A Short History of Nanotechnology

Feynman gives after-dinner talk describing molecular machines building with atomic precision

Taniguchi uses term “nano-technology” in paper on ion-sputter machining

Drexler originates molecular nanotechnology concepts at MIT

First technical paper on molecular engineering to build with atomic precision
STM invented

Buckyball discovered

First book published
AFM invented
First organization formed

First protein engineered
First university symposium

First university course

IBM logo spelled in individual atoms
First national conference

First nanotechnology journal
Japan’s STA begins funding nanotech projects

Japan”s MITI announces bottom-up “atom factory
IBM endorses bottom-up path
Japan’s MITI commits $200 million
Carbon nanotube discovered

First textbook published
First Congressional testimony

First Feynman Prize in Nanotechnology awarded for modeling a hydrogen abstraction tool useful in nanotechnology
First coverage of nanotech from White House
Engines of Creation” book given to Rice administration, stimulating first university nanotech center

Nanosystems textbook used in first university course
US Science Advisor advocates nanotechnology

First think tank report
First industry analysis of military applications
Feynman Prize in Nanotechnology awarded for synthesis of complex three-dimensional structures with DNA molecules

$250,000 Feynman Grand Prize announced
First European conference
NASA begins work in computational nanotech
First nanobio conference

First company founded: Zyvex
First design of nanorobotic system
Feynman Prize in Nanotechnology awarded for work in computational nanotechnology and using scanning probe microscopes to manipulate molecules

First NSF forum, held in conjunction with Foresight Conference
First DNA-based nanomechanical device
Feynman Prize in Nanotechnology awarded for computational modeling of molecular tools for atomically-precise chemical reactions and for building molecular structures through the use of self-organization

First Nanomedicine book published
First safety guidelines
Congressional hearings on proposed National Nanotechnology Initiative
Feynman Prize in Nanotechnology awarded for development of carbon nanotubes for potential computing device applications and for modeling the operation of molecular machine designs

President Clinton announces U.S. National Nanotechnology Initiative
First state research initiative: $100 million in California
Feynman Prize in Nanotechnology awarded for computational materials science for nanostructures and for building a molecular switch

First report on nanotech industry
U.S. announces first center for military applications
Feynman Prize in Nanotechnology awarded for theory of nanometer-scale electronic devices and for synthesis and characterization of carbon nanotubes and nanowires

First nanotech industry conference
Regional nanotech efforts multiply
Feynman Prize in Nanotechnology awarded for using DNA to enable the self-assembly of new structures and for advancing our ability to model molecular machine systems

Congressional hearings on societal implications
Call for balancing NNI research portfolio
Drexler/Smalley debate is published in Chemical & Engineering News
Feynman Prize in Nanotechnology awarded for modeling the molecular and electronic structures of new materials and for integrating single molecule biological motors with nano-scale silicon devices

First policy conference on advanced nanotech
First center for nanomechanical systems
Feynman Prize in Nanotechnology awarded for designing stable protein structures and for constructing a novel enzyme with an altered function

At Nanoethics meeting, Roco announces nanomachine/nanosystem project count has reached 300
Feynman Prize in Nanotechnology awarded for for designing a wide variety of single molecular functional nanomachines and for synthesizing macromolecules of intermediate sizes with designed shapes and functions

National Academies nanotechnology report calls for experimentation toward molecular manufacturing
Feynman Prize in Nanotechnology awarded for work in molecular computation and algorithmic self-assembly, and for producing complex two-dimensional arrays of DNA nanostructures

Feynman Prize in Nanotechnology awarded for construction of molecular machine systems that function in the realm of Brownian motion, and molecular machines based upon two-state mechanically interlocked compounds

Technology Roadmap for Productive Nanosystems released
Protein catalysts designed for non-natural chemical reactions
Feynman Prize in Nanotechnology awarded for work in molecular electronics and the synthesis of molecular motors and nanocars, and for theoretical contributions to nanofabrication and sensing

An improved walking DNA nanorobot
Structural DNA nanotechnology arrays devices to capture molecular building blocks
Design ‘from scratch’ of a small protein that performed the function performed by natural globin proteins
Organizing functional components on addressable DNA scaffolds
Feynman Prize in Nanotechnology awarded for experimental demonstrations of mechanosynthesis using AFM to manipulate single atoms, and for computational analysis of molecular tools to build complex molecular structures

DNA-based ‘robotic’ assembly begins
Feynman Prize in Nanotechnology awarded for work in single atom manipulations and atomic switches, and for development of quantum mechanical methods for theoretical predictions of molecules and solids

First programmable nanowire circuits for nanoprocessors
DNA molecular robots learn to walk in any direction along a branched track
Mechanical manipulation of silicon dimers on a silicon surface

For more on the history of the nanotechnology concept, see:

“Nanotechnology: from Feynman to the Grand Challenge of Molecular Manufacturing”, by C. Peterson in IEEE Technology and Society, Winter 2004. PDF [2.5 MB]

Molecular Nanotechnology: the Next Industrial Revolution“, by C. Peterson in IEEE Computer, January 2000.

Nano: The Emerging Science of Nanotechnology (by E. Regis, Little Brown, 1995).

Nanotechnology: From Concept to R&D Goal“, by C. Peterson, HotWired, 1995.

“Nanotechnology: Evolution of the Concept” by C. Peterson, in the book Prospects in Nanotechnology: Toward Molecular Manufacturing (ed. Markus Krummenacker and James Lewis, Wiley, 1995).