Foresight Update 27 (page 5)
A publication of the Foresight Institute
IBC Conference on Molecular Nanotechnology
By Jim Lewis
The International Business Communications conference on "Biological
Approaches and Novel Applications for Molecular Nanotechnology" was
held December 9-10, 1996, in San Diego, CA. The conference, attended by
about 120 researchers and business leaders, focused on the areas of nanosystems
technology outlined in welcoming remarks by conference Chairperson Allen
J. Bard of the University of Texas at Austin: (1) fabrication, (2) characterization,
(3) connections to the outside world, and (4) near-term applications, particularly
in the areas of sensors, electronic devices, and photodevices.
Within these clearly defined areas of focus, 20 speakers and 6 poster presenters
covered a wide array of technological approaches. This article summarizes
briefly a portion of the interesting work presented.
The results presented at this conference were for the most part focused
on near term applications of nanometer scale technologies, rather than upon
the complex molecular machinery and general molecular manufacturing capabilities
that will come later, and which are the focus of Foresight Institute's efforts.
Nevertheless, the excellent work presented is well worth our attention.
Some of these research efforts offer potential direct paths to the construction
of complex molecular machinery; others would appear to contribute to the
long term goals only indirectly via the development of infrastructure and
the success of industries committed to developing molecular scale technologies.
It is also worth considering that the rapid and varied development of these
technologies brings the possibility that capabilities useful for the development
of molecular manufacturing may come from unexpected directions.
The Monday morning session was largely devoted to scanning probe microscopy.
Dr. Bard described his work with scanning probe electrochemical (SECM) methods
for fabrication and characterization of nanostructures. Although SECM is
not capable of atomic scale resolution, applications to the fabrication
of micrometer and sub-micrometer scale structures by electrochemical deposition
and etching were presented. John T. Thornton of Digital Instruments presented
a wide range of applications of tools made by his company to the study of
biological samples. This includes using mechanical force to induce conformational
changes in certain proteins such as bacteriorhodopsin. Dr. Kong Gay Loh
of TopoMetrix Corporation presented the use of his company's tools for novel
applications, including thermal conductivity characterization of polymers
and near field optical microscopy of individual fluorescent molecules.
Prof. William A. Goddard III of the California Institute of Technology addressed
the use of atomistic molecular dynamic simulations to understand and design
nanosystems. He excited the audience by predicting that the protein fold
prediction problem for sequences up to 50 amino acid residues (such a polypeptide
would have 1023 possible configurations) would be solved within
the coming year, either by a hierarchical folding strategy he described
or by similar efforts of others.
The topic for the afternoon session was programmable self-assembly systems.
Dr. Devens Gust of Arizona State University described his work with complex
organic molecules that mimic photosynthetic electron transfer, and how these
can be used to design molecular optoelectronic switches. Ned Seeman of New
York University (winner of Foresight Institute's 1995
Feynman Prize) presented his recent work on the construction of nanoscale
topological structures using designed DNA molecules. He described progress
toward making the angles in such constructions less floppy by incorporating
double cross-over DNA molecules in triangles constructed of DNA.
Dr. Michael Heller of Nanotronics Inc. and Nanogen Inc. and his collaborator
Prof. Sadik Esener of UC San Diego gave two presentations of the very elegant
work of their groups in using DNA to make micrometer-scale patterns on silicon
surfaces, and their designs to use DNA to control the assembly of molecular
electronic and photonic nanostructured materials. Among the most visually
impressive demonstrations presented at the conference were videos of their
technique of electric field-assisted assembly of DNA structures. Fluorescence-tagged
DNA oligonucleotides in solution were made to hybridize to specific regions
of a silicon chip containing complementary DNA oligonucleotides orders of
magnitude faster than they otherwise would by imposing an electrical bias
on that specific region of the chip. By manipulating where the bias was
applied, DNA molecules could be made to desert their complementary partners
on one section of the chip and to bind to another such section in several
Professor Donald E. Bergstrom of Purdue University presented a wide range
of options to modify the characteristics of DNA by incorporating novel bases
synthesized via organic chemistry, and by modifying the nucleic acid backbone.
Even more interesting were his methods to attach DNA molecules to rigid
small organic molecules so that DNA complementarity can be used to guide
the assembly of small molecules into various larger nanoscale structures.
Dr. Roger Cubicciotti of Biotechnology Development Associates expanded upon
the theme of DNA directing the formation of larger structures by proposing
the use of specially evolved DNA sequences to form molecular switches and
other molecular devices by binding each of two specifc functional molecules,
such as a donor and its associated receptor molecule, and then positioning
these two molecules with respect to each other to elicit the desired function.
The second day of the conference was more heavily focused on micromachinery-based
approaches and applications of less relevance to Foresight Institute's purposes.
Dr. Gregory T. A. Kovacs of Stanford University presented an excellent and
entertaining overview of methods in micromachining, and Dr. Thomas G. Thundat
of Oak Ridge National Laboratory described a wide range of applications
of micromachined sensors. Dr. Thomas Neumann of the University of Washington
and Dr. Gil U. Lee of Naval Research Laboratory each discussed different
applications of micromachined devices to measuring the forces exerted by
specific individual molecules. Dr. Dennis M. Newns of IBM proposed a field
effect transistor based upon the Mott transition in a molecular layer. Dr.
Harry Stylli of Aurora Biosciences Corporation presented a miniaturized
system for high throughput screening for use in drug discovery. Dr. Nir
Kossovsky of Heisenberg Principles, Inc. described their "aquasome"
technology for preventing biomolecules adsorbed to ceramic particles from
The last three talks focused on molecular electronics and photonics. Dr.
David Beratan of the University of Pittsburgh described theoretical studies
of tunneling of electrons through DNA and proteins. Prof. Robert R. Birge
and Jack Tallent, both of Syracuse University, described the rich applications
of bacteriorhodopsin, both the natural molecule and several specially designed
mutations, to holography and to three-dimensional optical associative memory
Table of Contents - Foresight
Senior Associates Program
The Senior Associates Program has been established to provide steady support
for the research projects of the Institute for Molecular Manufacturing,
and for the education and communication projects of the Foresight Institute,
enabling long-term planning and commitments, and providing seed money for
The Senior Associates Program supports vital research and education in molecular
nanotechnology. It enables individuals to play a key role in advancing this
technology and its responsible use through their individual or corporate
By pledging an annual contribution of $250 to $5,000 a year for five years,
Senior Associates join those most committed to making a difference in nanotechnology.
Benefits of becoming a Senior Associate include special publications, online
interaction, and special meetings. Senior Associates will also beta-test
Foresight's Web Enhancement debate software.
Foresight is a nonprofit foundation; donations are tax-deductible in the
U.S. to the full extent permitted by law. Donations can be made by check
from a U.S. bank, postal money order, VISA, or Mastercard. Credit card donations
may be sent by fax.
More about the Senior Associates Program
To contribute, obtain a donation
form on the Foresight Institute World Wide Web site, call 415-917-1122,
fax 415-917-1123, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Table of Contents - Foresight
A Baker's Half Dozen of New Nanotechnology-Related
Book publishers have brought a number of nanotechnology-related books into
print during 1996 or announced plans to do so in early 1997. New offerings
Update readers who possess a copy of any of these books and are interested
in writing a review should contact Update Editor Lew Phelps through
the Foresight office or via email to Lew@PhelpsConsulting.com.
- Future Trends in Microelectronics--Reflections on the Road to
Nanotechnology: Proceedings of the NATO Advanced Research Workshop, Ile
de Bendor, France, July 17-21 1995. By Serge Luryi, Alexander
Zaslavsky and Jimmy Xu. Published by Kluwer, July, 1996. 436 pages. $199.00.
- Nanotechnology in Medicine & the Biosciences. By Richard
Coombs and Dennis Robinson. Published by Gordon & Breach, June 1996.
$90. ISBN: 2-88449-080-9.
- Nanotechnology. By Gregory Timp, to be published by American
Institute of Physics, January 1997. $90. ISBN: 1-56396-321-3.
- Nanotechnology: Molecularly Designed Materials. Edited by Kenneth
E. Gonsalves. Published by American Chemical Society, March 1996.
424 pages. $114.95. Illustrated. ISBN: 0-8412-3392-6.
- Molecular Manufacturing. Edited by Sergei Vakula and Claudio
Nicolini. Published by Plenum, April 1996. 222 pages. $79.50. Illustrated.
- Nanotechnology: Molecular Speculations on Global Abundance.
Edited by, B. C. Crandall. Published by MIT Press, May 1996. 224 pages.
$17.00 paperback. Illustrated, ISBN: 0-262-03237-6.
- Nanofabrication & Biosystems: Integrating Materials Science,
Engineering & Biology Edited by Harvey C. Hoch,, Lynn W. Jelinski
and Harold G. Craighead. Published by Cambridge University Press, June 1996.
480 pages. $125.00. Illustrated. ISBN: 0-521-46264-9.
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Nanotechnology Books Available from Foresight
Foresight Institute stocks for sale most of the significant books discussing
nanotechnology and its potential impacts. These include:
Shipping and handling, and California sales tax for CA residents, need to
be added. For more information, or to order, contact Foresight Institute
at 415-917-1122, email inform@foresight. org, or download the order
- Nanosystems: Molecular Machinery, Manufacturing and Computation,
by K. Eric Drexler (1992, Wiley Interscience, paperback) $24.95.
- Nanotechnology: Research and Perspectives, edited by BC Crandall
and James Lewis (1992, MIT Press, hardbound) $39.95.
- Unbounding the Future: The Nanotechnology Revolution, by K.
Eric Drexler, Chris Peterson & Gayle Pergamit (1991, Morrow, paperback)
- Engines of Creation: The Coming Era in Nanotechnology, by K.
Eric Drexler (1986, Doubleday, paperback) $10.95.
- Nanotechnology Playhouse, by Christopher Lampton (1993, Waite,
- Prospects in Nanotechnology: Toward Molecular Manufacturing,
edited by Markus Krummenacker and James Lewis (1995, Wiley, hardbound),
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Special thanks this issue go to Gayle Pergamit for serving along with me
as co-host for the Senior Associates Gathering; Russell Whitaker for ongoing
Hyper-G assistance; all the speakers at the Senior Associates Gathering
(including those who weren't warned in advance, e.g. Russell Whitaker, Jim
Von Ehr, and Mark Miller); Patrick Salsbury for demoing software at the
Gathering; Tanya Sienko for news on nanotechnology in Japan; Philippe Van
Nedervelde for sending a European report on nanotechnology; Dave Kilbridge
for doing lots of html for our web site; and many others--this column can
no longer fit in all who should be thanked, so many are helping now.
For sending information, we thank Frank Bourgeois, M. Colpitts, Dave Forrest,
John Gilmore, Al Globus, Frank Glover, Roy Gordet, Marie-Louise Kagan, Alan
Lovejoy, Scott MacLaren, Tom McKendree, Stuart McHugh, Ralph Merkle, Mark
Miller, Anthony Napier, John Papiewski, Mike Pique, Gary Pullar, Gregory
Sullivan, Eric Tilenius, and Will Ware.
-Chris Peterson, Director
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Biomolecular Design, Form and Function
Feb. 1-5, Ft. Lauderdale, FL; Nature Biotechnology. Self-assembly, protein
design. Tel 305-243-3597, fax 305-324-5665, email email@example.com
Chemistry and Physics of Small-Scale Structures
Optical Society of America, Feb. 9-11, Santa Fe. Includes some self-assembly;
STM nanofabrication. Tel 202-416-1980, fax 202-416-6100, email firstname.lastname@example.org,
Science Forum on Nanoscale Science and Technology
NATO Advanced Research Workshop, March, Spain, invitational. Dr. M. Nieto-Vesperinas,
Inst. Cienca de Materiales, C-III, Universidad Autonoma, Cantoblanco, E-28049,
Madrid, Spain. Web http://www.wkap.nl/natopco/arw_97_1.htm
European Workshop on Microtechnology and Scanning Probe Microscopy
April 7-9, Mainz, Germany. Goal: to discuss needs of next generation SPMs,
"an important prerequisite for advances in nanotechnology." Dr.
Abraham, tel +49-6131-990-130, fax +49-6131-990-305, email email@example.com,
Second European Symposium of the Protein Society
April 12-16, Cambridge, England. Includes protein design. Tel 301-530-7010,
fax 301-530-7014, email firstname.lastname@example.org,
Belarausian State Univ, May 19-23, Minsk, Belarus. Includes nanotechnology,
atomic engineering instruments, software for nanotechnological instrumentation,
"chemical synthesis of nanostructures on the basis of scanning probe
fabrication." Prof. Borisenko, tel +375-172-398-869, fax +375-172-310-914,
Ninth International Precision Engineering Seminar & Fourth International
Conference on Ultraprecision in Manufacturing Engineering
May 26-30, Braunschweig, Germany. Includes SPM; "Trends and Priorities
in Precision Engineering and Nanotechnology." Tel +49-531-592-5300,
fax +49-531-592-5305, email IPES-UME@ptb.de
On the Edge: Exploring Tomorrow's High-Risk, High-Payoff Technologies
Index Vanguard, July 15-16, Philadelphia. Includes nanotechnology and ultrascale
computing. Index Vanguard, Cambridge, MA; Tel 617-492-1500, Web http://www.csc.com/csc_vanguard/u_recent_schedule.html#jul
American Vacuum Society Annual Meeting
Oct 20-24, San Jose, CA. Includes nanoscale science & technology. Tel
212-248-0200, fax 212-248-0245, email email@example.com,
Fifth Foresight Conference on Molecular Nanotechnology
Nov. 5-9, Palo Alto, CA. Enabling science and technology, computational
models. A list of distinguished speakers have already been confirmed for
the conference: Richard Smalley (keynote), Phaedon Avouris, Eric Drexler,
James Gimzewski, Al Globus, William A. Goddard III, Ralph C. Merkle, and
Nadrian C. Seeman. For more information browse
the Web. Contact Foresight, tel 415-917-1122, fax 415-917-1123, email
7th International Symposium on Molecular Electronics and Biocomputing
Nov. 10-12, Nanjing, PR China. Tel +86-25-361-9983, fax +86-25-771-2719,
email firstname.lastname@example.org, Web http://www.lmbe.seu.edu.cn/welcome.html
Table of Contents - Foresight
From Foresight Update 27, originally published 30
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