New strategic plan for U.S. Nanotechnology Initiative

New strategic plan for U.S. Nanotechnology Initiative

On January 2 a press release was issued announcing an updated Strategic Plan (PDF) for the U.S. National Nanotechnology Initiative.

For those of us interested in molecular nanosystems and atomically-precise manufacturing, it’s disappointing. I haven’t read the whole thing, but this is the closest wording I could find on a quick skim:

A key challenge for nanotechnology is the fabrication and assembly of nanometer-scale materials, devices, and systems. Biology performs these functions in living cells, which in many respects act as integrated nanomanufacturing factories. A cell includes nanomaterials (proteins, membrances, etc.), nanodevices (motor proteins, ion channels, etc.), and even functional nanosystems (e.g., mitochondria) that are created from individual molecules by hierarchical self-assembly. Biological capabilities can be harnessed directly, borrowed, or taken as inspiration for future nanomanufacturing.

Well and good, but we should be able to look beyond nanobio to non-biological, atomically-precise nanomanufacturing factories. Let me know if you find anything in the document on this. Until then, it’s disappointing.

Maybe it’s a problem of time horizon. U.S. planners need to realize that some other countries look and plan farther ahead in nanotech. The U.K., for instance. —Christine

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  1. anonimouse January 9, 2008 at 11:12 am - Reply

    Christine, here’s the thing: Pick-and-place techniques won’t cut it for complex APM because errors can’t be sufficiently detected and corrected through culling or rework. And there’s a lot of evidence that there is no possible path from nanobio to diamondoid, graphene, or fullerene technologies. If it were possible we would see evolution-derived examples, in much the same way that we see examples of nanobio motors (flagella, cilia) and nanobio-built silica (diatoms). But the energy requirements to create carbon-carbon bonds like those in graphene appear to be too high for protein-mediated aqueous chemistry. So we’re kind of stuck.

    I’m sure you’re familiar with the famous Sidney Harris cartoon “And then a miracle occurs” ( Until the “miracle” step from nanobio (or pick-and-place AFM work) to complex APM can be replaced, even conceptually, with a high-bond-energy approach that works a lot like like biology (stochastic chemistry proceeding to a desired APM product, crucially with LOTS of ongoing error correction and culling of damaged product like that performed biologically by ubiquitin and proteasomal degradation), we just have to get used to disappointment.

    Unfortunately there are no bright ideas along those lines, and not for lack of trying. I think it’s because there’s a poorly perceived, but absolute, physical barrier related to the absence of s suitable high-temperature solvent chemistry to support the creation of catalysis-mediated carbon-carbon bonds, rather than a mere conceptual barrier.

    And hey, I could be wrong.

  2. Christine Peterson January 10, 2008 at 2:33 pm - Reply

    Hi anonimouse — I would enjoy discussing this with you, but am finding it hard to have a serious discussion with someone called anonimouse. Can we switch to your real name? —Christine

  3. Rob Juneau January 16, 2008 at 4:34 pm - Reply

    Thanks for the coffee on my keybard, Christine. :])

    Anonimouse, may I ask if, in abysmally simple terms, you’re saying the oven is still too hot for the pizza? What if we left the oven door open and cooked the ‘za in the glow?

    Forgive me… Long day.


  4. interested_layperson January 27, 2008 at 12:22 am - Reply

    Hi all ,
    If not MMT devices , maybe microchemical systems(chemical plant-on- chip arrays) to produce everday consumable household products (e.g. paints,solvents ,etc) right on the table top from cheap feedstocks such as rubbing alcohol.

    I wonder if CO2 captured using some sort of nanomembrane gas sieve array in the yard or on rooftops can be used for the production of synthetic petrol for cars and printable plastic polymers for 3D printers.

    Any thoughts?


  5. […] Nanotechnology Initiative was a thing of the past (see Foresight’s disappointment in 2008 here), disagreements regarding re-authorization and budget cuts are prompting politicians and researches […]

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