|(Nanowerk News) Moving nanotechnology to market also involves addressing challenges regarding information and communication management. This year’s 5th NanoRegulation Conference will bring together executive representatives from industry companies and associations, authorities, NGOs and politics to discuss how to add transparency to the black box of nanotechnologies. The attending speakers represent all relevant stakeholders and participants will get the opportunity to contribute to concrete solutions during expert moderated workshop sessions.|
|The internationally renowned NanoRegulation Conference will again take place in the context of the NanoEurope Symposium, but this year in Rapperswil at the lake of Zurich from 25th to 26th of November 2009.|
|To guarantee a sustainable development of nanotechnologies, consumers need to know what they buy, retailers need to know what they sell, and processors and recyclers need to know what they handle. However, the relevant nanospecific information often does not reach these recipients because there is no obligation for transfer of nanospecific information. Nanomaterials are likely to become “black boxes” in terms of information; as a consequence, consumer confidence decreases and politicians, NGO and consumer advocates are calling for transparency, declaration and labelling. This leads to a big challenge for nano-regulators and the industry. The conference will bring together all relevant stakeholders to tackle the respective challenges.|
|The European Parliament unmistakably stated in its 2009 report on regulatory aspects of nanomaterials: “No data, no market”. The members of the European Parliament wanted manufactured nanomaterials to be treated as new substances, requiring extensive safety testing and mandatory labelling.|
|The first day of the 5th NanoRegulation Conference will provide a comprehensive overview on the political and regulatory background of nanotechnology governance on the national, European and global level. In the light of the European Parliament calling for adaptations of the regulatory framework regarding manufactured nanomaterials, what will be the strategy of the European Commission? Which nano-specific information is indispensable for authorities and consumers? Which instruments for communication and transfer of nano-specific information along the value chain are available??|
|Disclosure of nanospecific information along the value chain: Must have or nice to have? REACH and other European Chemicals Acts clearly shift the responsibility to ensure safe products to manufacturers and those who put them on the market. However, it remains unclear what kind of nanospecific information is needed at the different stages in the product life cycle, and how it should be delivered.|
|The second day of the 5th NanoRegulation Conference will bring together the different members of the nanotechnology value chain to discuss who needs what kind of information. Three workshops will offer the participants the opportunity to point out their opinions, discuss them and suggest strategic guidelines for a feasible and effective information policy along the value chain and towards external stakeholders.|
|Who should attend|
|The NanoRegulation conference is addressed to executive representatives from international regulatory bodies, industry and insurance companies, scientists, NGO, associations, politicians, the media and the interested public.|
|You can register online here.|
Friday, August 14, 2009
Researchers at MIT have for the first time shown that carbon nanotubes can grow without a metal catalyst. The researchers demonstrate that zirconium oxide, the same compound found in cubic zirconia "fake diamonds," can also grow nanotubes, but without the unwanted side effects of metal. Another advance on fabricating carbon nanomaterials has been reported by a Northwestern University professor and his students, who have found a new way of turning graphite oxide – a low-cost insulator made by oxidizing graphite powder – into graphene, a hotly studied material that conducts electricity. In this flash reduction process, researchers simply hold a consumer camera flash over the graphite oxide and, a flash later, the material is now a piece of fluffy graphene.
If man-made devices could be combined with biological machines, laptops and other electronic devices could get a boost in operating efficiency. Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory researchers have devised a versatile hybrid platform that uses lipid-coated nanowires to build prototype bionanoelectronic devices.
When bees sting, they pump poison into their victims. Now the toxin in bee venom has been harnessed to kill tumor cells by researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis. The researchers attached the major component of bee venom to nano-sized spheres that they call nanobees.
In other news in cancer-fighting nanomedicine, researchers at Wake Forest University have increased the tumor-killing power of carbon nanotubes by encasing them in DNA. The DNA-encasement of the tubes actually increased the amount of heat produced upon irradiation of the nanotubes with near-infrared light and appears to be a promising new tool for hyperthermia applications.
Growing – and precisely aligning – spear-shaped zinc oxide crystals with a diameter of 100-200 nm on a surface of single-crystal silicon, researchers at Missouri University of Science and Technology may have developed a method to make more efficient solar cells. By growing zinc oxide on top of the silicon, you're putting two semiconductors on top of each other, thereby widening the spectrum from which a solar cell could draw light.
Innovations-Briefing 'Smart Materials' an der Empa: Investition in intelligente Materialien lohnt sich
|Innovations-Briefing 'Smart Materials' an der Empa: Investition in intelligente Materialien lohnt sich|
|(Nanowerk News) Das Thema "Intelligente Materialien und Systeme" hat Zukunft - darüber sind sich Wissenschaftler und Politikerinnen einig. Deshalb lud die Förderagentur für Innovation KTI zum Innovations-Briefing zum Thema "Smart Materials". Interessierte aus Industrie und Forschung informierten sich an der Empa-Akademie über neue Fördermassnahmen des Bundes und das nationale Forschungsprogramm NFP 62 "Smart Materials". Die Empa und andere Forschungsinstitutionen stellten ihre neuesten Forschungsprojekte vor und zeigten, wo Wissenschaft und Unternehmen erfolgreich kooperieren können.|
|"Wir wollen den KMUs und der Industrie helfen, sich auf dem revolutionären Zukunftsmarkt der "intelligenten Materialien" zu positionieren", fasste Ingrid Kissling-Näf, Leiterin der Förderagentur für Innovation KTI, die Ziele des nationalen Innovations-Briefings am 13. August zusammen. Sie glaube daran, dass mit dem innovativen Thema zahlreiche neue Arbeitsplätze entstehen können und die Schweizer Wirtschaftskraft gestärkt wird. Die von der KTI initiierten Innovations-Briefings - es fanden bereits Veranstaltungen statt zu Themen wie Saubere Technologien für Energie und für Umwelt - dienten dazu, Unternehmer und Forscher zusammenzubringen, um gemeinsame Projekte zu skizzieren und in die Wege zu leiten.|
|Smart Materials bieten Lösungen für viele Probleme|
|Wie erfolgreiche Forschungspartnerschaften zustande kommen, davon wusste Josef Keller, Technologietransfer-Experte des Branchenverbands Swissmem, zu berichten: "Schweizer Forscher nehmen in der Wissensgenerierung zwar eine Spitzenposition ein. Doch das garantiert nicht automatisch einen erfolgreichen Wissenstransfer. Denn die Industrie will zuerst ihre ureigensten Probleme gelöst haben." Es gelte zunächst, zu vermitteln und Vertrauen zu schaffen, erläuterte Keller den ZuhörerInnen aus Unternehmen des Maschinenbaus, der Elektrotechnik und des Energiebereichs, der Medizinaltechnik, des Baugewerbes und der Uhrenindustrie. Am Anlass in der Empa-Akademie gab es denn auch Gelegenheiten genug, sich in lockerem Rahmen bei Apéro oder Poster-Ausstellung kennen zu lernen, um von den Ideen oder Fragestellungen des Gegenübers zu erfahren. ExpertInnen von KTI, SNF und Empa-Technologietransfer-Stelle waren bereit, im Gespräch konkrete Tipps zu Förderangeboten abzugeben.|
|Aus intelligenten, nachgiebigen Materialsystemen lassen sich preiswerte Werkzeuge herstellen. Der Greifarm dieses Roboters ist aus einem Guss gefertigt.|
|"Smart Materials bieten der Industrie elegante, massgeschneiderte Antworten auf unterschiedlichste Fragen", ist Louis Schlapbach, Präsident der Leitungsgruppe des NFP 62 "Smart Materials" und ehemaliger Direktor der Empa, überzeugt. Die Materialien würden deswegen als intelligent bezeichnet, weil sie sich der Umgebung je nach Situation optimal anpassen können, erklärte Schlapbach. "Smarte Materialien ändern ihre physikalischen, chemischen oder biologischen Eigenschaften, wenn sie von aussen stimuliert werden. Fällt der Stimulus weg, kehren sie in ihren ursprünglichen Zustand zurück."|
|Nationalfonds und KTI bieten finanzielle und organisatorische Hilfestellung|
|Vorstellbar sei zum Beispiel eine Smart-Material-Schraube für den Einsatz im Medizinalbereich: Eine Fünfzehnjährige mit Beinbruch nach einem Skiunfall benötige keine stabilisierende Schraube für das ganze Leben. Wird die "intelligente" Schraube nach erfolgter Heilung nicht mehr benötigt, könnte sie durch einen äusseren Stimulus angeregt werden, sich vom Gewebe zu lösen und liesse sich so wesentlich leichter operativ entfernen. In dem von Schlapbach geleiteten und vom Schweizerischen Nationalfonds finanzierten Programm stehen für derartige Projektideen in den nächsten fünf Jahren Mittel in Höhe von 11 Mio. Schweizer Franken bereit. Von 80 Gruppen, die Anfang 2009 eine erste Projektskizze eingereicht hatten, sind vor kurzem 27 eingeladen worden, einen ausführlicheren Antrag auszuarbeiten. Darunter auch sieben Projektanträge der Empa. Das Besondere am NFP 62: Erweisen sich die Projekte dann nach der Startphase als marktfähig, werden sie der KTI zur weiteren Förderung in einem Folgeprojekt mit Industriepartnern empfohlen. So soll sichergestellt werden, dass die Forschungsresultate auch tatsächlich ihren Weg in den Markt finden.|
|Grosses Spektrum an Einsatzmöglichkeiten|
|In welchen Bereichen smarte Materialsysteme zum Einsatz kommen können, beleuchteten Ingenieure und Materialwissenschaftler der Empa und anderer Forschungsinstitutionen in verschiedenen Kurzvorträgen. "Eine der schönsten Aufgaben für uns Ingenieure ist es, Materialeigenschaften geschickt und effizient in funktionelle Eigenschaften umzuwandeln, mit den richtigen Anwendungen zu verbinden und daraus innovative Produkte zu schaffen", meinte Paolo Ermanni vom "Institut für Mechanische Systeme" der ETH Zürich und zusammen mit Empa-Forscher Edoardo Mazza Leiter des Empa-Forschungsprogramms "Adaptive Werkstoffsysteme". Die Anwendungen reichen von intelligenten Systemen zur Dämpfung von Vibrationen für Karosserien im Autobau, über Smart Materials für Bauteile in der Raumfahrt, die sich während des Flugs überwachen lassen, bis zu Materialien aus Formgedächtnislegierungen, etwa für Ventile, die sich bei gewissen Temperaturen öffnen beziehungsweise schliessen.|
|Nicht nur Ventile lassen sich auf diese Weise ansteuern, auch neuartige optische Linsen sind im Blickpunkt der "smarten" Materialforscher. Der ETH-Startup "Optotune" entwickelt an der Empa Linsen, die sich mit "künstlichen Muskeln" verformen lassen. Ziel ist die Nachahmung des menschlichen Auges. Traditionelle Linsensysteme basieren auf starren Linsen, welche mechanisch positioniert werden. Dank elektroaktiven Polymeren (EAP) ist es jedoch möglich, die Linse selbst zu verformen und so die Wirkungsweise des Auges zu kopieren. Dies geschieht durch das kontrollierte Anlegen von elektrischer Spannung, die die Linse in die gewünschte Krümmung bringt.|
|Das Empa-Luftschiff "Blimp" bewegt sich wie eine Forelle im Wasser: An der Hülle und den "Flossen" befinden sich EAP-Aktuatoren.|
|Künstliche Muskeln können gar einen Fisch zum Fliegen bringen. Kürzlich segelte ein acht Meter langes Luftschiff durch die Empa-Hallen; es bewegt sich wie eine Forelle im Wasser. An der Hülle und den "Flossen" befinden sich EAP-Aktuatoren. Durch das An- und Abschalten einer elektrischen Spannung dehnen sich diese aus beziehungsweise ziehen sich wieder zusammen. So bewegt sich der "Fisch" geräuschlos und sanft mit einer Geschwindigkeit von einem Meter pro Sekunde durch die Luft. Ein derartiges Luftschiff eignet sich besonders gut als Beobachtungsplattform für Umwelt- oder Wildtierüberwachung. Das Prinzip lässt sich durchaus auch auf peristaltische Pumpen übertragen.|
|Ein weiteres Einsatzgebiet sind "Compliant Systems", also nachgiebige Systeme, wie sie die Empa- und ETH-Forschungsinitiative "kompliant.ch" entwickelt. Diese sind flexibel genug, um grosse Verformungen zuzulassen, gleichzeitig aber auch fest genug, um grosse Belastungen auszuhalten. Aus derartigen intelligenten Materialien lassen sich Werkzeuge kostengünstig und aus einem Guss herstellen. Sie sind geometrisch so konstruiert, dass sie Kraft ohne Gelenke übertragen können. Im Gegensatz zu herkömmlichen Mechanismen beruht ihre Verformbarkeit nicht auf dem Gleiten starrer Elemente aufeinander, sondern auf elastischer Verformung im Material.|
|In der Empa-Abteilung "Ingenieur-Strukturen" schliesslich bekämpft eine Forschungsgruppe mit "smarten" Materialien erfolgreich Schwingungen an Schrägseilbrücken. In Zusammenarbeit mit der Industrie entwickelte sie adaptive Schwingungsdämpfer. Diese Feedback-geregelten, "magnetorheologischen Fluiddämpfer" (MR-Dämpfer) verändern ihre Dämpfungskraft je nach tatsächlich vorhandener Seilschwingung: Je heftiger die Seile auf und ab schwingen - dies misst ein Bewegungssensor -, desto grösser wird die Dämpfkraft. So können Ermüdungsbrüche an Litzen verhindert werden. Installiert sind derartige Dämpfer etwa auf der Tudjman-Brücke in Dubrovnik und auf der chinesischen Sutong-Schrägseilbrücke über den Yangtse.|
ScienceDaily (Aug. 14, 2009) — A research collaboration between Munich-based biophysicists and a structural biologist in Hamburg is helping to explain why our muscles, and those of other animals, don't simply fall apart under stress. Their findings may have implications for fields as diverse as medical research and nanotechnology.
The real strength of any skeletal muscle doesn't start with exercise; it comes ultimately from nanoscale biological building blocks. One key element is a bond involving titin, a giant among proteins. Titin is considered a molecular "ruler" along which the whole muscle structure is aligned, and it acts as an elastic spring when a muscle is stretched.
Titin plays a role in a wide variety of muscle functions, and these in turn hinge on the stability with which it is anchored in a structure called the sarcomeric Z-disk. Research published in 2006 showed this anchor to be a rare palindromic arrangement of proteins – that is, it "reads" the same way forward and backward – in which two titin molecules are connected by another muscle protein, telethonin. Simulations have pointed toward a network of tight hydrogen bonds linking titin and telethonin as a source of stability. But direct measurements that would further advance this investigation have been lacking, until today's publication of experimental results in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS). The authors are Prof. Matthias Rief and Morten Bertz, M.Sc., of the Technische Universität München (TUM) – who also are members of a Munich-based "excellence cluster" called the Center for Integrated Protein Science – and Prof. Matthias Wilmanns of the European Molecular Biology Laboratory in Hamburg.
These first-ever measurements of mechanical stability in the titin-telethonin protein complex show it to be a highly "directed" bond, extremely strong but only along the lines of natural physiological stress. Thus even at the nanoscale, this complex is oriented to resist forces that reflect the macroscale function of the organism – contraction and relaxation of skeletal muscles.
Advanced biological and physical techniques gave the researchers a handle on this nanoscale "anchor" – basically allowing them to pull on the bond from various directions and measure its performance under stress. Single-molecule force spectroscopy was performed on a custom-built atomic force microscope. Well characterized mechanical "fingerprints" made it possible to distinguish single-molecule events from non-specific interactions as well as from multi-molecule events.
Their measurements confirm that in the direction that corresponds to muscular contraction and relaxation, the titin-telethonin complex is the strongest protein bond found so far in nature. When force was applied in different directions, the proteins of the complex slid apart. The bond can be compared to a mechanical hook that holds fast when pulled upward but otherwise uncouples easily.
The researchers anticipate that directedness of protein bonds will be an important concept in studying a variety of other molecular complexes that nature subjects to mechanical strain in living organisms. Better understanding could potentially inform physiological research and biomedical applications. Such insights might also inspire biomimetic research and design for nanotechnology.
The research is supported by the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft, DFG grant RI990/3/1.
"The principles of physics, as far as I can see, do not speak against the possibility of maneuvering things atom by atom. It is not an attempt to violate any laws; it is something, in principle, that can be done; but in practice, it has not been done because we are too big."
— Richard Feynman, Nobel Prize winner in physics
- Common Questions on Nanotechnology
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Nanotechnology is the engineering of tiny machines — the projected ability to build things from the bottom up inside personal nanofactories (PNs), using techniques and tools being developed today to make complete, highly advanced products. Ultimately, nanotechnology will enable control of matter at the nanometer scale, using mechanochemistry. Shortly after this envisioned molecular machinery is created, it will result in a manufacturing revolution, probably causing severe disruption. It also has serious economic, social, environmental, and military implications.
A nanometer is one billionth of a meter, roughly the width of three or four atoms. The average human hair is about 25,000 nanometers wide.
It's a proposed new appliance, something that might sit on a countertop in your home. To build a personal nanofactory (PN), you need to start with a working fabricator, a nanoscale device that can combine individual molecules into useful shapes. A fabricator could build a very small nanofactory, which then could build another one twice as big, and so on. Within a period of weeks, you have a tabletop model.
Products made by a PN will be assembled from nanoblocks, which will be fabricated within the nanofactory. Computer aided design (CAD) programs will make it possible to create state-of-the-art products simply by specifying a pattern of predesigned nanoblocks. The question of when we will see a flood of nano-built products boils down to the question of how quickly the first fabricator can be designed and built.
MOVIE TIME: A short film called Productive Nanosystems: from Molecules to Superproducts depicts an animated view of a nanofactory and demonstrates key steps in the sample process that converts basic molecules into a billion-CPU laptop computer. The 4-minute streaming video is online here.
|Lifesaving medical robots or untraceable weapons of mass destruction.|
|Networked computers for everyone in the world or networked cameras so governments can watch our every move.|
|Trillions of dollars of abundance or a vicious scramble to own everything.|
|Rapid invention of wondrous products or weapons development fast enough to destabilize any arms race.|
It's a bit like enzymes (if you know your chemistry): you fix onto a molecule or two, then twist or pull or push in a precise way until a chemical reaction happens right where you want it. This happens in a vacuum, so you don't have water molecules bumping around. It's a lot more controllable that way.
So, if you want to add an atom to a surface, you start with that atom bound to a molecule called a "tool tip" at the end of a mechanical manipulator. You move the atom to the point where you want it to end up. You move the atom next to the surface, and make sure that it has a weaker bond to the tool tip than to the surface. When you bring them close enough, the bond will transfer. This is ordinary chemistry: an atom moving from one molecule to another when they come close enough to each other, and when the movement is energetically favorable. What's different about mechanochemistry is that the tool tip molecule can be positioned by direct computer control, so you can do this one reaction at a wide variety of sites on the surface. Just a few reactions give you a lot of flexibility in what you make.
MECHANOSYNTHETIC REACTIONS Based on quantum chemistry by Walch and Merkle [Nanotechnology, 9, 285 (1998)], to deposit carbon, a device moves a vinylidenecarbene along a barrier-free path to bond to a diamond (100) surface dimer, twists 90° to break a pi bond, and then pulls to cleave the remaining sigma bond.
The whole concept of advanced nanotechnology — molecular manufacturing (MM) — is so complex and unfamiliar, and so staggering in its implications, that a few scientists, engineers, and other pundits have flatly declared it to be impossible. The debate is further confused by science-fictional hype and media misconceptions.
It should be noted that none of those who dismiss MM are experts in the field. They may work in chemistry, biotechnology, or other nanoscale sciences or technologies, but are not sufficiently familiar with MM theory to critique it meaningfully.
Many of the objections, including those of the late Richard Smalley, do not address the actual published proposals for MM. The rest are unfounded and incorrect assertions, contradicted by detailed calculations based on the relevant physical laws.
Nanotechnology offers great potential for benefit to humankind, and also brings severe dangers. While it is appropriate to examine carefully the risks and possible toxicity of nanoparticles and other products of nanoscale technology, the greatest hazards are posed by malicious or unwise use of molecular manufacturing. CRN's focus is on designing and promoting mechanisms for safe development and effective administration of MM.
Viewed with pessimism, molecular manufacturing could appear far too risky to be allowed to develop to anywhere near its full potential. However, a naive approach to limiting R&D, such as relinquishment, is flawed for at least two reasons. First, it will almost certainly be impossible to prevent the development of MM somewhere in the world. China, Japan, and other Asian nations have thriving nanotechnology programs, and the rapid advance of enabling technologies such as biotechnology, MEMS, and scanning-probe microscopy ensures that R&D efforts will be far easier in the near future than they are today. Second, MM will provide benefits that are simply too good to pass up, including environmental repair; clean, cheap, and efficient manufacturing; medical breakthroughs; immensely powerful computers; and easier access to space.
The dangers of self-replicating nanobots — the so-called grey goo — have been widely discussed, and it is generally perceived that molecular manufacturing is uncomfortably close to grey goo. However, the proposed production system that CRN supports does not involve free-floating assemblers or nanobots, but much larger factories with all the nanoscale machinery fastened down and inert without external control. As far as we know, a self-replicating mechanochemical nanobot is not excluded by the laws of physics, but such a thing would be extremely difficult to design and build even with a full molecular manufacturing capability. Fiction like Michael Crichton's Prey might be good entertainment, but it's not very good science.
Based on our studies, CRN believes that molecular manufacturing could be successfully developed within the next ten years, and almost certainly will be developed within twenty years. For more, see our Timeline page.
We should do both! Development and application of molecular manufacturing clearly can have a positive impact on solving many of today's most urgent problems. But it's equally clear than MM can exacerbate many of society's ills. Knowing that it may be developed within the next decade or two (which is not "far future"), makes preparation for MM an urgent priority.
In its original sense, 'nanotechnology' refers to the projected ability to construct items from the bottom up, using techniques and tools being developed today to make complete, high performance products.
The Meaning of Nanotechnology When K. Eric Drexler (right) popularized the word 'nanotechnology' in the 1980's, he was talking about building machines on the scale of molecules, a few nanometers wide—motors, robot arms, and even whole computers, far smaller than a cell. Drexler spent the next ten years describing and analyzing these incredible devices, and responding to accusations of science fiction. Meanwhile, mundane technology was developing the ability to build simple structures on a molecular scale. As nanotechnology became an accepted concept, the meaning of the word shifted to encompass the simpler kinds of nanometer-scale technology. The U.S. National Nanotechnology Initiative was created to fund this kind of nanotech: their definition includes anything smaller than 100 nanometers with novel properties. Much of the work being done today that carries the name 'nanotechnology' is not nanotechnology in the original meaning of the word. Nanotechnology, in its traditional sense, means building things from the bottom up, with atomic precision. This theoretical capability was envisioned as early as 1959 by the renowned physicist Richard Feynman.
The Meaning of Nanotechnology
When K. Eric Drexler (right) popularized the word 'nanotechnology' in the 1980's, he was talking about building machines on the scale of molecules, a few nanometers wide—motors, robot arms, and even whole computers, far smaller than a cell. Drexler spent the next ten years describing and analyzing these incredible devices, and responding to accusations of science fiction. Meanwhile, mundane technology was developing the ability to build simple structures on a molecular scale. As nanotechnology became an accepted concept, the meaning of the word shifted to encompass the simpler kinds of nanometer-scale technology. The U.S. National Nanotechnology Initiative was created to fund this kind of nanotech: their definition includes anything smaller than 100 nanometers with novel properties.
Much of the work being done today that carries the name 'nanotechnology' is not nanotechnology in the original meaning of the word. Nanotechnology, in its traditional sense, means building things from the bottom up, with atomic precision. This theoretical capability was envisioned as early as 1959 by the renowned physicist Richard Feynman.
I want to build a billion tiny factories, models of each other, which are manufacturing simultaneously. . . The principles of physics, as far as I can see, do not speak against the possibility of maneuvering things atom by atom. It is not an attempt to violate any laws; it is something, in principle, that can be done; but in practice, it has not been done because we are too big. — Richard Feynman, Nobel Prize winner in physics
Based on Feynman's vision of miniature factories using nanomachines to build complex products, advanced nanotechnology (sometimes referred to as molecular manufacturing) will make use of positionally-controlled mechanochemistry guided by molecular machine systems. Formulating a roadmap for development of this kind of nanotechnology is now an objective of a broadly based technology roadmap project led by Battelle (the manager of several U.S. National Laboratories) and the Foresight Nanotech Institute.
Shortly after this envisioned molecular machinery is created, it will result in a manufacturing revolution, probably causing severe disruption. It also has serious economic, social, environmental, and military implications.
Mihail (Mike) Roco of the U.S. National Nanotechnology Initiative has described four generations of nanotechnology development (see chart below). The current era, as Roco depicts it, is that of passive nanostructures, materials designed to perform one task. The second phase, which we are just entering, introduces active nanostructures for multitasking; for example, actuators, drug delivery devices, and sensors. The third generation is expected to begin emerging around 2010 and will feature nanosystems with thousands of interacting components. A few years after that, the first integrated nanosystems, functioning (according to Roco) much like a mammalian cell with hierarchical systems within systems, are expected to be developed.
Some experts may still insist that nanotechnology can refer to measurement or visualization at the scale of 1-100 nanometers, but a consensus seems to be forming around the idea (put forward by the NNI's Mike Roco) that control and restructuring of matter at the nanoscale is a necessary element. CRN's definition is a bit more precise than that, but as work progresses through the four generations of nanotechnology leading up to molecular nanosystems, which will include molecular manufacturing, we think it will become increasingly obvious that "engineering of functional systems at the molecular scale" is what nanotech is really all about.
The first use of the concepts in 'nano-technology' (but pre-dating use of that name) was in "There's Plenty of Room at the Bottom," a talk given by physicist Richard Feynman at an American Physical Society meeting at Caltech on December 29, 1959. Feynman described a process by which the ability to manipulate individual atoms and molecules might be developed, using one set of precise tools to build and operate another proportionally smaller set, and so on down to the needed scale. In the course of this, he noted, scaling issues would arise from the changing magnitude of various physical phenomena: gravity would become less important, surface tension and Van der Waals attraction would become more important, etc. This basic idea appears plausible, and exponential assembly enhances it with parallelism to produce a useful quantity of end products. The term "nanotechnology" was defined by Tokyo Science University Professor Norio Taniguchi in a 1974 paper as follows: "'Nano-technology' mainly consists of the processing of, separation, consolidation, and deformation of materials by one atom or by one molecule." In the 1980s the basic idea of this definition was explored in much more depth by Dr. K. Eric Drexler, who promoted the technological significance of nano-scale phenomena and devices through speeches and the books Engines of Creation: The Coming Era of Nanotechnology (1986) and Nanosystems: Molecular Machinery, Manufacturing, and Computation, and so the term acquired its current sense. Engines of Creation: The Coming Era of Nanotechnology is considered the first book on the topic of nanotechnology. Nanotechnology and nanoscience got started in the early 1980s with two major developments; the birth of cluster science and the invention of the scanning tunneling microscope (STM). This development led to the discovery of fullerenes in 1985 and carbon nanotubes a few years later. In another development, the synthesis and properties of semiconductor nanocrystals was studied; this led to a fast increasing number of metal and metal oxide nanoparticles and quantum dots. The atomic force microscope was invented six years after the STM was invented. In 2000, the United States National Nanotechnology Initiative was founded to coordinate Federal nanotechnology research and development.
Nanotechnology, shortened to "nanotech", is the study of the control of matter on an atomic and molecular scale. Generally nanotechnology deals with structures of the size 100 nanometers or smaller, and involves developing materials or devices within that size. Nanotechnology is very diverse, ranging from extensions of conventional device physics, to completely new approaches based upon molecular self-assembly, to developing new materials with dimensions on the nanoscale, even to speculation on whether we can directly control matter on the atomic scale.
There has been much debate on the future of implications of nanotechnology. Nanotechnology has the potential to create many new materials and devices with wide-ranging applications, such as in medicine, electronics, and energy production. On the other hand, nanotechnology raises many of the same issues as with any introduction of new technology, including concerns about the toxicity and environmental impact of nanomaterials, and their potential effects on global economics, as well as speculation about various doomsday scenarios. These concerns have led to a debate among advocacy groups and governments on whether special regulation of nanotechnology is warranted.
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