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A publication of the Foresight Institute
The WTEC workshop on the global assessment of R&D status and trends in nanoparticles, nanostructured materials, and nanodevices was held in the Rosslyn Westpark Hotel in Arlington, Virginia, February 10, 1998. WTEC is the World Technology Evaluation Center at Loyola College. The study had 12 sponsors, mostly agencies of the federal government, including the National Science Foundation, the Office of Naval Research, the Air Force Office of Scientific Research, NIST, the Department of Commerce, and NASA. The panel included scientists from RPI, the UCSB, Exxon, Motorola, Cornell, N.C. State University, Kodak, and SUNY Buffalo. Their charter was to assess the status and trends in research and development in nanotechnology, to identify promising areas for future research and commercial development, and to encourage and identify opportunities for international collaboration.
The meeting was a review of a global survey and evaluation which had been convened by WTEC in order to study the state of the art in nanoscience and nanotechnology around the world. The study primarily covered nano structured materials, nano particles, and other materials science; however, there was a reasonable amount of emphasis in molecular manufacturing, as evidenced by references to functional nanodevices and to self assembly. It was enlightening to note that the presenters used the term "nanotechnology" in a very matter-of-fact manner throughout their presentations.
The background of the study was presented by M. C. Roco of NSF. He gave a definition of nanotechnology as used in the study: "the exploitation of a novel properties and phenomenon at the scale of one tenth to one hundred nanometers between individual atoms or molecules and bulk behavior." He said that the panel was looking for revolutionary discoveries and technological advancements. Expected near term nanotechnology applications included the use of giant magneto-resistance in nanocrystalline materials (with applications to disk drives), nanolayers with selective optical barriers (with applications in photographic film, filters, cosmetics, etc.), hard coatings and other materials applications, chemical and bio detectors, and drug delivery systems using nano particles.
The study was divided into several parts. A major emphasis was on nanostructured materials. Nanoparticles are used in both materials and in what are called dispersions and coatings, which are things like emulsions used to make a film and paint. Another area of concern was the synthesis and assembly of molecules, clusters, and nanoparticles which could be used as building blocks. A major use of bulk nanoparticles is as high surface area materials. This includes catalysts, porous membranes, and other molecular scale filters and sieves such as zeolites, materials used in combustion processes such as rocket fuels, and other applications such as energy storage and sensors. The area of most interest to molecular manufacturing was that of functional nanoscale devices. Unfortunately that part of the study did not cover much of the research that we would like to see in the area of atomically precise structures. It concentrated on single electron transistors, and giant magneto-resistance devices for use in data storage.
Besides the materials talks, there were two areas covered that might be considered relevant to those of us interested in molecular nanotechnology. These were Synthesis and Assembly of Nanostructured Materials, covered by Evelyn Hu of UCSB and David Shaw of Suny Buffalo, and Biologically Related Aspects as covered by Lynn Jelinski of Cornell.
The synthesis talk ranged over various methods, from nucleation of monodispersed nanoparticles, through high-resolution lithography and etching (with some very nice pictures of some 30-nm pillars done with a e-beam/ion etching technique), to self-assembly using DNA, mentioning the work of Seeman and of Mirkin. They covered a number of groups working on nanowires, with techniques ranging from track-etching of membranes to nano-channel array glasses to carbon nanotubes. There was some discussion of the semiconducting and quantum electronic properties of such structures. Finally there was a mention of STM assembly of molecular building blocks and the work of Jung et al.
Jelinski's talk covered what is becoming known as "nanobiotechnology". This includes protein engineering, novel and de novo proteins, the self assembly of nucleic acids (with another pointer to Ned Seeman's work). She referred to antibodies with their highly specific binding and recognition, proteins folding into precisely defined three-dimensional structures, and molecular motors such as are found in bacteria. Several different approaches were discussed. Protein polymers, both natural and with artificially enhanced proteins, directed evolution using artificial reproduction of DNA to produce enzymes with enhanced catalytic activity, and the assembly of artificial shapes using the self assembly properties of DNA were discussed. She also addressed self assembly for monolayers from chemically engineered molecules on surfaces. The assembly of nano-sized objects using elastomeric stamps, as is done by Whitesides, was mentioned.
Herb Goronkin of Motorola discussed functional nanodevices. This was to me the most disappointing talk, not because there wasn't exciting work going on, which there is, but because Goronkin's talk centered almost exclusively on single-electron devices. Some of this work is quite interesting, including the synthesis of quantum-well devices using gold-colloid nanoparticles with chemical coatings for self-assembly. However, there was no mention of molecular electronics, and no survey had been made of the state of progress in harnessing the properties of nanowires and fullerenes, even when directly questioned on this point.
The other talks generally covered technologies and properties associated with nanostructured consolidated bulk materials.
The day ended with a rapid-fire series of 5-minute presentations by representatives of various funding agencies. The bottom line is that US agencies are spending over $100 million a year on research that is labelled "nanotechnology", and Europe and Japan are spending in the same range (each), $100 to $120 million. Nanotechnology research funding by the rest of the world brings the global total up to over $400 million. Much of this, of course, is actually nanoparticle-based bulk processes, sinters, colloids, paints, films, and the like; Siegal in his conclusions talk did address the question of whether the field was merely the collection of people who liked the prefix "nano". However, there does seem to be a commonality of scientific and analytical concerns, and engineering and manufacturing techniques seem to be pressing the boundaries of the envelope with equal force in all directions. I came away feeling quite optimistic about the future of nanotechnology in general, and of atomically-precise molecular engineering in particular.
Much more information about the study can be found at the WTEC web page, http://itri.loyola.edu/nano/welcome.htm. A complete paper version of the report can also be ordered from that site when it is completed.
The 1998 Senior Associates Gathering of Foresight Institute, the Institute for Molecular Manufacturing (IMM) , and the Center for Constitutional Issues in Technology (CCIT) in Palo Alto on May 29-31, is shaping up as a tantalizing blend of reports from the leading edge of nanotechnology research and explorations of possible futures in a nanotechnology-realized world.
Confirmed speakers on the technology development and applications side of the program include Eric Drexler of Foresight/IMM, Josh Hall, formerly of Rutgers and now a full-time IMM Research Fellow, Ralph Merkle of Xerox PARC, and Jim Von Ehr of nanotechnology startup company Zyvex.
Bob Santer of Ford Motor Co. will speak on the future of transportation, which like everything elsewill look very different with nanotechnology. Pat Parker of the Naval Postgraduate School has led efforts to get the U.S. military to look at nanotechnology, will discuss what's happening at The Front, within the limits of security restrictions. And Foresight Executive Director Chris Peterson will discuss the ability of nanotechnology to "heal the earth." Philippe Van Nedervelde, head of Foresight Europe, also will speak on the rapid rise of nanotechnology research in Europe.
A number of speakers are slated to discuss broader implications of nanotechnology. Their discussions will be led off by Paul Saffo, Institute for the Future, who has been watching nanotechnology and other emerging technologies for years, and has thought deeply about their implications. Greg Burch, a very nontraditional (extropian) lawyer will sketch an early take on legal issues affecting nanotechnology. Jim Halperin, whose newly published novel The First Immortal is likely to be the most prominent cryonics 'n' nanotech fiction we've seen for a long time, will discuss science fiction as a means to introduce new ideas to society. David Brin, whose new book The Transparent Society looks at what happens under ubiquitous surveillance, will discuss the implications of its arrival even before nanotechnology arrives. (Paul Saffo also has discussed this topic; see Update 29.) Tom McKendree, University of Southern California will sketch how to use nanotech for robust settlement of the solar system and beyond.
Although not yet able to confirm her presence with certainty, Virginia Postrel of Reason Foundation, is slated as a probable speaker [subsequently CONFIRMED]. Progress on Foresight's Web Enhancement project also will be discussed.
More details will be sent to all Senior Associates and are available online at http://www.foresight.org/SrAssoc/98Gathering.html
However, to be part of this stimulating and challenging weekend, you have to be a Senior Associate. In addition to making you eligible for joining the Senior Associate Gatherings, becoming a Senior Associate brings you a special quarterly newsletter from the desk of Eric Drexler, on-line interactions, and networking opportunities.
Individuals can become Senior Associates by pledging an annual contribution of $250 to $5,000 a year for five years. Support at this level is an invaluable contribution to the research and education programs of the Foresight family of organizations and to the responsible development of molecular nanotechnology.
Senior Associates choose to participate at one of four levels: Associate ($250 annually for five years) Fellow ($500 annually for five years. Includes signed gift book.) Colleague ($1000 annually for five years. Includes framed signed artwork.) Friend ($5000 annually for five years. Includes engraved crystal "Friend of Foresight" award on ebonite base and the signed framed artwork.) For more information.
From the 1997 Senior Associate Gathering, held May 2-4, 1997:
There's a saying that "Getting an education at MIT is like trying to get a drink from a fire hose." This can also be said of tracking nanotechnology here at the center of the Foresight network.
We had always assumed that the pace of developments was on an exponential curve, but early exponentials look fairly flatnot hard to keep up with. That time has gonenow hardly a day goes by when we receive news that would have rated as "the year's big event in nanotechnology" not so long ago.
And it's getting harder to tell this amidst all the "nano" hype. Again, this was expected: sexy terminology gets picked up by wannabes looking for funding, forcing the rest of us to come up with new terms for our goals: nanotechnology, molecular nanotechnology, molecular manufacturing...we'll probably have to keep migrating.
One of our favorite terminology innovators is Prof. Ari Requicha of USC, who coined "molecular robotics" years agoboth technically accurate and catchyand now has started using "NEMS": nanoelectromechanical systems. We're not sure who coined NEMS, but if Prof. Requicha uses the term, it will probably catch on.
Meanwhile, those who are new to tracking this field find themselves floundering in a sea of "nano" terms: their reports tend to focus on simply trying to figure out what to include. Quite a respectable effort has come out of the European Commission Joint Research Centre: "Nanotechnology in Europe: Experts' Perceptions and Scientific Relations between Sub-areas," prepared by Ineke Malsch of the Institute for Prospective Technological Studies (IPTS) in Seville. A few excerpts:
"Molecular nanotechnology as well as computer modelling scored relatively high" [among areas considered to be part of nanotechnology].
"Molecular nanotechnology, the vision promoted by the Americans Drexler and Merkle and their Foresight Institute, and the most cited in the popular press, can also be considered a central element of nanotechnology."
"...the apparent increasing acceptance, or social acceptability, of the term molecular nanotechnology...does not surprise me. It is a fundamental distinction which Drexler and Merkle have made since the beginning of these discussions...molecular nanotechnology is just beginning to take off."
The report also distinguishes between top-down and bottom-up approaches, and gets its definition of molecular nanotechnology right as well. By now you may be wanting a copy, but the one we have lists no ordering information or price: just the report number (EUR 17710 EN) and the address for IPTS: W.T.C., Isla de la Cartuja s/n, E-41092 Seville, Spain. Visit their web site at http://www.jrc.es for some visionary views:
The innovation potential of nanotechnology covers a very broad range of applications, including biomedical, information, environmental and production technologies. Nanotechnology looks set to become one of the dominant technological fields of the 21st century. It is almost certain to reshape many industrial areas and so have important implications for society and the environment.
Nanotechnology may not be the first topic that occurs when you think of Rome in spring, but in 1999 that will be the place to be: the Foresight/Elba Forum on Nanotechnology, our first European technical conference. We are fortunate to have two stellar co-chairs: Claudio Nicolini and James Gimzewski, both of whom have been working to further the field for years, Prof. Nicolini in Italy and Dr. Gimzewski in Switzerland. The latter's name will also be familiar to our readers from last year's conference, at which he won the Feynman Prize in NanotechnologyExperimental.
Based on the quality of speakers that this meeting is attracting, it's clear that there's a lot of pent-up European interest in nanotechnology. So if youlike meare looking for a good reason to go to Italy next spring, this is your chance.
For those of you who are most serious about participating, technically or otherwise, we can offer an earlier meeting, May 29-30, described elsewhere in this issue. Yes, the speakers are great, but this is really about networking: meeting potential employees, employers, investors, activists, entrepreneurs, and most of all, friends.
There aren't too many places to meet with people who choose to look ahead a couple of decades. We keep this off-the-record, to enable us all to speak freely without worrying about what the newspapers or our current employers will think of our views, which can sound quite like science fiction. But as Gayle Pergamit and I say in our lectures: If you're looking 30 years out and it "sounds like science fiction," it may be wrong; but if it doesn't sound like science fiction, it's definitely wrong."
Join us, to stretch your brain, to scope out future job prospects, and to meet new colleagues who share your values and views. The conversation is unbeatable.
The booming of the Silicon Valley economy has caught up with us; costs are high here. With Foresight's increase in activity over the past few yearsespecially on the webit's time to adjust annual contributions to reflect that, so you'll be seeing a minimum request of $45 starting with your next renewal. This is only the second increase since our founding in 1986, and we hope you agree with what we're often told by members: that we accomplish more per dollar donated than just about any other organization they know.
Thanks, and we look forward to working with you over the next decade. No one has lived in more "interesting times" than those ahead of us right now.
Chris Peterson is Executive Director of Foresight Institute.
As scientists and policy-makers in Europe begin to focus more closely upon the technical feasibility of molecular nanotechnology and the implications of its realization, Foresight Institute has recognized the need to establish a physical presence in Europe.
Philippe Van Nedervelde, a Foresight Senior Associate who has participated intensively in Foresight affairs in recent years and who has been involved in the re-design and expansion of Foresight's Web site, has been named Executive Director of Foresight Europe
"Philippe understands both the science and policy implications of nanotechnology. He has served as a spokesman for Foresight with European media. This is a natural extension of the relationship between him and the organization," said Chris Peterson, Executive Director of Foresight Institute.
"Research in fields related to molecular nanotechnology is expanding exponentially in Europe," Van Nedervelde said. "I expect within another year that Europe will ascend to at least a level of parity with Japan in the amount and quality of research underway, and in some fields will become the leading focus of research."
He also noted that a major conference on Molecular Nanotechnology is planned for Spring 1999 in Rome, co-sponsored by Foresight Institute and the Elba Foundation. Also, three conferences on nanoscale materials are scheduled during 1998 in EuropeStockholm, Birmingham, UK, and Lausanne, Switzerland. See the Upcoming Events column on the last page of this issue for details. All will have some program content related to molecular nanotechnology, as well as top-down nanoscale topics.
As this issue of Update goes to press, Foresight Europe is completing the arrangements necessary to conduct business in Europe, including leasing and furnishing an office in London, going through the formal process of establishing Foresight Europe as a UK charity, and completing a plan to establish Foresight in Europe with the same high stature it has achieved in the U.S.
Van Nedervelde already has conducted an interview with The Guardian, which was available online, but unfortunately the link has expired
More details about Foresight Europe, including the location of the office, means of contact with it, and the scope of its planned efforts, will be available in the next issue of Update. In the meantime, Van Nedervelde can be reached by e-mail at email@example.com.
Steven Chu of Stanford University, 1997 Nobel Prize Winner in Physics, has been confirmed as the Keynote speaker for the 1998 Foresight Conference on Molecular Nanotechnology.
Chu shared the 1997 award with Claude Cohen-Tannoudji of the College de France, and William D. Phillips of the National Institute of Standards and Technology for their work in the field of laser cooling and trapping. It has meant a breakthrough for both theory and experiment within the field and has led to deeper understanding of the interaction between light and matter. It has also led to intense world-wide activity within the atomic, molecular and optical physics community and has opened up new roads toward the study of the quantum behavior of dilute atomic vapors at very low temperatures.
The Sixth Foresight Conference on Molecular Nanotechnology is scheduled to be held November 12-15, 1998 at the Westin Hotel in Santa Clara, CA, in the heart of Silicon Valley.
The 1997 Foresight Institute Distinguished Student Award was won by Phil Collins, a graduate student in the Department of Physics, University of California at Berkeley, and the Materials Sciences Division, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. At the Fifth Foresight Conference on Molecular Nanotechnology, last November, he presented a paper entitled "Nanoscale Electronic Devices on Carbon Nanotubes."
Foresight Institute established the Distinguished Student Award in February 1997 to provide a $1,000 award each year to the college undergraduate or graduate student whose work in nanotechnology is deemed most notable. The first award (for 1996) went to John M. Michelsen, a University of California at Irvine chemistry student.
Collins' paper, co-authored with Dr. Alex Zettl, addressed use of a scanning tunneling microscope (STM) to explore the local electrical characteristics of single-walled carbon nanotubes.
From Foresight Update 32, originally published 15 March 1998.
|Foresight Update 32 - Table of Contents|
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