Prizewinner foresees complex nanotechnology-based machines

Ian Hoffman reports in

Cal scientist heralds era of nanotechnology
Chemistry professor wins prestigious award, $500,000 grant

Experts said last week that the early days of nanotechnology, when scientists created new materials at the scale of billionths of a meter, is starting to evolve into a new era of tiny yet complex machines.

These machines could pack their own power supply, sensors, a transmitter and perhaps other components in a square centimeter and get smaller over time, University of California, Berkeley, chemistry professor Peidong Yang said at the National Science Foundation during a presentation in his honor.

The foundation, the agency that finances about a fifth of the nation’s federally funded science, announced last week that Yang had won its prestigious Alan T. Waterman Award, consisting of a medal and a $500,000 grant given to an outstanding researcher under the age of 35.

“I believe more and more we will see nanostructured systems within the next five to 10 years,” said Yang, now 36.

Those machines will be able to detect multiple chemicals, transmit the results to a computer and receive instructions on getting rid of toxins, perhaps within a human body.

“You have this multiple functionality within the same nanostructured system,” Yang said.

There’s also a video of Prof. Yang commenting on his award, saying he plans to use it for “risky…but high-rewarding” research. He feels UC Berkeley is the best place for his kind of work. His current work does not sound atomically-precise, but let’s give him some time. —Christine

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