosine (I) linked to surfaces by base pair interactions with Cytosine (C)

Force required to uncoil a single poly-inosine strand and break base pair interactions

Foresight Update 22 - Table of Contents


Senior Associates Get Active

For the best discussions of nanotechnology, attend the Senior Associate Gathering

This year's Senior Associate Gathering has been expanded to a full weekend, November 11-12 with a welcoming reception on the evening of Nov. 10, to enable the group to take on new projects and get some real work done at the meeting. Areas to be tackled include nanotechnology technical development paths, uploading all Foresight nanotechnology information onto the World Wide Web (with new links), Web enhancement back links and filtering, computer security issues (important for safe development of nanotechnology), building a nanotechnology database, and analysis of nanotechnology-oriented fiction.

These Gatherings are the largest assembly of those familiar with nanotechnology and its expected impacts, and are an ideal way to get to know Foresight, IMM, and CCIT principals in a relaxed setting. Attendees of past events have reported that their most enjoyable feature is the ability to get to know others who are intensely interested in nanotechnology. By attending annually, the Senior Associate interactions develop into business relationships and long-term friendships. Some informal matchmaking between entrepreneurs and investors also goes on at these meetings.

Senior Associates make a five-year pledge to Foresight, IMM, or CCIT of between $250 and $5000 annually. Those wishing to join the group in time for the Gathering are asked to contact Foresight as soon as possible, and to make hotel reservations immediately at the Hyatt in Palo Alto or other nearby hotel.

Contact Foresight Institute, tel 415-917-1122, fax 415-917-1123, email

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From Foresight Update 22, originally published 15 October 1995.