An interview with Don Eigler of “IBM in 35 xenon atoms” fame.
Has nanotechnology trickled down into everyday life yet?
To some extent. It’s showing up in coatings, cosmetics and sunscreens, and it’s starting to show up in electronic devices. The length scales at which we manufacture computing devices are at the lower end of the nanometre scale. My laptop and cellphone are chock full of nanometre-scale technologies. But I think it’s going to evolve to produce new technologies which will have a much broader impact.
What sort of evolution do you have in mind?
I like to differentiate between evolutionary technology and revolutionary technology. My cellphone and laptop contain evolutionary nanotechnology because they can be traced back to larger structures. Revolutionary is still very much in the future, but I’m thinking of things like new forms of drug delivery or new kinds of molecular structures. The bulk of the influence on the person in the street is still to come, but there’s a 16-year-old kid out there now who’s going to come up with something really wonderful.