Elizabeth Gardner reports on "Micro- and Nano-Engineering '94":
The blending of microtechnology with nanotechnology took another leap forward
in Davos, Switzerland, in late September, at "Micro- and Nano-Engineering
'94." If this meeting doesn't ring a bell, it's because for the first
nineteen years of its existence, it was known as "Microcircuit Engineering,"
and it convened annually in various parts of Europe so that people involved
with microchips and other micro-things could get together and discuss lithography:
optical, x-ray, electron beam, and ion beam.
This, though, was nano-year. The meeting planners decided to take official
notice of probe technologies like the scanning tunneling microscope and
the atomic force microscope. It's no accident: not only has there been a
lot more probe work around lately, but conference chairman Peter Vettiger
is a researcher at IBM's Zurich laboratory,
under the same roof as Heinrich
Rohrer, who shared a Nobel Prize in 1986 for inventing the STM. He enlisted
Rohrer (a newcomer to this meeting) to give the keynote speech, and the
planning committee added tracks on "Atomic and Nanoscale Engineering"
and "Nanoscale Fabrication and Devices." As a result, Vettiger
says, the number of meeting attendees jumped from 200 last year to 340 this
year, and the number of submitted papers zoomed from 100 to 172. Participants
included not only Europeans but large contingents from the U.S. and Japan.
Rohrer's keynote touched on topics familiar to nanotechnology, though new
to some attendees. He predicted that "miniaturization," as such,
will reach its limits by 2010, and even now is converging with the idea
of building molecular machines. The trick will be to make industry understand
that there's a new standard. "A farmer 150 years ago would have said
that the micrometer had no consequence for him," Rohrer said. "The
nanometer has no consequence for many things today, but it will become the
new standard." And it's no good asking industry what it wants, he added.
"The customer can only want what he thinks is possible. The far outreaching
changes must be made by scientists."
The big news of the conference came right out of one of its usual interests:
the creation of ever smaller circuits. Stanford University applied physics
Quate, a last-minute addition to the plenary session speakers' roster,
described making a working transistor with an electrode 0.2 micron wide,
using an AFM as an etching tool on a surface of amorphous silicon. Conference
attendees agreed that this was the first time they had heard of anyone using
an AFM to make a working device. Even though other researchers have achieved
the same dimensions with standard lithographies, those techniques are bumping
up against their limits, while the AFM can potentially make transistors
a tenth, or even a hundredth, the size of the ones produced by Quate's team.
And since drawing them one at a time is hardly a manufacturer's dream, Quate
is experimenting with parallel arrays of five AFM tips working simultaneously.
If he's successful with five, he says, why not 10,000?
IBM's Watson Research Center presented its new electron beam microcolumn,
just a few centimeters long and a few millimeters wide, which could be incorporated
into a tiny scanning electron microscope. The columns could also be used
for e-beam lithography in the types of manufacturing arrays envisioned by
Quate. Batch manufacture makes them cheap, "almost a throw-away part
of the equipment," said IBM researcher T.H.P. Chang, though they have
the same current and resolution as a full-size e-beam column.
Several groups presented work from Japan. A team from Mitsubishi used an
STM to manipulate individual C60 molecules into a row. A team
from Hitachi used an AFM to record patterns of gold dots ranging from 10
to 100 nanometers in diameter on a silicon dioxide surface, and then used
the same cantilevered tip to read back the pattern. The technique could
potentially be used for high-density data recording. Perhaps most significant,
the process is carried out in air rather than under vacuum, making it easier
to use for practical applications.
And a sign of things to come: Henry
Smith, who holds a chair in electrical engineering at MIT and is not
only a pioneer in x-ray lithography but also a noted gadfly in the microengineering
field, was spotted during one session absorbed in a textbook on molecular
biology. Quizzed about this later, he said he was taking a course and had
to study for the exam. His eventual goal? To form a research group to create
and study self-organizing systems. He's recently relocated his e-mail address
a fileserver named "nano."
Elizabeth Gardner is a science journalist currently based in Sweden.
She can be reached at email@example.com.
To chemists, this book's greatest value will be as an introduction to thinking
about using chemistry to build devices. To non-chemists, it has additional
value as a signal: it was written by the Editor in Chief of the Journal
of the American Chemistry Society, one of the most (perhaps the
most) prestigious chemistry journals. Combine this with the quotation
from Nobel Laureate chemist Roald Hoffman elsewhere in this issue, and
the conclusion is clear: Key chemists have adopted molecular nanotechnology
as a research objective.
Prof. Bard, an electrochemist at University of Texas at Austin, based the
book on a set of lectures given at Cornell in 1987, then updated the material
through late 1992, just before Nanosystems was published. Chapters
4-6 discuss electrochemistry, while chapters 1, 2, and 7 are more general,
with chapter 2 leading off with a quotation from Engines
In the concluding chapter, the author looks toward possible future applications
of integrated chemical systems: sensors, electronic devices, and advanced
or "intelligent" materials. "Homes might be constructed of
plastic lumber with ceramic roofs and electrochromic windows. Cars can be
assembled of composites stronger than steel but 10 times lighter, with ceramic
engines operating at high temperatures without a radiator. Artificial muscles
will be made of polymers whose dimensions can be varied electrically."
The author concludes, "The tools for the construction and characterization
of integrated chemical systems are now available." For the non-chemists
among us, this book can be used as a gift for any skeptical chemist friends
who are still having difficulty with the concept of constructing materials
and devices with molecular precision. Molecular precision is what chemistry
is all about, and leading chemists are sending a clear message to their
colleagues: Let's get moving.
Space Development Advocates Support Nanotechnology
The National Space Society recently
announced its advocacy position for nanotechnology. The Molecular
Manufacturing Shortcut Group within NSS has studied and advocated the
development and use of nanotechnology under the leadership of MMSG president
Tom McKendree and board members Margaret Jordan, Duncan Forbes, and Steve
Williams. Long-time space activist Tihamer Toth-Fejel played a key role
in making the NSS nanotechnology position paper happen, along with many
online participants. Our thanks to them and to NSS Executive Chairman Glenn
Reynolds for bringing NSS on board as a strong advocate for nanotechnology.
The NSS press release and excerpts from the position
WASHINGTON, November 14 - The National Space Society (NSS), the world's
premier space development advocacy organization, and the Foresight Institute,
the world's premier organization dealing with information on nanotechnology
and advocacy of nanotechnology research, are pleased to announce the release
of the NSS position paper on space and molecular nanotechnology.
This is the first public position paper looking at the implications of nanotechnology
for a specific field of activity-the development and settlement of space.
It is also the first applications paper published by an organization other
than those directly involved in nanotechnology. This publication marks the
advent of public interest groups looking at the implications of nanotechnology
for short-term, medium-term, and long-term planning.
The report includes a set of recommendations for action regarding what to
do about nanotechnology. NSS is pleased to note this because it demonstrates
that NSS, of all the space development organizations, has the most comprehensive
and forward-looking understanding of the impact of space on the future,
and of future technologies on space. Foresight Institute welcomes this because
in its opinion all organizations looking at long-term implications and long-term
planning will soon need to take nanotechnology into account, even in short-term
recommendations. NSS is leading the way in this endeavor.
Excerpts: Executive Summary by Tihamer Toth-Fejel and Tom McKendree
The National Space Society believes that developing molecular nanotechnology
will advance the exploration and settlement of space. Present manufacturing
capability limits the performance, reliability, and affordability of space
systems, but the bottom-up approach of molecular nanotechnology has the
potential to produce space hardware with tremendous improvement in performance
and reliability at substantially lower cost.
Since the settlement of space is not a near-term endeavour, it would be
a grave mistake to consider only the short term applications of molecular
nanotechnology to space, though there may be a few...For example, improved
scanning probes similar to Scanning Tunneling Microscopes (STM) could give
researchers a powerful, general technique for characterizing the atomic
structure of molecular objects. Applied to engineered materials, improved
probe microscopy could be valuable in discovering and designing stronger
materials, faster and smaller electronics, and exotic chemicals with unique
properties. These incremental improvements would offer the possibility of
small improvements in capability across the broad spectrum of space activities,
ensuring mission completion, prolonging spacecraft life, and fostering the
safety of human crews.
As nanosystems used in research are constructed and commercialized, they
will move from gathering basic science knowledge in laboratories to collecting
data in engineering applications. The first applications would be those
in which the relatively high cost and limited capabilities of these first
generation devices will still provide significant improvements in overall
system capability to justify the costs. Since sensors and actuators could
be significantly reduced in size and mass, planetary probes and other space-based
applications would probably one of the first beneficiaries of these nanosystems.
In the medium term, the nanosystem devices would be involved in the manufacturing
process. Products might include bulk structures such as spacecraft components
made of a diamond-titanium composite. The theoretical strength-to-density
ratio of matter is about 75 times that currently achieved by aerospace aluminum
alloys...The bottom-up approach promises to virtually eliminate...defects,
enabling the fabrication of stronger materials that could improve reliability
and increase payload capacity...The overall effect would be that success
rates for a wide variety of space missions would increase at lowered cost.
Since the settlement of space is a long-term enterprise, the long-term benefits
of molecular nanotechnology are the most relevant, as they are considerable...especially
the ability to bootstrap production via self-replicating universal assemblers.
This capability would probably lower manufacturing costs by many magnitudes,
down to the order of $1 per kilogram. It would become possible to build
tapered tethers from geosynchronous orbit to the ground, and to build human-rated
SSTO vehicles with a dry mass around sixty kilograms. Such capabilities
should make possible inexpensive access to space. Mature nanosystems might
make possible affordable and robust closed environment life-support systems
that could take advantage of in-situ resources, such as asteroidal metals
and cometary organics. Such a capability would potentially enable many people
to affordably live in space. Tiny computers, sensors and actuators, trivially
cheap on a per-unit basis, may allow things like smart walls to automatically
repair micrometeorite damage, unobtrusive space suits, and terraforming
tools. By providing instrumentation that allows the development of medical
knowledge at the molecular level, advanced nanosystems might enable in vivo
repair of cellular damage, mitigating the dangers of ionizing cosmic radiation.
There is a fear that spending money on molecular nanotechnology will reduce
the amount of money spent on space development, since research funding is
sometimes perceived as a zero sum game.
First, decision theory and experience show that achieving large projects
of significant technological complexity (e.g., the settlement of space)
require a diversification of effort. It is especially important to have
a diversified portfolio of approaches so that unforeseen dead ends can be
circumvented without delay. In this case, space development can benefit
significantly by investing a limited amount of effort in low cost, high
payoff avenues such as molecular nanotechnology.
Second, the amount of money needed at this stage of molecular nanotechnology
development is very small compared to the average NASA space project...
In conclusion, the National Space Society believes that since the settlement
of space is a long-range project that will benefit the entire human race,
the serious development of long-range technologies such as molecular nanotechnology
must be supported.
Extra-special long-term thanks go to Dr. Russ Mills, long-time technical
columnist for Foresight, who is taking a sabbatical from his writing duties.
Russ's column has been a favorite of Foresight members since Update 3
in 1988, and his ability to take diverse technical articles and turn them
into a coherent overview of progress toward nanotechnology is extraordinary.
In Foresight's early years, Russ Mills and Dave Kilbridge did the layout
of the Update as well. We wish them the best of luck in their business
Special thanks go to Gayle Pergamit, co-author of Unbounding the Future,
who served as Guest Editor for this issue. Another recipient of special
thanks is Dr. Arlen Andrews of Sandia National Laboratory, a Foresight Senior
Associate, who lent us the videotape from which this issue's excerpt was
taken. Thanks to dual Senior Associate Steve Vetter for obtaining the Roald
Thanks to the speakers and participants at the Senior Associate Gathering
(see article in this issue), and to Marcia Seidler and Judy Hill for organizational
Thanks to the following participants for sending information sources, everything
from journal articles to the first newspaper want ad (that we've seen) listing
nanotechnology in a job description: Jon Alexandr, Dale Amon, Richard Cathcart,
Jeff Cavener, William Cooper, Doug Denholm, Wesley Du Charme, Chuck Estes,
Donald Fears, Dave Forrest, Barbara Graham, Jones Hamilton, Norm Hardy,
Graham Houston, Stan Hutchings, Merrill Jennings, Anthony Johnson, Marie-Louise
Kagan, Thomas Mazanec, Tom McKendree, Anthony Napier, Doug Nommisto, James
Rice, Ed Regis, Mark Reiff, Mark Reiners, Roy Russell, Bryan Shelby, Tanya
Sienko, Jeff Soreff, Alvin Steinberg, T. Toth-Fejel, Jack Veach, John Walker.
Science Innovation Exposition, Feb. 16-21, 1995, Atlanta. Sponsored
by AAAS. Includes sessions on "Nanotechnology and Biomolecular Electronics,"
biological machines, protein folding. Tel 202-326-6450, fax 202-289-4021,
email firstname.lastname@example.org. Complex Molecular Systems, April 27-28, 1995, Paris. Sponsored by
Nature. Includes molecular recognition, self-assembly; applications
in pharmacology, device engineering. Tel +44 (0)71 836 6633 x2593, fax +44
(0)71 379 5417. Protein Folding: Goals for the Millennium, May 20-21, 1995, San Francisco.
Followed by larger meeting also covering AFM, protein design, molecular
recognition, molecular motors; sponsored by ASBMB and ACS. Tel 301-530-7010,
fax 301-530-7014. STM '95, July 23-28, 1995, Snowmass Village, Colorado. Sponsored
by American Vacuum Society. Includes atomic and molecular manipulation.
Tel 212-248-0327; fax 212-248-0245; email email@example.com. 3rd Int'l Symposium on Atomically Controlled Surfaces and Interfaces,
Oct. 12-14, 1995, North Carolina State Univ. Includes atomically controlled
formation of nanostructures, manipulation of atoms, self-assembling structures.
Previously held in Japan. ACSI-3, Box 8201, Raleigh, NC, 27695; email firstname.lastname@example.org. 42nd National Symposium of American Vacuum Society, Oct. 16-20, 1995,
Minneapolis. Includes nanometer-scale science and technology. Tel 212-248-0327;
fax 212-248-0245; email email@example.com. 4th Foresight Conference on Molecular Nanotechnology & Molecular
Manufacturing, Nov. 8-11, 1995, Palo Alto. Enabling science and technologies,
molecular components, systems design, R&D strategies. Foresight Institute,
tel 415-917-1122, fax 415-917-1123, email firstname.lastname@example.org, Web