Open Questions: Nanotechnology

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See also: Carbon nanotubes - Nanobiotechnology


Nano-electromechanical systems





Recommended references: Web sites

Recommended references: Magazine/journal articles

Recommended references: Books


One nanometer is a billionth of a meter. That is the width of five carbon atoms. It is a very appropriate size scale for understanding one of the more important directions in technology. The ultimate aim of "nanotechnology" is to be able to construct useful things that are tens of nanometers in size, or smaller.

We're not there yet -- the smallest sized features that can presently be fabricated in silicon semiconductors, for example, are about 130 nanometers, which is somewhat larger than a virus. Of course, everything is relative. A human hair is typically about 40 microns in diameter -- 40,000 nanometers. So we have already the ability to make some pretty small things.

Recommended references: Web sites

Site indexes

Open Directory Project: Nanotechnology
Categorized and annotated links. A version of this list is at Google, with entries sorted in "page rank" order. May also be found at Netscape.
Nanotechnology Now Directory
Provides links in many categories, such as "academic", "business", "government", "professional", "books", "news", "newsletters", "white papers".
NanoApex Web Directory
Very extensive categorized list of links. Resources
Links to science, business, and professional sites in various categories.
Galaxy: Nanotechnology
Categorized site directory. Entries usually include descriptive annotations. More listings here.
Nanotech Links
Medium size annotated list from the Center for Nanotechnology at the University of Washington.
Small is Beautiful
Lots of links, but no longer maintained. Hosted by NASA's Advanced Supercomputing Division.
NSDL Scout Report for Mathematics, Engineering, & Technology: Nanotechnology
Eight selected links, February 15, 2002.

Sites with general resources

New Scientist Special Report on Nanotechnology
Primarily offers links to many news articles from the past several years of New Scientist magazine. But there are also other features, including facts and figures, external links, frequently-asked questions, and a short bibliography.
By Ralph Merkle. Large collection of resources, including bibliographies and lists of external links.
Calls itself the "global portal for all nanoscience and nanotechnology resources online". Maintained by the Institute of Physics, which publishes the print journal Nanotechnology. The site features news, recent research papers, and a directory of nanotechnology resources.
Nanotechnology Now
Nanotechnology portal that reports on "disruptive technologies such as NEMS, MEMS, Nanoscale Materials, Molecular Manufacturing, Quantum Computing, Nanomedicine, Nanoelectronics, Nanotubes, Self Assembly, and Molecular Biology." The Introduction page provides overview information on nanotechnology, including a list of frequently-asked questions. There is an extensive list of externa links, and an extensive glossary. There is also an archive of nanotechnology news going back to 2001.
A major portal for nanotechnology news and information. News covers both scientific and business aspects of nanotechnology. Site also includes discussion forums and general industry information. Several email newsletters are available. Has an extensive list of external links.
A "portal that delivers breaking news, exclusive small-tech resources, large knowledge databases, and a place to discuss nanotech and MEMS." Features a very good listing of books on nanotechnology. Part of the NanoApex site.
General nanotechnology portal with a European orientation. Deals with many aspects of nanotech, such as chemistry and materials, health and medicine, tools, transportation, energy, and basic science. Includes sections on news, organizations, events, and publications.
Brad Hein's Nanotechnology Site
Includes a listing of conferences and meetings and resource lists of groups, books, papers, software, hardware, and external links.
Institute for Molecular Manufacturing
"A nonprofit foundation formed in 1991 to carry out research aimed at developing molecular manufacturing (molecular nanotechnology)." Site contains many nanotechnology resources and links.
Foresight Institute
Eric Drexler's non-profit organization. "Foresight Institute's goal is to guide emerging technologies to improve the human condition. Foresight focuses its efforts upon nanotechnology, the coming ability to build materials and products with atomic precision, and upon systems that will enhance knowledge exchange and critical discussion, thus improving public and private policy decisions.
Nanodot: News and Discussion of Emerging Technologies
Affiliated with Foresight Institute. A Weblog containing news, opinion, polls, and other information related to nanotechnology.
Center for Nanoscale Science and Technology
At Rice University. Formerly directed by the late Richard Smalley.
NIST Center for Nanoscale Science and Technology
Part of the U. S. National Institute of Standards and Technology. "The Center enables science and industry by providing essential measurement methods, instrumentation, and standards to support all phases of nanotechnology development, from discovery to production."
Scientific American Nanotechnology Channel
Good collection of articles and news stories on nanotechnology. See also the nanotechnology directory.
California NanoSystems Institute
State-sponsored research institution at the University of California at Los Angeles.
Nanotechnology, Nanoscience, and Nanoengineering at PNNL
The Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) has a substantial research program in nanomaterials and nanobiology. The site describes the research and provides related information, resources, and external links.
Cardiff University Nanophysics
Research group which is part of the School of Physics and Astronomy at Cardiff University (Wales). Pages describe research interests and include links to related information.
Center for Biological and Environmental Nanotechnology
CBEN aims "to transform nanoscience into a field with the impact of a modern-day polymer science." It "focuses on research at the interface between "dry" nanomaterials and aqueous media such as biology and the environment, developing the nanoscience workforce of the future, and transferring discoveries to industry."
London Centre for Nanotechnology
The center "has been designed to act as a focus for current interdisciplinary nanoscale materials and device research." The Web site describes the center, describes its areas of research focus, and provides some select high-level external links.
Institute of Nanotechnology
UK organization which provides information on nanotechnology, encourages information exchange between scientists, helps coordinate research projects, and promotes education. The site provides information about books and courses on nanotechnology, news and general information on the field, and external links.
NASA Center for Nanotechnology
General information about NASA's research program in nanotechnology at the Ames Research Center. Most notable site feature is the Nanotechnology Gallery, which contains many images and animations related to nanotechnology.
The ASME Nanotechnology Institute
Site maintained by the American Society of Mechanical Engineers. Offers some external links.
Technical/professional journal published by the Institute of Physics. New articles are free for 30 days after online publication.
Contains many interviews of nanotechnologists but doesn't seem to have new material since November 2002.
IBM Research Nanoscale Science Department
Research group investigating carbon nanotubes, nanolithography and silicon nanoelectronics.
IBM Zurich Research Laboratory, Nanoscale Science
Describes current nanoscience research areas under investigation at the laboratory.
Molecular Nanotechnology at Zyvex
Zyvex calls itself "the first molecular nanotechnology company".

Surveys, overviews, tutorials

Article from Wikipedia. See also Molecular nanotechnology, Molecular engineering, Molecular electronics.
A ScienceWeek "symposium" consisting of excerpts and summaries of articles from various sources.
There's Plenty of Room at the Bottom
Classic 1959 talk given by Richard Feynman. One of the inspirations for nanotechnology.
Ultrasmall Structures Bring Big Future
Promotional March 2002 article by NEC about its R & D work in nanotechnology.
Nanotechnology and the Next 50 Years
Presentation by Richard Smalley, December 7, 1995.
Friction at the nano-scale
February 2005 article from Physics World, by Jacqueline Krim. "Nanomachines will depend on our knowledge of friction, heat transfer and energy dissipation at the atomic level for their very survival."
The future of nanotechnology
August 2004 article from Physics World, by Richard Jones. "Visions of self-replicating nanomachines that could devour the Earth in a "grey goo" are probably wide of the mark, but "radical nanotechnology" could still deliver great benefits to society. The question is how best to achieve this goal."
Nanomechanics weighs in
April 2004 article from Physics World, by Nikolay Lavrik and Panos Datskos. "Nano-scale devices can measure masses with a precision of one attogram, which is three orders of magnitude better than the previous record."
Nanoelectromechanical systems face the future
February 2001 article from Physics World, by Michael Roukes. "A host of novel applications and new physics could be unleashed as microelectromechanical systems shrink towards the nanoscale."
DNA 'tweezers' take shape
August 2000 news article from Physics World. "Biophysicists have built a pair of nanoscale tweezers entirely from strands of DNA. The tweezers can be closed by adding another strand of DNA as 'fuel', and opened again by adding still more DNA."
Nanoplotter draws multiple patterns
June 2000 news article from Physics World. "Researchers in the US have invented a "nanoplotter" that can draw multiple copies of a nanometre-sized pattern at different places on a surface all at the same time."
Halting nanotech research 'illogical', says pioneer
Brief interview, dated April 29, 2003, with Eric Drexler, in New Scientist. Questions concern current overall prospects in the field.
Little Things Could Mean a Lot
March 2004 Wired News article about a nanotechnology business conference.
Get Ready for New 'Nano' Products
July 2003 Wired News article about potential nanotechnology.
Nanotech Gets Down to Business
May 2003 Wired News article about a nanotehcnology business conference.
Thinking Big About Nanotechnology
May 2002 article about potential nanotechnology, from Wired News.
Nanotech, but Not in a Nanosecond
November 2001 article about potential nanotechnology, from Wired News.
Green light for nanomotors
November 2000 news article from Physics World, about a "nanomotor" made of tin clusters on a copper surface.
Nanoscientists go on a roll
September 2000 news article from news article from PhysicsWeb about carbon fullerenes and nanotubes.
Nanotechnology's Future
Brief July 2006 Scientific American article, subtitled "Over the next two decades, this new field for controlling the properties of matter will rise to prominence through four evolutionary stages."
Molecular Machines
Very brief May 1996 Scientific American In Depth article about prospects for nanotechnology.

Recommended references: Magazine/journal articles

DNA on the move
Gwyneth Dickey
Science News, September 11, 2010
Nanobot 'spiders' learn how to walk.
How to Build Nanotech Motors
Thomas E. Mallouk; Ayusman Sen
Scientific American, May 2009
"Catalytic engines enable tiny swimmers to harness fuel from their environment and overcome the weird physics of the microscopic world."
Nanotechnology and the Double Helix
Nadrian C. Seeman
Scientific American, June 2004
Nano Patterning
Gary Stix
Scientific American, February 2004
The Nanodrive Project
Peter Vettiger; Gerd Binnig
Scientific American, January 2003
Taming High-Tech Particles
Jessica Gorman
Science News, March 30, 2002, pp. 200-201
The small size and still-unknown properties of nanotech particles raises concerns about their possible health and environmental effects. Research to clarify the possible risks has already begun.
Little Big Science
Gary Stix
Scientific American, September 2001, pp. 32-37
Nanotechnology has achieved formal government recognition with the U. S. National Nanotechnology Initiative. It is rapidly becoming an area of scientific and technology research in the same league as biomedical and military research. Although the field was conceived originally in very speculative terms, it has begun to pursue very practical goals, such as the development of nanoelectronic devices which (it is hoped) can succeed silicon-based electronics when the limits of that technology are reached.
The Art of Building Small
George M. Whitesides; J. Christopher Love
Scientific American, September 2001, pp. 38-47
Nanofabrication is the technology of manufacturing structures smaller than 100 nanometers in size. There are two basic approaches: top-down -- carving out structures from an existing piece of material (as is done with microelectronic circuits today), and bottom-up -- assembling structures from individual atoms or molecules.
Plenty of Room Indeed
Michael Roukes
Scientific American, September 2001, pp. 48-57
The size domain in which nanotechnology exists -- between macroscopic objects and individual molecules -- is governed by both classical physics and quantum mechanics. A great deal of research remains to be done in order to understand the physical laws and principles that prevail in that domain.
The Incredible Shrinking Circuit
Charles M. Lieber
Scientific American, September 2001, pp. 58-64
Researchers have begun to create nanoscale electronic components such as transistors, diodes, resistors, and logic gates. The next step is to connect them in order to assemble useful nanoelectronic circuits. The process may resemble chemistry more than it does existing manufacturing techniques.
Less Is More in Medicine
A. Paul Alivisatos
Scientific American, September 2001, pp. 66-73
Some of the first practical applications of nanontechnology will probably be in biomedicine. The possibilities include research tools, diagnostic and testing aids, and drug delivery technology.
The Once and Future Nanomachine
George M. Whitesides
Scientific American, September 2001, pp. 78-83
Nanomachines already exist in nature in the form of many biological components. They range from biochemical "motors" that turn the flagellae in bacteria to the ribosomes which manufacture proteins within cells. Such devices provide proof of the possibility of artificial nanomachines.
Making Molecules into Motors
E. Dean Astumian
Scientific American, July 2001, pp. 56-64
Molecular-scale motors and pumps already exist in the natural world in biological systems. Quantum effects play an important role at this scale. It should be possible to fabricate such motors artificially using techniques involving "quantum ratchets".
Nanotech Goes to Work
David Rotman
Technology Review, January-February 2001, pp. 62-68
Current work in nanotechnology is taking many forms, none of which resemble "nanobots". But the potential applications of structures less than 100 nanometers in size range from ultradense computer memories to faster DNA chips.
Say "Ah!"
Robert A. Freitas, Jr.
The Sciences, July/August 2000, pp. 26-31
Nanomedicine is the application of nanotechnology to the treatement of infectious diseases and repair of biological damage at the cellular level. The objective is the development of "nanorobots" which would be of a size capable of interacting directly with pathogens or damaged cellular components.
Biomolecules and Nanotechnology
David S. Goodsell
American Scientist, May-June 2000, pp. 230-237
Envisioned nanotechnology artifacts are about the same size as biological molecules like proteins and RNA. The biological molecules may contain useful engineering lessons.
Nanomedicine Nears the Clinic
David Voss
Technology Review, January-February 2000, pp. 60-65
Nanobots which can automatically repair cellular damage are still over the horizon, but other medical applications of nanotechnology may be closer. The list includes special polymers known as "dendrimers" for use in gene therapy, nanoporous membranes which are permeable only to very small molecules, and nanomotors which can help deliver pharmaceutical agents.
Will the Real Nanotech Please Stand Up?
David Rotman
Technology Review, March/April, 1999, pp. 46-53
Up to now, nanotechnology has been more a matter of speculation and basic research than of engineering and development. That is starting to change.
Nanotechnology: Art of the Possible
Technology Review, November-December 1998, pp. 84-87
Interview with nanotechnology pioneer George M. Whitesides.
The Incredible Shrinking Finger Factory
Will Hively
Discover, March 1998, pp. 84-91
One step towards "true" nanotechnology is called "microelectromechanical systems" (MIMS). Even here, fabrication of such small devices is a major problem.
Waiting for Breakthroughs
Gary Stix
Scientific American, April 1996, pp. 94-99
Some proponents of nanotechnology have made highly optimistic predictions of the prospects for breakthrough accomplishments, but not everyone agrees.

Recommended references: Books

Mark Ratner; Daniel Ratner -- Nanotechnology: A Gentle Introduction to the Next Big Idea
Prentice Hall, 2003
There ought to be a book like this for other important areas of science and technology. It assumes little background, wastes little time on history and "human interest" stories, and inflicts upon the reader little gratuitous philosophizing. Instead it efficiently explains what its subject area is about and why it matters. In this case, that includes topics like smart materials, sensors, biological structures, electronics, and optics.
Michael Gross -- Travels to the Nanoworld: Miniature Machinery in Nature and Technology
Perseus Publishing, 1999
The author's professional expertise is in chemical engineering and biochemistry, so it is not surprising that the first half of the book deals with biological entities like genes, proteins, and cells -- which furnish examples of what nature has accomplished in nanotechnology. The balance of the book considers what human technology may be able to do in the near future, with "quantum dots", micromachines, and biotechnology as examples.
BC Crandall, ed. -- Nanotechnology: Molecular Speculations on Global Abundance
MIT Press, 1996
Crandall defines nanotechnology as "the art and science of building complex, practical devices with atomic precision." The ten papers in this relatively short volume examine various possible applications of nanotechnology in two broad areas -- inside and outside the human body.
Ed Regis – Nano: The Emerging Science of Nanotechnology
Little, Brown and Company, 1995
Regis provides a decent history of the early years of nanotechnology, through the middle of the 1990s. In practice, this means primarily the ideas and work of K. Eric Drexler, and the reception thereof by the rest of the scientific community. Work in nanotechnology today is not what Drexler had in mind – that will be for the future, if at all. The future may regard Drexler's concept of nanotechnology as somewhat like Charles Babbage's concept of computers, prescient in general if not wholly correct in detail, so the story is definitely worth knowing.
K. Eric Drexler; Chris Peterson -- Unbounding the Future: The Nanotechnology Revolution
William Morrow and Company, 1991
Drexler's second book on nanotechnology. Aimed at a more general audience, it describes projected applications.
[Book home page] -- with complete text.
K. Eric Drexler -- Engines of Creation: Challenges and Choices of the Last Technological Revolution
Anchor Press/Doubleday, 1986
This is Drexler's original book on nanotechnology. In addition to speculation about the technology itself, it discusses an array of social consequences.
[Book home page] -- with complete text.


Copyright © 2002 by Charles Daney, All Rights Reserved