A little-noted but significant advance made last year was a sharp drop in
the price of haptic (also known as touch-feedback or force-reflecting) interfaces;
they went down tenfold from about $200,000 to $20,000. Credit for this advance
goes to Thomas Massie (firstname.lastname@example.org).
The name of his device is the "Phantom" (Personal Haptic Interface
Mechanism) sold by SensAble
Devices of Cambridge, MA.
When a haptic interface is connected to a proximal probe (STM, AFM, etc.)
it can simulate the experience of the direct manipulation of very small
amounts of matter.
One of Massie's customers is the University of North Carolina at Chapel
Hill, a leader in virtual reality for proximal probes. They report in "Haptic
Display Systems Research; Force-Feedback for Scientific Visualizations and
Virtual Environments", a summary of projects underway at that institution:
More recently UNC has undertaken work to provide a rich user interface to
a scanning probe microscope. Known as the Nanomanipulator,
this application uses a haptic display in conjunction with stereo graphics
to allow human interaction with objects on the nanometer scale...Development
work is ongoing, but physicists report already having obtained significant
new insights as a result of using the system.
Early Nanomanipulator work was presented at the 1993 Foresight conference
by UNC researcher Russell Taylor.
Several computer-viewable (MPEG) videos
showing the haptic interface in action can be downloaded from UNC on the
World Wide Web at: http://www.cs.unc.edu/nano/etc/www/nanopage.html
Tom Massie hopes to have a $2000 interface rolling by the middle of 1996,
according to Fred Hapgood of
the MIT Nanotechnology Study Group. Hapgood comments, "Perhaps we can
look forward to the day when hands-on molecular tinkering will be accessible
From Science, March 17, an item about comments from AT&T's Arno
Penzias, whose support of "top down" fabrication is legendary:
"AT&T Bell Labs researcher
Arno Penzias observes that much of today's economic progress hinges upon
the continued increase in cost and performance of silicon integrated circuits.
'While we still have some way to go, the end seems in sight. As line widths
shrink toward 0.1 micrometers and factory costs zoom past 1 billion dollars
apiece, little more improvement in conventional lithography technology seems
likely. Hopefully, an entirely new way of fabricating multibillion transistor
circuits will be devised. One atom at a time seems a bit tedious, but who
knows how fast microfabrication techniques might work?' "
Of course, "one atom at a time"-one molecule at a time is usually
more accurate-is not microfabrication, but rather molecular
China's government news organ, Xinhau
News Agency, carried on May 20 the first report we have seen on nanotechnology
developments in China. "After five years of research a laboratory at
Tianjin University has made breakthroughs in nanotechnology research, according
to Chinese scientists concerned." The work involves the fields of microtip
processing, 3D super-precision positioning and micro tip imaging, Xinhau
said. Hu Xiaotang, who studied in the U.S., has been studying microtip processing
technology since his return to China in 1990. The smallest microtip in the
world is 36 nanos [nanometers, presumably] in size, while Hu worked out
a microtip as small as 12 nanos in size, whose buckling and radius are subject
to control, the news agency reported.
"Traditional international theory holds that the shorter the distance,
the more sensitive the test of the thermal imagery of atoms. But Hu holds
that the distance should be kept at about 50 nanos instead of the shorter,
the better. His theory is considered to have important significance for
the application of nanotechnology in bioengineering," Xinhau reported.
Hu's team has also achieved the highest degree of precision in studies of
the 3D super-precision positioning system. China's first magazine about
nanotechnology will also be edited by his laboratory, it was reported.
Stanford's Prof. Calvin
Quate, co-inventor of the atomic force microscope now used in developing
molecular nanotechology, was named R&D Magazine's Scientist of the Year.
Previous awards include the National Medal of Science, membership in the
Royal Society of London, and both Guggenheim and Fulbright honors.
R&D reports that when Quate first submitted the AFM work to Physical
Review Letters it was rejected and called farfetched. One factor that "raised
the ire of peer reviewers was Quate and Binnig's
prediction that the AFM could be used to 'measure forces on particles as
small as single atoms'. But eventually it was accepted: "The paper's
publication in the winter of 1986 turned out to be a seminal event in modern
science." And, we would add, in molecular nanotechnology.
Foresight legal columnist Elizabeth Enayati's page on intellectual property
issues in nanotechnology will return in the next issue. Meanwhile, she will
be appearing at the Fourth
Foresight Conference on Molecular Nanotech-nology as our luncheon speaker
on Friday, November 10. She welcomes your intellectual property questions
as topics for future columns; send questions and comments to Elizabeth Enayati;
Weil, Gotshal & Manges,
tel (415) 926-6248; fax (415) 854-3713; email email@example.com; or send
mail c/o Foresight Institute, PO Box 61058, Palo Alto, CA 94306.
Scientists in the United Kingdom are being admonished by their paymasters
to pursue research in line with national goals, work more with industry,
and contribute more directly to the wealth of the nation. Since March, Britain's
Office of Science and Technology (OST) has issued 15 reports, each covering
a major industrial sector, which together form the first part of a national
attempt to set science and technology priorities for the next 10 to 15 years.
The reports distill the opinions of 10,000 experts from public and private
research, business and finance.
The panels' visions of the future resulted in 15 lists of recommendations
and priority actions, although without specifying funding levels. Among
the suggested new initiatives are included "virtual" research
centers in which distant researchers would collaborate through the Internet,
and programs in integrated biology and integrated ecosystem management.
Education and training were also highlighted and the need to strengthen
multidisciplinary and interdisciplinary research was a common theme. Life
science emerged as a strong area for UK science. A high degree of consensus
was found between members of industry and academia.
The acknowledged master of the art is Japan. Every 5 years since the 1970s,
the Science and Technology
Agency in Japan has carried out a large-scale survey to assess technological
developments over a 30-year time scale. The results are widely publicized
and are used in planning research programs at the national and company level.
Germany and France have both carried out surveys based on the Japanese model,
and the European Union is now considering one as well.
Using a technique known as a Delphi survey, a group of experts is given
a set of questions to elicit their views on the likelihood that particular
technological advances will occur, the relative importance of factors that
might determine whether those advances will be achieved, and the importance
of those advances themselves. The results are collated and often then fed
back to the group so that it can formulate a collective opinion. [Science,
Vol. 268, pp. 795-6]
Although the United States remains on a par with or ahead of Europe and
Japan in all strategically 'critical' technologies, its overall dominance
is slipping, according to a report prepared by the Office
of Science and Technology and submitted to President Bill Clinton last
The report was prepared in response to legislation passed by Congress in
1990 which calls for a report every two years until 2000, identifying critical
technologies. Areas where the US has enjoyed a substantial lead but are
now seen to be slipping include communications and computing systems, structures,
avionics, and propulsion. However, the trends are seen to have improved
in areas of software and toolkits, human systems, intelligent complex adaptive
systems, and human interface factors. [Nature, Vol. 374,
Japan's generously funded Protein Engineering
Research Institute (PERI) in Osaka is to get a second lease on life,
under the new name - and expanded scientific goals - of the Biomolecular
Engineering Research Institute (BERI). PERI was due to be closed down
next March - ten years after it was founded. PERI is one of a new breed
of semi-private institutes jointly funded by private industry and the Japan
Key Technology Center - known as Japan Key-TEC - a semi-governmental organization
supported by dividends of government-held shares in the telecommunications
company Nippon Telegraph and Telephone Corporation
which was privatized in 1985.
These institutes provide an unusual research environment for Japan. Scientists
are given freedom to carry out basic research - much as they would in a
university - but are also provided with exceptionally good facilities that
are comparable, if not better than, those in private industry.
PERI has concentrated its research efforts on determining the structure
of proteins. BERI will expand this goal to look in addition at lipids, sugars,
and nucleic acids; it will also attempt to establish their biological function
as well as their structure. [Nature, Vol. 374, pp. 754]
A new study from Schonfeld & Associates, an Illinois economics consulting
firm, predicts that a strong economy will yield an increase in US spending
The telecommunications industry will be the biggest R&D spender next
year. Telephone companies plan to spend $30 billion, and hardware suppliers
will add another $4.1 billion in R&D. Computers will receive $20.1 billion,
chemicals $8 billion and biotechnology is expected to top $1.1 billion in
next year's R&D spending. [R&D Magazine, July 1995,
The controversial co-discoverer of the AIDS virus, Robert Gallo, is establishing
a research center in Baltimore, Maryland, in the US. Gallo, who performed
his work on AIDS at the National Cancer
Institute, will join two other former government scientists, William
Blattner and Robert Redfield, in what Maryland Governor Parris Glendening
called the "dream team of AIDS research." The institute will open
in the fall and plans to employ 300 scientists and research staffers. [R&D
Magazine, July 1995, pp. 9]
Quate of Stanford University's Ginzton
Laboratory has been named 1995 Scientist Of The Year by R&D Magazine.
Quate developed the scanning acoustic and atomic force microscopes, providing
essential enabling instrumentation for nanotechnology. (See above
in this Update.) These microscopes now register a $100 million a year industry.
[R&D Magazine, July 1995, pps. 22-5]
Dr. Jamie Dinkelacker leads Apple Computer's development of multimedia
authoring tools for science, math, and medical education as Senior Engineer
Scientist, Technical Manager of the
East/West Authoring Tools Group within Apple's Advanced Technology Group.
Several nanotechnology talks were presented at this year's American Association
for the Advancement of Science annual meeting in Atlanta. This is one of
the first times that nanotechnology has been directly presented at such
a large mainstream scientific research society meeting.
Birge introduced the Nanotechnology and Biomolecular Electronics track
with a discussion of the importance of the emerging field of nanotechnology.
Elias Greenbaum, Biotechnology Research Group Leader at Oak
Ridge, made the first presentation, entitled 'Photosynthesis, Biomolecular
Electronics, and Renewable Fuels Production'. In his research, optoelectronic
devices have been constructed by making direct electrical contact with the
electron transport chain in photosynthesis.
Next, Robert Birge presented 'Protein-based Optical Computing, Memories,
and Artificial Retinas.' Birge is the director of the Keck
Center for Molecular Electronics at Syracuse University. His work uses
another light-sensitive molecule, bacteriorhodopsin. For more information
on this research, see Birge's excellent article in the March 1995 issue
of Scientific American, 'Protein-Based Computers.' Birge reported
that several startup companies are already working on commercializing this
The third talk was 'Highly Oriented Protein Films for Molecular Electronic
Devices' by Koichi Koyama of Fuji Photo Film Company. This work also uses
the molecule bacteriorhodopsin. Here, an extremely clever method of making
electrical contact with each molecule in a monolayer film has been developed
using bispecific antibodies. For further information on this work, I recommend
his article 'Antibody-Mediated Bacteriorhodopsin Orientation for Molecular
Device Architectures' in the 5 August 1994 issue of Science.
One surprise at the conference came during a plenary talk by NASA Administrator
Dan Goldin. In talking about the need to develop advanced technology for
future spaceflight, Goldin referred to the future development of microminiature
medical devices injected into the bloodstream and chemical surgery techniques
that could heal sick or injured astronauts without scalpels and incisions.
He also referred to nanoelectronics and nano- and micro-device technology.
While such ideas are not new to Foresight members, they probably were to
many of the thousands in attendance.
Japan's National Institute for Advanced Interdisciplinary
Research Focuses on Nanotechnology Issues
In its first annual report, issued earlier this year, Japan's National
Institute for Advanced Interdisciplinary Research (NAIR) outlined the
extensive efforts underway in Japan to develop molecular-level technology.
Takanori Okoshi, NAIR's Director-General, reports that the Joint
Research Center for Atom Technology (JRCAT) "was founded as a tripartite
(industrial-academic-governmental) organization for intensive joint research
in the field of atom technology, and one hundred or so researchers have
started vigorous research works."
JRCAT is a research body managed under the equal partnership of NAIR's Atom
Technology Group and the Atom Research Center of the Angstrom
Technology Partnership, a consortium of 30 private sector firms. In
describing the project, NAIR writes "To handle individual atoms and
molecules or to control them collectively in a self-organizing manner-that
will be an ultimate technology dream for mankind who has long been developing
and making use of materials. It obviously contributes to every industry
of the 21st century, if atoms and molecules are manipulated freely and new
materials with new properties are fabricated. The research is to be carried
out under a strong collaboration between experimental and theoretical groups,
participating from industries, academia and national laboratories, in a
planned period of 10 years from fiscal 1992."
NAIR's project includes eight groups:
Tokumoto Group, working on mechanical probe techniques including
AFM and STM technology.
Ichikawa Group, working on observation and formation technology
of atomic-scale structures using beam technology.
Ozeki Group, aiming to establish a technological base of nano-structure
fabrication on a solid surface using chemical reactions without mechanical
probes. They are working with state-of-the-art molecular beam scattering
Kanayama Group, seeking to construct self-assembling nanometric
building blocks. They are working to form composite atomic assemblies in
a charged particle trap of their own design.
Okada Group, using scanning mechanical apparatus for observation
and manipulation of organic molecules.
Tokura Group, working on 3-dimension transition metal oxides
and specialized organic molecular systems.
Terakura, Uda and Hamada Group, using a vector-parallel computer
(VPP500) and a massively-parallel computer (CM5E) for molecular-level design,
analysis, and simulations.
Tanaka Group, exploring emerging fields such as the dynamic
process of structure formation with an aim of creating semiconductor nano-scale
structures, magnetic thin film, and electrical double layers at solid-liquid