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Assembling biomolecular nanomachines: a path to a nanofactory?

Foresight Update 25.10—October 16, 2012
ISSN 1078-9731

2011 Foresight Prize Winners Announced

Prof. Dean Astunian (University of Maine, USA) - Theory
Prof. Leonhard Grill (Fritz Haber Institute, Max Planck Research School, Germany) - Experiment


The 2013 Foresight Technical Conference
Illuminating Atomic Precision
January 11-13, 2013
Crowne Plaza Cabana Hotel, Palo Alto, CA

Nanotech News

Discuss these news stories at

In this issue:

Nanotechnology Education: Four Ways You Can Make A Contribution

The American Chemical Society and its partners foster flexible programs that enable scientists, engineers, and enthusiasts to share their expertise and passion with local communities. Foresight members can add tremendous value to these programs by bringing unique insight and experience in nanotechnology concepts and directions. …

Metal-organic frameworks provide large molecular cages for nanotechnology

Metal-organic frameworks (MOFs) are back in the news again. A few months ago we cited the use of MOFs by Canadian chemists to self-assemble a molecular wheel on an axis in a solid material. More recently chemists at Northwestern University have used MOFs to set a world record for surface area. …

Nanoparticles deliver cargo inside mitochondria

Targeted drug delivery is one of the most important contributions of current and near-term nanotechnology to medicine. New research shows that specifically targeting one component of the cell makes nanoparticle-mediated drug delivery much more effective for a variety of applications. …

Review of molecular machines for nanotechnology

The RSC web site features an article on molecular machines written by Josh Howgego that gives a very good brief introduction to the topic: "Rise of the molecular machines". A downloadable PDF of the article as it originally appeared in Education in Chemistry provides better images of the figures than does the HTML version. The article explains how chemists have worked to mimic the function of biological molecular machine like muscles …

Assembling biomolecular nanomachines: a path to a nanofactory?

Four years ago we cited a report by a German research group of a single molecule cut and paste technology to assemble molecular building blocks on a DNA scaffold. The advance was noteworthy because it combined self-assembly of atomically precise components with the ability to use a manipulator (an atomic force microscope) to place those components at arbitrary positions in a larger structure, analogous to the way in which we use our hands to assemble parts macroscopically. These researchers have extended this technology to arrange single protein molecules …

Nanomaterials characterization course at Foothill College-NASA Ames

Robert D. Cormia of Foothill College passes along this information on a program to help professionals transition into nanotechnology …

Measuring individual chemical bonds with noncontact-AFM

Scanning probe microscopy (SPM) is one of the principal paths to atomically precise manufacturing (molecular manufacturing). One of the varieties of SPM that shows great promise is noncontact atomic force microscopy (NC-AFM). In a significant milestone, a team of scientists at IBM has greatly expanded the capabilities of NC-AFM by providing unprecedented information about the length and strength of individual chemical bonds within molecules. …

—Nanodot posts by James Lewis and Stephanie Corchnoy.

Foresight Events and News

2011 Foresight Prize Winners Announced
Prof. Dean Astunian (University of Maine, USA) - Theory
Prof. Leonhard Grill (Fritz Haber Institute, Max Planck Research School, Germany) - Experiment

Foresight is pleased to announce the winners of the 2011 Foresight Institute Feynman Prizes for Nanotechnology Theory and Experiment.

The winner of the 2011 Feynman Prize for Experimental work is Leonhard Grill (Fritz Haber Institute, Max Planck Research School, Germany) in recognition of his pioneering and continuing work on manipulating and structuring functional matter at the atomic scale. He has used scanning tunneling microscopy to characterize the electronic and mechanical properties of single molecules; constructed atomically precise covalent molecular nanostructures from single molecules; and used an STM tip to roll a 0.8 nanometer molecular wheel on a surface.

The winner of the 2011 Feynman Prize for Theory is Raymond Astumian (University of Maine, USA) for his contributions to the understanding of Brownian motion and its use to power molecular motors and other functional mechanisms at the atomic scale.

In awarding the prizes, Ralph C. Merkle, Chairman of the Prize Committee, noted that "The work of these Feynman Prize winners has brought us one step closer to answering Feynman's 1959 question, ‘What would happen if we could arrange atoms one by one the way we want them?’ And the ability to simulate and manipulate atoms advanced by the work of these Prize winners will enable us to design and build engineered molecular machinery with atomic precision. It will take us another step on the way to the development of revolutionary nanotechnologies that will transform our lives for the better.”

The annual Feynman Prizes represent milestones on the road to the award of the $250,000 Feynman Grand Prize, an incentive prize that will be awarded to the first researchers to make a nanometer-scale robotic arm and a nanometer-scale computing device, two critical components of an atomic scale molecular manufacturing system.

The Foresight Feynman Prizes were established by the Foresight Institute in 1993 and named in honor of Nobel Prize winner Richard Feynman whose influential essay, "Plenty of Room at the Bottom" inspired the first work on nanoscale science. The Institute awards Feynman prizes each year to recognize researchers - one for theoretical work and one for empirical research - whose recent work has most advanced the field toward the achievement of Feynman's vision for nanotechnology: molecular manufacturing, the construction of atomically-precise products through the use of molecular machine systems.

For more information about the Foresight Feynman Prizes, past winners and the Feynman Grand Prize please see the information on the Foresight website at For more information about prizes and prize nominations please contact

The 2013 Foresight Technical Conference
Illuminating Atomic Precision

January 11-13, 2013
Crowne Plaza Cabana Hotel, Palo Alto, CA USA

Conference Co-Chairs
Larry S. Millstein, President, Foresight Institute
J. Fraser Stoddart, Board of Trustees Professor, Northwestern University

Diamond Sponsor: The Thiel Foundation
Silver Sponsors: Autodesk, Zyvex Labs

Over 30 leading researchers will present reviews and results on a wide range of research relating to atomic and molecularly precise devices and materials, and their fabrication. The conference will provide an unusually heterogeneous mix of speakers and participants, serving as a catalyst for interdisciplinary dialog and productive collaboration.

Sessions and confirmed speakers include –

Atomic Scale Devices
Session Chair: John Randall, Zyvex Labs

Molecular Machines and Non-Equillibriun Processes
Session Chair: J. Fraser Stoddart, Northwestern University

Self Organizing and Adaptive Systems
Session Chair: Lee Cronin, Glasgow University

Commercially Implemented Single Molecule Technologies
Session Chair: SteveTurner, Pacific Biosciences

Computation and Molecular Nanotechnologies
Session Chair: Alex Wissner-Gross, Harvard and MIT

Additional speakers will include the Feynman Prize winners for Theory and for Experiment for both 2011 and 2012, and the winners of the Feynman Student Prizes for 2011 and 2012.

For conference information
To register

Foresight Youth Outreach
Summer/Fall 2012 Essay Contest & Literature Program

What keeps young people working on hard problems in science & technology? Research shows it's most often the sustained support of inspiring teachers, mentors, & communities with shared values.

Foresight is targeting the top 300 science, engineering, & entrepreneurially-oriented college clubs, high school STEM teachers, & gifted youth programs across the country … and connecting them with great ideas & people!

We're sending bright young minds the following books by speakers, advisors, & supporters of the Foresight community (organizations sponsoring individual book donations are in parentheses):

Abundance: The Future Is Better Than You Think - Peter Diamandis (XPrize Foundation)
Engines of Creation - K Eric Drexler (Foresight Institute)
Imagine Design Create - Tom Wujec (AutoDesk)
The Singularity Is Near - Ray Kurzweil (KurzweilAI, SingularityU)
Ending Aging - Aubrey deGrey (SENS Foundation)
100+ - Sonia Arrison (Thiel Foundation)
Global Catastrophic Risks - Nick Bostrom (FHI, Singularity Institute)
NanoScience Education, WorkForce Training, and K12 Resources - Miguel Aznar/Judith Lightfeather (Foresight - for STEM HS)

We're also planning an inspiring Essay Contest that incentivizes students to read, reflect, & connect with our communities! Supporting sister organizations such as Space Frontier Foundation, Humanity+, SENS, and 20Under20+ are also putting promotional material in book-boxes.

We need your help to make this pilot a success.
Most books came in as physical donations, but this is a bootstrapped project; we're still seeking funds to support the financial incentive prizes, student conference tickets, & remaining books being shipped in this week. If you'd like to help maximize this project's leverage, please contribute!

Whether $5 for one book's postal costs or $5K for essay prizes, every $ counts.

For more information, contact

Help us inspire the next generation of world-changers!

Bay Area Dinner Lectures Resume Fall 2013

Foresight had some great dinner lectures this spring from speakers such as 100+ author Sonia Arrison and Harvard Fellow/MIT Media Lab Affiliate Alex Wissner-Gross. We will be taking a break this summer; but we will resume in the Fall.

Other Upcoming Activities of Interest

A future issue of Update will report on the FNANO conference held this Spring at Snowbird.

Macro- and Supramolecular Architectures and Materials (MAM-12)

November 21-25, 2012
Coimbatore, India

Novel materials will play a key role in science and technology in the 21st century.

Printed Electronics USA 2012

December 5-6, 2012
Santa Clara, CA USA

Printed Electronics is one of the fastest growing technologies in the world. This event, the World's largest on the topic and growing rapidly every year, is your information and networking hub on the topic. Printed Electronics USA is co-located with the Photovoltaics IDTechEx event.

Nanotech Conference & Expo 2013

May 12-15, 2032
Washington, DC USA

Don't miss this year in Washington, D.C. as we deliver the World's top innovations and the Nation's leading R&D agency programs!

About the Foresight Institute
Foreseeing Future Technologies

Advancements in technologies such as nanotech, robotics, and biotech are promising to make major differences in our lives in the not-too-distant future, as the Industrial Revolution did to the agrarian world — to do for the physical world what the computer and Internet have done to the world of information.

Since 1986, the Foresight Institute has been in the forefront of a worldwide community of visionaries who work to help shape these possibilities into a positive, beneficial reality.

If you would like to help us understand the potential of these technologies, and influence their direction, please consider becoming a member of the Foresight community. With your support, Foresight will continue to educate the general public on these technologies and what they will mean to our society.

The Foresight Institute is a non-profit, member-supported 501(c)(3) organization. We offer membership levels appropriate to meet the needs and interests of individuals and companies. Donations are tax deductible.

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