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Foresight Update 28 (page 2)

A publication of the Foresight Institute

Table of Contents - Foresight Update 28

Foresight Creates $1,000 Annual Award For Leading Nanotechnology Student

Foresight Institute has created an academic grant to recognize the most promising student in the rapidly developing field of nanotechnology.

The Foresight Institute Distinguished Student Award will provide a $1,000 award each year to the college undergraduate or graduate student whose work in nanotechnology is deemed most notable. The winning student will be selected by Dr. J. Storrs (Josh) Hall of Rutgers University, moderator of the sci.nanotech newsgroup on the Internet, and the Foresight board of directors.

The award, provided for the next four years through the generosity of computer industry entrepreneur Jim Von Ehr of Macromedia Inc., is intended primarily to allow the winning student to attend Foresight Institute's Conference on Molecular Nanotechnology, which is held in odd-numbered years to bring together leaders in nanotechnology research, or the Foresight Senior Associates Gathering, held in even-numbered years for researchers and supporters of nanotechnology research.

The Foresight Institute Distinguished Student Award institutionalizes the first grant made in 1996 by Foresight to John M. Michelsen, a University of California at Irvine chemistry student. Michelsen's work, "Atomically Precise, 3D Organic Nanofabrication: Reactive Lattice Subunit Design for Inverse AFM/STM Positioning," is described on the Web (see Web Watch in this issue).

"I found John's discussion of his work on the World Wide Web last year, and was so impressed that I wanted to make sure we got him involved in last fall's Senior Associates Gathering," said Von Ehr. "Later, it seemed like such a good idea to bring bright and promising students into the mix that we decided to make the award more permanent. We hope it will further stimulate the burgeoning interest in nanotechnology study on campuses around the country."

Persons interested in nominating themselves or others for the award should contact Josh Hall via sci.nanotech, or Foresight Institute by e-mail at, or by calling Foresight Institute at (415) 917-1122. Entries for this year's award must be submitted by September 1, 1997. The winner will be selected in time to allow attendance at the November 1997 Conference on Molecular Nanotechnology in Palo Alto.

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Matching Grant Program Encourages Much New Senior Associate Participation

A $40,000 matching grant offered in late 1996 by a generous long-time Senior Associate proved even more beneficial than expected. Because of the grant, Foresight received 20 new Senior Associate memberships, several increases in membership level, and nearly $10,000 in one-time donations, according to Foresight Executive Director Chris Peterson.

"Matching grants work wonderfully well," Peterson said. "The $40,000 donation was extremely helpful, even standing alone. Combined with the generosity of others who were motivated by the opportunity to leverage their own gifts, it has helped Foresight Institute achieve a stronger financial footing than we have enjoyed for some time. We are very grateful to everyone who participated in the project, and most especially to our matching grant donor."

Inspired by the matching grant, Foresight supporters pledged $22,802.86 for new or upgraded Senior Associate memberships and one-time gifts-- more than sufficient to meet the two-for-one matching requirement of the grant.

"With the focus on nanotechnology in the technical community rapidly turning from 'can this be done?' to 'here's how we can do this!', the role of Foresight Institute in leading public policy discussions becomes ever more important," Peterson said. "The support of Senior Associates is invaluable in providing the resources to continue our many initiatives, including an impressive and increasing World Wide Web presence, our online discussion forum and expanded newsletter, and increasing technical discussions in our biennial Nanotechnology Conferences and elsewhere."

Table of Contents - Foresight Update 28

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 new efforts.

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 contributions.

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.

To contribute, obtain a donation form on the Foresight Institute World Wide Web site, call 415-917-1122, fax 415-917-1123, or email

Table of Contents - Foresight Update 28

Ralph Merkle Joins Foresight Board; Chris Peterson Named Executive Director

Ralph Merkle, a leading computational nanotechnologist at Xerox Palo Alto Research Center, was elected in January to the Board of Directors of Foresight Institute. He replaces Chris Peterson, who resigned from the Board to accept a new position as Executive Director of Foresight Institute. Peterson served as an unpaid Director of the organization since it was founded.

"Ralph's leadership at the Foresight Institute, and in the field generally, have established him as one of the leading nanotechnology researchers," said Foresight Chairman K. Eric Drexler. "He has chaired the most successful biennial Molecular Nanotechnology conference in Foresight's history, contributed thoughtfully to public discussion of the ramifications of nanotechnology, and still finds time to conduct brilliant creative research in nanotechnology engineering. He is a welcome addition to our Board."

Foresight's staff now numbers six people - Office Manager Judy Hill, Membership Services Coordinator Elaine Tschorn, Webmaster Jim Lewis in Seattle, Update Editor Lew Phelps in Pasadena, CA., Conference Coordinator and Graphic Designer Marcia Seidler, and Peterson.

Table of Contents - Foresight Update 28

Web Watch

John Michelsen's Web site has a large section on molecular nanotechnology that focuses on technical aspects of diamondoid mechanosynthesis, and also includes discussion of using larger molecular building blocks for positional synthesis. It provides a lot of food for thought for anyone interested in paths from current technology to molecular manufacturing. The material is well-presented but quite technical, so those who are familiar with Nanosystems and have a good chemistry background will have an easier time following the arguments than will those who encounter diamondoid molecular machinery here for the first time. The document is well-linked to related material on the Web.

The major nanotechnology-related component of the site is a large document entitled "Atomically Precise, 3D Organic Nanofabrication: Reactive Lattice Subunit Design for Inverse AFM/STM Positioning." It begins with a clear and concise introduction to diamondoid molecular machinery, followed by a section on mechanosynthesis that presents novel, detailed reagent preparation proposals. A particularly useful feature of this and other sections is the availability of atomic coordinates (PDB files) for many of the proposed structures, so that users with the appropriate software can examine in detail the proposed atomically detailed structures.

A section on "Diamondoid Analog Machinery" discusses how using larger subunits, such as aryl rings, relaxes the imaging resolution and positional accuracy necessary to make mechanosynthesis work, and how interpenetrating lattices might present a solution to the "zeolite effect" that arises when using molecular building blocks. There is a section on tip arrays for use in AFM-based positional synthesis, based upon a proposed atomically precise tip, composed of phenylacetylene rods, for inverse imaging of the AFM tip. Michelsen claims that "The approach presented here, in contrast to much work done in two dimensional surface patterning, aims towards atomically precise organic nanofabrication in three dimensions." Site visitors interested in considering this claim will find specific proposals to evaluate. Another nice feature of this site is that Michelsen posts (and responds to) critiques of his ideas.

Markus Krummenacker's web site contains the paper "Steps toward molecular manufacturing", which was published in 1994 in Chem. Design Autom. News, and which is based upon his work that was supported by IMM. This paper presents a discussion of design rules for molecular building blocks to be used along a pathway for development of a primitive assembler. As an alternative to approaches based upon folding polymers, Krummenacker considers the problem of designing small molecular building blocks (MBB's) able to form covalent bonds in three dimensions. Such MBB's would be an important advance over current attempts to design solids using weak, noncovalent bonds to hold the parts together.

After exploring various issues with linking small organic molecules together to form MBB's, Krummenacker concludes that the approaches considered lead to lattices of MBB's with large empty cavities (the "zeolite effect"), with consequently compromised mechanical properties. Atomic coordinates (PDB files) are provided for a pair of proposed MBB's that illustrate some of the trade-offs in MBB design.

Motivated by the need to find a way to fill cavities to reduce the zeolite effect, Krummenacker is developing a program called CavityStuffer to pack a defined volume with a branched polymer. A PDB file of a "tree molecule" produced by the current, very early implementation of the program, is available as an example of the output of the program. The program files and information on setting up and running the program are available for those who would like to contribute to the further development of CavityStuffer.

Thanks to Eugene Leitl for posting on the sci.nanotech news group a pointer to this scanning probe microscopy homepage. This page provides a very extensive list of annotated links to the Web pages of groups doing scanning probe microscopy (79 links in this section as of 2/7/97), companies selling equipment, journals publishing results, and professional societies involved with scanning probe microscopy and related technologies.

The following are a few links from this page that led to web sites with large amounts of useful technical information on SPM. The STM group at the University of Nottingham presents an html version of a published paper on using STM to manipulate C60 molecules on a silicon surface . The web site maintained by Paul Weiss's group at Pennsylvania State University offers a wealth of publication abstracts and images concerning interactions of atoms with surfaces, and ways to extend the capabilities of the STM. The web site for Nanoscale Physics at Purdue University provides a collection of pictures and papers dealing with SPM of nanoscale structures. This group is part of the Purdue Nanotechnology Initiative, which focuses on demonstrating "novel techniques for the design and fabrication of nanoelectronic devices by the chemical manipulation of nanometer (10-9 meters) sized clusters and molecular wires."

Table of Contents - Foresight Update 28

Foresight Update 28 was originally published 30 March 1997.
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