Byte Magazine, in its December 1996 special issue on TheFuture of Computing,asked eight computer industry leaders
to respond to a set of questions. Several answers invoked nanotechnology.
Asked "How long will Moore's Law continue to be relevant?" Marc
Andreessen, Netscape Communications Corp.'s Senior Vice President, Technology,
said, "Through 2020, when we will see a discontinuous improvement in
performance rejoining a new Moore's Law curve based on transition toward
molecular nanotechnology." David Chaum, of DigiCash, when asked
"When will quantum effects and other problems require radically new
technologies?" responded, "I'm not sure we will be forced to develop
nanotechnology, but I sure hope we do." Asked about chip manufacturing
in zero-gravity environment, Andreessen responded, "Only as an unlikely
and distant possibility. Nanotechnology will have begun to bear fruit before
zero-gravity chip manufacturing makes sense."
Fortune Magazine also profiled Andreessen in its December
9 issue, where he spoke broadly about nanotechnology: Says Fortune: "One
of his favorite novels is The Diamond Age, by Neal Stephenson. Its
plot is built around nanotechnology, the science of manipulating individual
atoms to build devices and circuits. Although nanotechnology is being taken
more and more seriously, its possibilities seem positively chimerical. At
its extreme, nanotechnology would allow us to create stuff--anything from
a chair to a blimp--out of practically nothing. 'So many of the things people
do are going to be unnecessary when matter can be rearranged arbitrarily,'
says Andreessen. 'I mean, this gets into all kinds of bizarre stuff. Immortality.
There's no fundamental reason why the breakdown of cell structures is inevitable.'
He pauses to sip some iced tea, waiting to see if I've heard correctly.
'There's no reason...' I begin.'There's no reason death should happen,'
he rushes on. 'There's no reason decay shouldn't be totally repairable.
There's no reason you shouldn't be able to design exactly the body you want.'
The Fortune profile ends with Andreessen looking into the future.
"'You know,' he says, 'within 30 years someone's going to make a shitload
of money in nanotech.'"
The Baltimore Sun
The Baltimore Sun carried a major story headlined "Working
atom by atom" in its July 13, 1996 issue. The story focuses on the
work of two University of Southern California professors, chemist and Nobel
Laureate Dr. George A. Olah and professor of chemical and electrical engineering
Larry R. Dalton. They are working under a $6.7 million Defense Department
grant to develop functioning nanoscale electronic memory devices, which
Dalton estimates are five to ten years away. "Twenty years ago any
reasonable scientist would have said we were crazy. It would have been impossible,"
Dalton is quoted in the article as saying.
At USC, Cornell, Caltech, and the University of North Carolina, "Dalton
and his colleagues are using an STM probe to ...[switch] their chemical
state, changing them to represent ones or zeros-- the fundamental alphabet
of digital memory. The molecules then become 'information bearing units,'
or IBUs. The IBUs are placed at key points on branching molecules called
dendritic polymers, all precisely constructed at the consortium's laboratories.
The IBUs are like knots on a vast and intricate net that is just one molecule
thick. In a computer memory, the polymer lattice might be mounted on a spinning
disc, and its IBUs could be read, written upon and erased by the tip of
an STM," the article says.
The story also reports on techniques being explored at Lawrence Livermore
National Laboratory by Dr. Troy W. Barbee Jr., using "sputtering"
technology to deposit alternating layers of elements a dozen or fewer atoms
thick. One sample of copper-nickel microlayer material has a tensile strength
of 270,000 pounds per square inch--65 percent of its theoretical limit compared
with 3 to 5 percent for normal metals, the story says. Other microlayer
alloys created have hardness approaching diamond, and very high heat tolerance,
with near-term applications in jet turbine blades, the story says. Although
the technique might be considered "top down," it suggests the
magnitude of improvement in material science that can be achieved with molecularly
precise manufacturing techniques.
The Times of London
The Times of London carried a long column by Anjana Ahuja
describing Foresight Institute's announcement of the Feynman
Grand Prize(see Update
24). "Science prizes have a great tradition. The fields of
aviation, space travel and marine navigation have all inspired benefactors
to offer substantial sums to those making great strides forward. Now the
Foresight Institute, a non-profit organization based in San Francisco, California,
will ensure that nanotechnology, which is based on the manipulation of individual
molecules and atoms, joins this prestigious league. The institute is offering
$250,000 (£160,000) to the first individual or group to design and
build a robotic arm to certain specifications."
"There are several ways of fiddling about with individual atoms, the
most well-known of which is the scanning tunnelling microscope," Ahuja
writes. "Although it is a highly visionary view of the future, nanotechnology
aficionadoes...insist that this fledgling science is about to break into
the mainstream. Among those pursuing the field in Britain are the universities
of Cambridge, Oxford and Birmingham."
Nature also prominently covered the Feynman Grand Prize announcement
in its August 22, 1996 issue. "To win the newly announced prize, entrants
must design and construct a functional nanometer-scale robotic arm with
specific performance characteristics, as well as design and construct a
functional nanometer-scale computing device capable of adding two 8-bit
Nanotechnology is an emerging technology based on the ability to assemble
individual molecules and atoms into precise structures," the Nature
story said in part.
The same publication's Nov. 7 issue reported from London that British researchers
into nanotechnology are concerned because the field was not identified as
a priority in Britain's recent Technology Foresight exercise. The concern
is that the omission will result in a lack of funding for needed research.
"New funding has dried up from both the National Initiative on Nanotechnology
and a Nanotechnology Programme backed jointly by the Engineering and Physical
Sciences Research Council and the Department of Trade and Industry,"
Chemtech, published by the American Chemical Society, offers
a monthly "Touring the Internet" guide, which in September featured
seven nanotechnology-related sites, including Ralph
Merkle's at Xerox and Al
Globus's at NASA. The reviewer also discusses the sci.nanotech Usenet
The Futurist, a bi-monthly publication of Coates & Jarratt
Inc., a Washington D.C.-based futurist organization, favorably reviews Nanotechnology:
Molecular Speculations on Global Abundance, edited by B.C. Crandall,
(MIT Press, 1996) in its November-December 1996 issue. "While some
of nanotech's more mainstream applications (e.g. intelligent construction
materials and medical tools) are familiar to many readers, this anthology
describes other, more imaginative and novel uses," the review says.
The book comprises a series of essays, of which the reviewer cites those
by Richard Crawford on cosmetic surgery and other cosmetic alterations,
Edward M. Reifman on dental applications such as diamondoid teeth, and H.
Keith Henson's suggestion that people could experience otherwise lethal
wounds in role-playing sword fights so that "fantasy games would thus
become more real than ever thought possible."
Internet Underground, in its November 1996 issue, carried
a three-page question-and-answer format interview with Foresight Institute
Chairman Eric Drexler, ("FAQ: Rappin' with Molecular Mix-Master Dr.
Dre'") focusing mostly on the increasing use of the World Wide Web
for scientific discourse and Foresight Institute's support for the Web
Enhancement Project. Although the publication's style might be described
as "post-Wired," author Lauren Gonzalez's questions to
Drexler were knowledgeable and focused. For example in discussion of "filtering"
(using reader-selected criteria to display only specific authors or documents)
Gonzalez asks : "In Hypertext
Publishing, you wrote of television being the major medium, yet
it seems poorly suited for critical discussion. If we start filtering, allowing
people to define exactly what they need, in a sense choosing 'channels'
of information, aren't we taking away what makes the Web so different from
television to begin with?" Drexler responds, "Filtering would
certainly let people disappear off into a sub-world of their own. But unlike
television, it wouldn't tend to merge everybody in a particular sub-world--maximizing
the number of viewers...it is crucial that some part of this world make
it possible for the really big life-and-death issues of policy, technology
and the future [to be discussed]."
Prof. Richard E. Smalley, Director of the Center for Nanoscale Science and
Technology at Rice University, who shared the 1996 Nobel Prize in Chemistry
with his collaborators Robert F. Curl and Harold W. Kroto for their 1985
discovery of fullerenes (see this
issue's lead story), maintains an excellent nanotechnology-oriented
web site. The material posted there ranges from general introductions to
his latest technical papers.
Included on his site is the complete text plus illustrations of a general
introductory talk, "Nanotechnology
and the next 50 years," that he gave in December 1995. A somewhat
more technical talk, also presented complete with illustrations, is "From
Balls to Tubes to Ropes: New Materials from Carbon," which he presented
in January 1996. This second talk provides a very informative introduction
to his work, and to the unique properties of fullerenes, providing points
for considering the potential of fullerene research in the development of
Prof. Smalley's list of publications
is available on his site. Of the 211 publications listed, 10 of the most
recent ones are available for downloading, with full text and figures. Perhaps
of particular interest is his recent publication in Nature of the use of
nanotubes as tips for scanning
probe microscopy. One of the most impressive micrographs
published of a scanning force microscope tip is from this paper.
This Web site recently posted by Daniel Mumzhiu, Michael Montemerlo, and
James Ellenbogen of the MITRE Corporation Nanosystems Group announces itself
as "THE Nanoelectronics Home Page provides the Internet Gateway to
nanoelectronics research and development information and resources from
around the world." The site is off to a very good start at living up
to this claim. Most of the material at this site is at an intermediate level
of technical difficulty, accessible to the scientifically literate generalist,
although some material is of more interest to specialists. Excellent illustrations
of various devices are provided.
The site includes brief but informative overviews, with links to additional
material, of quantumcomputers, nanomechanical
computers, and computers
using DNA and other biomolecules. However, the site concentrates on
nanocomputers. Their treatment of electronic nanocomputers includes
both solid state and molecular electronic devices, and the content of their
treatment is both wide and deep. Topics include wireless cellular automata,
resonant tunnelling and single electron devices, quantum dots, and molecular
Other very useful areas include a "Who's
Who in Nanoelectronics". Several dozen experts and researchers
in various areas are grouped according to sub-field of interest and listed,
with a short paragraph on each. There is likewise a very thorough list
of organizations and institutions where work on the field is done.
The description of nanosystems
and nanoelectronics research underway at Mitre reveals a major effort
in computational modeling, focusing on improved electron-density-based quantum
modeling. Their hope is that certain simplifications of the equations of
quantum mechanics will lead to faster and more realistic computer simulation
of the manipulation of nanosystems.
Thanks to major help from Dave Kilbridge, three more back issues of the
#14 and #15)
are now available, with graphics, and six additional issues should be posted
within the next few weeks.
A page has been added for the 1997
Foresight Conference on Molecular Nanotechnology, announcing the conference
and a call for papers, and providing preliminary information on speakers.
As registration and other information becomes available, it will be first
made available here, and after the conference is completed, this site will
serve as an archive for the material presented.
A "What's New?" page
has been added, directly accessible from the home page, so that visitors
to the site can quickly determine what has been added since their last visit.
WebWatch reviews interesting and recently posted nanotechnology-related
materials on the World Wide Web. Jim Lewis, of James B. Lewis Enterprises
in Seattle, is Foresight's Webmaster. He can be reached by email at: email@example.com.
Science Funding Study Heralds Nanotechnology's Promise
A major federal government report "Allocating Federal Funds for Science
and Technology," issued by the National Academy of Sciences, calls
for funding of nanotechnology research. It says, in part:
"In many cases no one firm can capture the full benefits of its investment.
This is generally the case for investment in basic research and can also
apply in development related to emerging technologies. One approach to addressing
this problem is represented by Sematech, an industry consortium created
to improve semiconductor manufacturing, and for which the federal government
provided some initial funding. Federal funding may help to establish such
consortia in limited and highly specific areas and can be appropriate to
support research in consortia formed by industry. In addition, the government
may still have a role in fostering new enabling technologies. Many people
believe that nanotechnology (i.e., at scales of one-billionth of a meter)
and micromanufacturing, for example, offer exciting commercial opportunities."
The entire report
is available online.
Vacuum Society Symposium
The American Vacuum Society, a Member Society of the American Institute
of Physics, is a volunteer-based, non-profit organization dedicated to advancing
the science and technology of vacuum, materials, surfaces, interfaces, thin
films, and plasmas. At its 43rd National Symposium in Philadelphia, October
14-18, AVS offered a number of technical sessions on subjects bearing directly
on nanotechnology. These included:
"Functionalizing of STM Tips with C60" by K.F.
Kelly and three others from Rice University.
"Protein-based Computers and Artificial Retinas," by R.R.
Birge and three others from Syracuse University.
"Single Atomic Point Contact Devices Fabricated with an AFM"
by E.S. Snow and a colleague from Naval Research Laboratory.
"AFM-based Assembly and Characterization of Lateral Single Electron
Tunneling Structures for Room Temperature Operation" by L. Montelius
and four others from Lund University, Sweden.
"Immobiliztion and Patterning of Functional Proteins on Surfaces,"
by R. A. Brizzolara and two colleagues at the Naval Surface Warfare Center.
"Molecular Nanostructures: Functionalized Design, Assembly at
Surfaces and Characterizations of Properties," by T.A. Jung and others
of IBM Zurich Research Laboratory, Switzerland.
"Room Temperature Molecular Manipulation with a Scanning Tunneling
Microscope," a poster presentation by W. W. Pai and three colleagues
from Oak Ridge National Laboratory.
AVS maintains an extensive Web site.
Detailed conference information
including descriptions of each of these and the hundreds of other presentations,
and information on how to contact presenters, can also be found online.