Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Happy Anniversary Prof. Feynman

It was 50 years ago today, in a speech to the American Physical Society at Caltech entitled “There’s Plenty of Room at the Bottom,” that Prof. Richard Feynman entered the domain of successful prophets, a small circle typically reserved for biblical personalities.  In this singular oration, Feynman discussed topics that were somewhat fantastic in the middle of the 20th century, but would be completely familiar to nanotechnology students of today.  Each of these “predictions” was illustrated using Feynman’s signature back-of-the-envelope estimations.
  • The concepts of electron beam lithography and nanoimprinting (without using those terms) were presented as possible methods for writing the Encyclopedia Britannica on the head of a pin, and later the entire known literary universe in a 35-page pamphlet.
  • The intersection of biology and nanoscale materials, particularly related to information storage within DNA (whose structure was only determined 6 years earlier), and the use of imaging tools for cellular analysis, were noted as areas ripe for research. 
  • Both determination of chemical structure using new imaging tools (see my post from Sept. 11, 2009 for a recent demonstration of this prediction) and ultimately atom-by-atom chemical synthesis were both described.
  • Prof. Feynman described a variety of nanomachines (automobiles, computers, and biomedical devices) that surely inspired Eric Drexler in his thinking.  In addition, he realized that nanoscale material properties (electrical, magnetic, and mechanical) would deviate from the bulk, and need to be considered by nano-engineers.  While some of the practicalities remained elusive to Feynman, he noted that “there is nothing that I can see in the physical laws that says the…elements cannot be made enormously smaller than they are now. In fact, there may be certain advantages.”
  • While likely unaware of the fact that he was describing a new branch of interdisciplinary science, Prof. Feynman understood the need for educational initiatives to motivate students to potential careers in this field, and specifically called for high school competitions.  In addition, he offered two prizes for experimental demonstrations of the concepts he illustrated: one for a miniature motor, which was claimed 4 months later, and a second for reproducing a page of text at 1/25,000 scale.  The latter was won by a Stanford graduate student in 1985 who used electron beam lithography to print the first page of Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities on a page measuring only 6.25 microns per side.
  • Finally, while remaining a theoretical physicist, Prof. Feynman was thinking like an early entrepreneur well before the Bayh-Dole act opened the doors for universities to retain ownership of their intellectual property.  He recognized that “this field is not quite the same as the others in that it will not tell us much of fundamental physics… [but] it would have an enormous number of technical applications.”
It can be argued that “nano-technology” was born and named by Taniguchi in 1974, and reached adulthood (but not maturity) in 1993 with IBM’s quantum corral. I think nobody will disagree that today we celebrate the 50th anniversary of its conception in the fertile mind of Prof. Richard Feynman. 

Note:  For an example of the speech’s text printed using nanoscale letters with dip-pen nanolithography, click here.

Friday, December 11, 2009

I'm Sensing a Trend

This time of year and the end of the decade often inspire list creation.  Examples of this activity include critics' top movie and music picks, as well as Time magazine's lists of everything, including the top ten scandals and the top ten blogs (I guess I am out).

So it was with some skepticism that I read about The Times (of London, not New York) Higher Education Supplement posting its list of the "Top Ten Chemists" of the last decade, as determined by citations per paper from the Thomson Reuters Essential Science Indicators. The "top chemist" (and we can debate the label based on citations, but that is another discussion) is Stephen Buchwald (MIT) with 171 papers and nearly 87 citations per paper.  Two of the other top ten are also organic chemists, including Nobel Laureate (2005) Robert Grubbs (Cal Tech).  This is excellent, and I congratulate these men (for all the top ten are men - again, this is another discussion).  But the truly remarkable aspect of this list (or is it?) is that the remaining 7 chemists all work in the nanoscience and nanotechnology arena.  With more than 1100 publications in the decade combined, these chemists include such well-known names as Chad Mirkin (Northwestern), George Whitesides (Harvard), and Georgia Tech's own Mostafa El-Sayed who comes in at #4 on the list with 112 papers and more than 75 citations per paper.

The fact that nanoscience is playing such a significant role in chemistry research, and the corollary that nanoscience research is dominated by the fields of chemistry, physics and their cousin materials science, is not news to Alan Porter and Jan Youtie who this past fall published an analysis of nanotechnology publication and citation data.  While nanoscience is certainly interdisciplinary (as is much of non-nano science these days), and there is neighborly sharing and borrowing of information and techniques, still there is considerable "local" character as well.

Are these observations characteristic of the ever changing nature of the research environment, or rather an artifact due to labeling and re-labeling of research areas using in vogue terminology to ensure optimum exposure and funding.  Will this be a long-lasting condition, or will the next research and technology revolution quickly replace it?  Only time will tell.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

What Defines a Revolution?

Back in May, I wrote a blog post on the commercial uses of nanotechnology.  I was supportive of an editorial in Nature Nanotechnology (January 2009), titled "The Other Nanotech" which argued that current uses of nanoscience and nanoengineering, while for the most part mundane and low tech (sunscreen and anti-bacterial socks), are providing a framework for more advanced applications later on.

In a recent (November 2009) issue of ACS Nano, Associate Editor Jillian Buriak presents an editorial (it seems like nanotechnology inspires more editorializing than any science I can remember) called "The Quiet Revolution".  In this piece, she laments the fact that most commercial uses of nanoscience have been in the creation of common consumer products, vide supra, and that there is no "killer app" or revolutionary technology yet available.  On the other hand, she postulates that the ultimate revolutionary aspect of nanotechnology is that it has brought a variety of disciplines from international collaborators together to solve important problems from the ground up, and that this may be nanotechnology's long-lasting legacy.

Even though I found myself nodding in agreement with most of the editorial, I felt compelled to respond to Dr. Buriak.  Here is the text of an e-mail I wrote her:

"I read your recent editorial, “A Quiet Revolution”.  Although I agree with your conclusions, that nanoscience is fostering a new kind of inter- and multi-disciplinary environment that is eager to tackle the hard problems of energy, environment, and health, I also think you might take a look (if you haven’t already) at a recent (Jan. 2009) editorial in Nature Nanotechnology (attached).  As this editorial argues, and that I have supported in several of my blog posts, we should embrace the mundane uses of nanotechnology (the sunscreen and anti-bacterial silver nanoparticles) as the lessons learned from these initial commercial ventures will ultimately (and hopefully) be used to create the more ambitious applications (the killer apps).  I would even argue that the electronic circuitry in your iPod Nano is just one of many uses for the nano-sized transistors and other components being developed, and that we often miss the revolutionary nature of technology because the changes occur slowly on the human time scale, but rapidly when put into historical context.  Is nanoscience responsible for all of the societal changes we have witnessed in the last several decades?  Of course not, but it certainly has abetted some major transformations in computers and electronics, and all the things that these touch."

Perhaps we are not in the midst of a technology revolution akin to the industrial revolution or the advent of the computer age.  Rather, to paraphrase former Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart, we will know the nanotechnology revolution when we see it.

Friday, November 20, 2009

The Great Debate

It appeared in my e-mail in-box innocuously enough.  In the daily media update from the American Chemical Society, there was a notice that the award-winning high school chemistry magazine ChemMatters had created its first video podcast.  This video appears as part of the Bytesize Science programs and is titled "Nanotechnology's Big Impact".  I watched the 7 minute video and was surprised that the applications of nanotechnology highlighted early on were about the creation of autonomous nanobots for medical uses to combat microbial infections from a sore throat to a cut on your toe.  This was followed by a description of "self-assembly" that veered from the typical molecular description of interaction driven monolayer formation to a more sci-fi version (straight out of Michael Crichton's novel "Prey") of self-reproducing "nanomachines".

This concept brought to mind something I have been thinking about recently -- the 2003 "debate" between Eric Drexler, formerly of the Foresight Institute, and the late Rick Smalley, 1996 Nobel Laureate in chemistry and professor at Rice University.  In the "Point-Counterpoint" originally published in Chemical and Engineering News (Dec. 1, 2003), these two great thinkers sparred over the future of nanotechnology and how best to inspire the public as to its benefits, while not overly hyping both the promises and the uncertainties.  Drexler is convinced that molecular assemblers will be able to create an infinite variety of nanomachines by controlled placement of atoms using specific chemical reactions.  At the same time, Drexler is the author of the influential nanotechnology text "Engines of Creation" (1986) which postulates that such machines have the potential to drastically alter the earth and life on it, and in fact coined the term “gray goo”.  Smalley counters with chemical logic that argues against such assembly, and ends the debate by relating the already developing apprehension among middle and high school students that nanobots are a realistic threat and that fear-mongering of this sort is an impediment to progress.  As impassioned as the argument was in writing, I don't think either man was convinced by the words of his opponent.

The fear of run-away nanobots, while extreme, is just one of the reasons why so much attention has been paid to creating a nano-literate public (see many of my earlier posts), proceeding with openness about research results, and addressing the societal and ethical impacts (SEI) of a nano-enabled world.  Many have expressed the notion that there would be a considerable loss to science and society if nanotechnology becomes the next genetically modified organisms (GMO), referring to the technology that has been stifled due to public misunderstanding and fear.  On the other hand, a recent editorial in Nature Nanotechnology ("Keeping the public under the microscope", Vol. 4, No. 11, November 2009) relates that while only 31% of survey respondents have heard about nanotechnology (about the same as 5 years earlier), there is little anxiety among the uninformed and that "twice as many people think that the benefits will outweigh the risks" and “public attitudes…remain open to the guidance of sound science.”

Perhaps Rick Smalley won that debate after all.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

National Chemistry Week

Happy National Chemistry Week!  NCW, as it is affectionately known, is an annual community-based program of the American Chemical Society (ACS) that seeks to communicate the importance of chemistry and the role that chemists play in improving our quality of life.  Every year the ACS chooses a new theme for NCW, and since this year marks the 140th anniversary of Mendeleev’s Periodic Table, the theme for 2009 is “Chemistry – It’s Elemental!” 

The Georgia local section of the ACS is sponsoring and promoting many NCW activities throughout Metro Atlanta this week, and I was able to contribute to two of them.  On Tuesday night, a small but enthusiastic crowd gathered at the Fernbank Science Center for a Science Café entitled “Nanotechnology: It’s Bigger than You Think,” which I facilitated together with Joyce Palmer.  The discussion was based upon the three-part series “Power of Small”, which ran on PBS last year.  Each episode is a panel discussion (including some luminaries of the nano-world such as George Whitesides and Andrew Maynard, among others) where scenarios about the applications of nanotechnology and its impact on society are considered.  Joyce and I used video segments along with targeted questions to engage the audience in a spirited conversation about nanotechnology and issues related to privacy, health and medical care, and the environment.  I encourage everyone to visit the “Power of Small” website, where you can watch the video clips and download related material.

On Wednesday, I joined several chemists in a unique media experiment at Georgia Tech.  Pete Ludovice and Bill Hunt of the Georgia Tech College of Engineering host a weekly radio show on WREK (91.1 FM) titled INSIDE THE BLACK BOX, or as they like to call it "science, only funnier."  In honor of NCW, we assembled a panel of “chemistry geeks” to talk about the work that we do. The other panelists were David Sherrill, Christine Payne, and Facundo Fernandez from the Georgia Tech School of Chemistry & Biochemistry, and Vernita Lockhart from The Coca-Cola Company.  The media experiment was that Warren Matthews (GA Tech OIT) arranged a live, video teleconference with chemistry students at Apalachee H.S. in Barrow County, GA and North Hall H.S. in Hall County, GA.  The students posed many excellent questions, including the benefits and risks of drinking Coke beverages to my friend Vernita, and we were all asked to reminisce about the “aha moment” in our lives when we realized that science was our calling.

In honor of the NCW theme, here is a link to “The Elements” sung by Tom Lehrer (Lyrics by Dmitri Mendeleev, Music by Gilbert & Sullivan).

Thursday, October 8, 2009

From Curiosity to Commodity

Is it me, or is the pace of scientific research and technological advancement occurring at an ever increasing rate?  Although I am not a science historian, I think if you look at previous technological revolutions, you usually find an initial discovery or set of discoveries that can take decades or centuries to find their way into applications and common usage (See my earlier post about the TV series “Connections”).  Now the geometric nature of Moore’s Law seems to have taken over the entire (nano)technology landscape.

It seems like only a few years ago that no one but a few insiders had heard of graphene, the single layer carbon sheet with interesting electrical, mechanical, and thermal properties.  Now, a recent article in Nature Nanotechnology (Vol. 4, pp. 612-514) entitled "Selling graphene by the ton" describes the commoditization of this unique material.  The starting material, graphite, is readily and cheaply available, and the processing to extract the graphene platelets is relatively simple and inexpensive.  Associate Editor Michael Segal relates that three U.S. start-up companies (Vorbeck Materials, Angstron Materials, and XG Sciences) are already producing more than 15 tons/year for use in composite materials and electrodes.  It is expected that this production will exceed 200 tons in a few years.  Although this seems like a lot to you and me, apparently this is still small potatoes to the chemical industry giants (Dow, 3M, BASF and DuPont) who have reservations about the economic benefits.  The short article also describes the dispute between the research and industry communities over the definition of graphene, whether it constitutes only a single carbon sheet or a multilayer.

Of course, once a technology becomes a business it has to have its own trade press.  Okay, Graphene Times is not really a newspaper or magazine, but rather a website created by Mike Sprinkle, a Georgia Tech physics grad student in Walt de Heer’s lab.  This website compiles (similar to Google Reader) the continuing accumulation of research papers and other news about graphene.  If you want to learn about the latest findings hot off the peer-reviewed press or see where commercialization of this novel material is heading, this is a good place to start.

Friday, September 25, 2009

And the Envelope Please…

Okay, so it wasn’t the Academy Awards. Still it was a testament to our past performance and a chance to raise public awareness of the Georgia Tech Nanotechnology Research Center when we were nominated for the TechAmerica Spirit of Endeavor Award for “Leadership in Technology Education”. According to the TechAmerica website, the “Spirit of Endeavor Awards are open to the entire technology industry and honor those people and companies based in [the south] who have had significant accomplishments within the technology industry.”

The nomination for this award came by way of Habif, Arogeti, and Wynne, LLP (HAW), an Atlanta firm of certified public accountants and business advisors that is one of the sponsors of the awards program. I recently gave a presentation on the NRC to their Technology and Manufacturing groups, and this initiated a request for the nomination materials, which described our wide variety of education activities in training researchers and educating the general public about nanotechnology. (E-mail me if you would like a copy.)

The awards program was held on Sept. 17 at the Fox Theatre, with Nancy Healy and Joyce Palmer attending and graciously hosted by Susan O’Dwyer and Mitchell Kopelman from HAW. When the 9 nominees for this category were narrowed to 4 finalists, it was a pleasant surprise to find that the NRC was among them. While we did not win the award, at least Kanye West did not interrupt any acceptance speech.

Thanks again to HAW and TechAmerica and kudos to Nancy, Joyce and the rest of the NRC.

Friday, September 11, 2009

What Molecules Look Like

I know that not everyone will find this Science paper [Gross et al. (2009) “The Chemical Structure of a Molecule Resolved by Atomic Force Microscopy”, 325, 1110-1114] as amazing as I do.  But I am a chemist, and when someone shows that they can actually visualize all of the atoms and bonds in a single molecule, I take notice.  Chemists have used a variety of analytical and spectroscopic methods, such as NMR, X-ray diffraction, and mass spec, combined with indirect analysis of chemical reactions, bond theory, and quantum mechanics to deduce the structures of molecules.  We have come a long way technologically since the days of Kekule, who, so the legend goes, deduced the structure of benzene by dreaming of a snake swallowing its own tail.  Still, nobody had actually seen a complete molecule, until now.  We can now imagine what von Leeuenhoek felt when he trained his microscope on the “animalcules” on a sample of pond water for the first time.

If you don’t wish to read the original paper, at least take a look at this feature article about the research in Chemical and Engineering News.  This link also includes a great video that describes the research and its implications.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Become an NRC Fan on Facebook

If you look at the top right side of this page, you will notice a new button to become a fan of the Georgia Tech Nanotechnology Research Center Facebook page.  We will use this social media tool to provide an interactive forum for users, friends, staff, and other interested parties of the NRC.  Feel free to post photos, events, links, and other information that you think NRC fans might find useful.

At the same time, I want to give credit to the Mashable website posting 10 Ways Universities Share Information Using Social Media which suggested that Facebook can provide a valuable tool for marketing and public relations.  This posting has some interesting concepts that other universities are using to connect constituents and provide information.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Connections: From iTunes to NanoSlang

I used to love watching the PBS series “Connections” hosted by James Burke. Burke’s thesis was that scientific discovery and technology development often do not follow a straight line trajectory, but rather depend upon complex relationships and serendipity. In one memorable episode he explained how Napoleon’s need for food storage led to manned space travel; in another he illustrated how standardizing metals in ancient coins inevitably resulted in the atomic bomb.

In this post, I present my less grand version of this, a series of nanoconnections, and along the way alert you to some interesting nanotechnology resources:

1. I began by listening to one in a series of lectures on nanomanufacturing by A.J. Hart (University of Michigan) which I downloaded from iTunesU, a subset of the famous music site, which has scholarly material hosted by a variety of academic institutions around the world. Although Georgia Tech is not among them, there you can find lectures, seminars, and videos on a wide variety of topics. Resource #1

2. During his lecture on electrical and optical properties of nanomaterials, Hart reminded the class that a good way to remain informed is to subscribe to news sites and journal contents via an RSS aggregator such as Google Reader. This is more convenient than receiving a barrage of individual emails, and any website can be added to the subscription list, even the one you are reading right now. Shameless plug for Resource #2.

3. Following Hart’s advice, I added some sites to my Google Reader, including the National Cancer Institute (NCI) Alliance for Nanotechnology in Cancer. This site is a compilation of all things related to the diagnosis, prevention, and treatment of cancer diseases that are located at the intersection of nanoscale science and engineering. Resource #3

4. Now stay with me as things take a turn: I noticed that seven of the eight articles that came from the NCI in August included the term or prefix “nano” in their titles. I could not ignore the use of nanobees, nanoparticle (3 times), nanotubes, nanoflares, and nanotags.

5. I found this curious and interesting, how nano had come to be used as more than a metric prefix meaning one-billionth, so I decided to check an online dictionary to see how many other nano-prefixed words are recognized. At dictionary.com, there were 36 words that included a nano prefix, and only 5 of these were related to a conventional metric unit (curie, gram, liter, meter, second).

6. This was when I discovered that there is nanoslang-- words that have been created using the nano prefix to connote smallness, not for scientific usage but in humorous or unusual ways. My two favorites were found in the online Urban Dictionary:

nanoEinstein: One devoid of general cultural knowledge but possessing extensive learning in an incredibly microscopic field of study.

nanonap: An unintentional, seconds-long nap that you take most often in class or a really boring meeting. So short that usually nobody but you notices.

I imagine that one might take a nanonap while listening to the droning on of a nanoEinstein. In any case, if the measure of a concept’s acceptance into the popular culture is its appearance in the lingo used by the youth of that generation, then all this is good news for the nanologists (a person who studies the infinitesimally small) among us.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Blog on a Blog

If you are a regular reader of this blog, or have heard me speak about nanotechnology, you may remember me mentioning The Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. In its own words, “the Project serves as a neutral, nonpartisan forum for study, discussion, and debate of the issues surrounding nanotechnology policy”. Since you may also know that I love video as an educational medium (see many of my previous posts), it will come as no surprise that I first became aware of this organization when I came across a wonderful explanation of nanotechnology called “The Twinkie Guide to Nanotechnology” (yes, the nuclear war-surviving snack cake). This video seminar is delivered by Andrew Maynard, who is the Chief Science Advisor to the Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies.

Dr. Maynard also has his own blog, 2020 Science, where he provides his personal insights about the impact of science, technology, and particularly nanotechnology, on life in the modern world. His selection of topics is broad, including ethics, religion, the environment, communication, and policy along with some specific technical issues such as carbon nanotubes, climate change, geoenginering, and synthetic biology. The opinions in the postings are supported by selections from the scientific literature and popular press, along with a good selection of links to other websites.

Maynard and 2020 Science are also proponents of Twitter and science’s impact on this medium. Even the New York Times reported today that the majority of tweeters (?) are adults, not teens, and that “use of social networking by people aged 35 to 54 grew 60 percent in the last year”, primarily for “professional purposes” according to Twitter co-founder and CEO Evan Williams.

I’ll stick to blogging.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Numbers 1 and 9

Occasionally I have some time on my hands. Sometimes this happens while I am eating lunch at my desk and I have already finished the morning crossword puzzle, and sometimes it occurs when I have completed one task and am not quite ready to delve into the next one. So, what does a nanotechnology blogger do when he has nothing to do? He goes to the web to look for ideas.

A few days ago I visited You-Tube and typed in the word, you guessed it, “nanotechnology.” Would you believe that I found a list of 2770 videos all tagged with that word? What I found most interesting however was that #1 in the search results (sorted by relevance) was a video I had seen about six months ago. Back then, I had made a notation that I wanted to share it with readers of this blog. I also realized that the #9 entry was a video I had seen earlier this week when searching the web for nano-related material. Both of these videos have received five-star reviews, but I can’t imagine two presentations of nanotechnology that occupy such extremes in style and content. And I loved them both.

The first video, Nanotechnology Takes Off, is from the public broadcasting station KQED in San Francisco and describes the applications of nanoscience and nanoengineering for an educated public (who else watches PBS?) in accurate, scientific, and sober terms. It features shots of suit and tie wearing scientists at Lawrence-Berkeley National Lab discussing quantum confinement, surface area, and polymer photovoltaics.

The second video, Be Amazing, is an animated, apocalyptic satire of the dangers of nanotechnology in the hands of those with evil intent. You will not be educated, but I promise you will laugh out loud.

Is there a grand conclusion to draw from the juxtaposition of these two presentations? Maybe, but I prefer to think of this as an illustration of Napoleon’s precept: “There is but one step from the sublime to the ridiculous.”

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

New Toys, I mean Tools, at the NRC

It is not every day that I get to use the words “fun” and “work” in the same sentence, but every once in a while my regular duties at the NRC require that I be entertained. Last Friday I got to take one of the NRC’s latest instrument acquisitions, the MicroFab jetlab II, on a test drive. The jetlab II is a drop-on-demand microdispensing and printing platform which can be used for a wide variety of applications. Typical “inks” include liquid solder, adhesives, polymers, and biological materials (diagnostic reagents, proteins, and DNA). Ink jet dispensing is a non-contact printing process, so its accuracy is not affected by substrate wetting. In addition, the ability to free-fly droplets allows the fluid to be dispensed into and onto non-planar and complex structural features. The NRC staff had several days of training on this new tool, but I had not used it for a real application until printing trans-dermal drug delivery patches with Sonal Saluja of Mercer University. After establishing the proper jetting parameters to create the controlled flow of single 40 micron drops, we were able to use on-the-fly printing to create a 1 cm x 1 cm patch (10,000 individual spots) of a test solution on a rough polyethylene surface in less than 2 minutes. The ease of implementing this simple application was refreshing, and as the X, Y, and Z stages and piezoelectric dispensing device obeyed our every command, I was reminded that I am a “gadget guy” just like my dad.

The jetlab II is one of several new bionanotechnology tools in the Marcus Nanotechnology Building that are currently available to NRC users. Other tools include the Bioforce Nano eNabler , a dynamic contact angle goniometer (rame-hart model 250) for determining surface energies, and a Q-Sense quartz crystal microbalance with dissipation for measuring bulk-surface interactions. Additional equipment is being ordered and installed, and the NRC is committed to improving its capabilities with the acquisition of new equipment as funding and user interest permits. For more information about these tools or opportunities to use them, please contact me or John Pham.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Nano@Tech: Past and Future

It is always difficult to assess quantitatively how you are doing when you undertake an enterprise that involves communication, marketing, and outreach. How many people are receiving your message? How are they responding to it? What is the impact you are making? The answers to these questions can be used to refine your approach, if necessary, and sometimes they even provide you a gentle pat on the back for a job well done.

As Nanotechnology Research Center friends and users know, Nano@Tech is a seminar series, open to the entire community, held at Georgia Tech on the second and fourth Tuesday of each month during the academic year. Since our featured speakers come from all of the disciplines involved in nanotechnology research, education, commercialization, and policy, the seminars provide an excellent opportunity to stimulate interdisciplinary collaboration.

For the last several years, we have videotaped most of these seminars and posted them on the SMARTech website, which is Georgia Tech’s archive of scholarly materials. Since these videos are quite large (some > 100 MB in size), requiring both an interest and commitment to download them for viewing, I was surprised to learn that they have attracted an on-line audience (90% of whom found the site via a Google search). For the 12 seminar videos from the 2008-09 academic year, there have been more than 800 downloads (so far). These statistics suggest that Nano@Tech is making an impact outside our immediate attending audience.

The Fall 2009 series will begin in a few weeks. If you can join us in person, please mark your calendars using the schedule below. More information will be coming for those on the email list, and if you want to get on this list just send me an email at david.gottfried@nrc.gatech.edu.

Aug. 25 - Alan Porter (GT-Public Policy)
Sept. 8 - Tom O'Brien/Swami Rajaraman (Axion Biosystems)
Sept. 22 - Devin Brown (GT-NRC)
Oct. 13 - Jason Nadler (GTRI)
Oct. 27 - Gang Bao (GT-BME)
Nov. 10 - Margaret Kosal (GT-Int'l. Affairs)
Dec. 8 - Gangli Wang (GSU-Chemistry)

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

So You Want to be in Show Business

A few months ago (May 8), I posted the results of a nanotechnology video contest sponsored by ACS Nanotation. Well all you right brain (creative) types, the next NanoTube Video Contest, with the theme of “How will nano change the world?”, has been announced and is accepting submissions. For details, see the information below from ACS.

In our last video contest "What is Nano?", you showed us that nano is a way of making things smaller, lighter and more efficient, making it possible to build better machines, solar cells, materials and radios. But another question remains: how exactly is "nano" going to impact both us and the world? We want you to think BIG about nano and show us how nano will address the challenges we face today.

  • What can nano do for global security?
  • What can nano do for the environment?
  • What can nano do for sustainable energy?
  • What can nano do for fighting disease?
  • What can nano do for the products you use?
  • What can nano do for YOU?

ACS Nanotation is interested to hear what you think, and to find out, we are sponsoring a video contest. Submit your videos to NanoTube and you could win up to $500 in cash!

The contest will open July 6, 2009 for video submissions and close August 9, 2009. See the contest rules and guidelines or contact acsnano@acs.org with any questions.

Friday, June 26, 2009

On Being an Exhibitionist

As I type these words, I am sitting on an airplane returning from Denver to Atlanta, having just hosted an NRC exhibit booth at the Transducers 2009 conference. This conference is also known as the International Conference on Solid-State Sensors, Actuators, and Microsystems, so you can see why it is traditionally known as Transducers.

In recent years, the Nanotechnology Research Center has exhibited at a wide variety of scientific and trade conferences, with the goal of promoting awareness of the center among practitioners (academic, government, and commercial) of micro/nano research, fabrication and characterization. As you are probably aware, our role within the National Nanotechnology Infrastructure Network obligates Georgia Tech to encourage and support usage of our facilities by both internal and external (non Georgia Tech) users. Conference exhibits are one tool in the marketing arsenal that has proven effective in reaching out to the international research community. I have noticed several encouraging trends over the years that I have been attending conferences as an NRC representative.

First, Georgia Tech has growing name recognition, and is known for its activities, along with our NNIN partners, for the quality of its faculty and students, as well as its resources and capabilities. Many people were aware of the new Marcus Nanotechnology Building, if not by name, and were astounded to hear of its specifications.

Second, I find that after two years I don’t need to provide as lengthy an explanation of how we operate as a user facility, for either on-site, hands-on or remote usage. I cannot be sure if this is related to my first point above, or is due to the improved quality of our marketing materials (booth design and brochures).

Third, although there are a variety of other resources available to researchers for fabrication and manufacturing scale-up (foundry services), the NRC (and NNIN) remain one of the few options for direct, hands-on usage. Still, although people appear to value this capability, the vast majority of potential users would prefer to contract the processing to our staff. I remain perplexed as to why individuals are willing to cede control of their own research or processes, and I am seeking ways to further encourage on-site work by our external users.

Finally, depending on the venue, there emerge some common interests, and it is gratifying to realize that the NRC is almost always in a position to assist in these areas. At Transducers, the most common needs were deposition of piezoelectric materials, deep reactive ion etching, and electron beam lithography, all strengths of the NRC.

It is good to be home, but I think the hard promotional work, made easier by the pleasant venues and joy of travel, is paying off.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Alphabet Soup

Summer time always reminds me of food at the Nanotechnology Research Center. As anyone who has ever been a user or a staff member will tell you, the NRC, like my Jewish mother, will feed you until you beg for mercy. If it is not the bagels on Friday morning, the BBQ lunches, the catered vendor seminars, or the birthday cakes, then it is the edibles (usually bad for my diet) left in the Micro Café for the random hungry passerby. However, the alphabet soup I am referring to here is not the kind from the familiar red and white Campbell’s can, but rather the acronyms of the summer visitors that populate the NRC hallways, carrels, and cleanroom this time of year. And this summer, thanks to the efforts of NNIN Education Coordinator Nancy Healy and many others, it seems as if the assortment is more varied than ever.

If you see someone new in the Pettit or Marcus building, introduce yourself and ask them what program they are on. If they give you a single syllable answer that would be more at home in a game of Scrabble, here is a lexicon to help you out.

TAG – When I was in high school, I spent the summers mowing the lawn, watching TV, and working in my home darkroom. Through the Technology Association of Georgia and its new program of high school internships, there is now an opportunity for engineering-minded teens to work alongside seasoned NRC staff.

RET – As any teacher will tell you, student’s summer vacation is rarely a time for teachers to lounge on the beach with a drink and a trashy novel. Most teachers I know use this time (usually unpaid) for professional development, and the Research Experience for Teachers is a great way to gain some first-hand understanding of microfabrication and nanotechnology that they can incorporate into their curricula for the fall.

REU – I remember my first research experience in college; I worked in the Oral Physiology Lab of the Dental School where I counted taste buds on neonatal rats. More importantly, there was no formal mechanism or supporting organizations to help me acquire this position. Thankfully, most universities now promote, support, and fund undergraduate research as an important component in students’ education. The NSF-sponsored Research Experience for Undergraduates is a program of mentored research in a wide variety of science and engineering fields to encourage students to pursue graduate education and careers in these areas.

SURE and LEF – As the demographics of this country change, it is vitally important that we improve diversity within every area of science and engineering, and I am pleased that Georgia Tech graduates the nation’s largest contingent of African-American engineers. The Summer Undergraduate Research in Engineering/Science Program is designed to attract minority students to technical career areas. The Laboratory Experience for Faculty is an NNIN program to provide access to advanced research facilities to faculty from minority institutions, and the NRC has been privileged to host summer visitors in this program for the last two years.

At its heart, as a part of an institution of higher education, the NRC is a place to teach and to learn. This educational mission can come in many forms, from the research of undergraduate students, graduate students and post-docs (who are apprentices, after all) to preaching the benefits (and risks) of nanotechnology to future engineers and scientists (our school-age children), their teachers, and their parents (the voting and tax-paying public). Let's enjoy the summer's warm weather along with some alphabet soup.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Biotech, Nanotech, and BIO

Maybe you heard about it on the radio or read about it in the newspaper. Maybe you saw some of the many visitors clogging the streets of Atlanta or touring around Georgia Tech. The commotion was the annual conference of the Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO) which took place at the Georgia World Congress Center from May 18-22.

BIO was unlike any scientific conference I have ever attended. With its focus on exhibition, both academic and industry achievements were showcased within state and national pavilions, and there was ample opportunity for corporate and political entities to mix, mingle, discuss, and deal. A highlight of the Georgia Pavilion was the announcement by Governor Sonny Perdue and Georgia Tech President Bud Peterson of the new Global Center for Medical Innovation (GCMI), which will be housed at Technology Enterprise Park, at the perimeter of Tech’s campus.

Although most of the attention was on the exhibition, I did attend several symposia that touched on the intersection of biotechnology and nanotechnology. In one session, titled “Transformational Tools: How New Research Technologies are Changing the Rules of the Game,” a panel of CEOs from both emerging and mature companies described a variety of new reagents and devices. Accuri Cytometers seeks to “democratize” the application of flow cytometry by developing a small and inexpensive flow cytometer for individual research labs that can compete with the larger units found in core facilities. Life Technologies (a recent merger between Applied Biosystems and Invitrogen) markets QDot probes for diagnostic applications. In an earlier session on cancer nanomedicine, Joe Beechem (VP, Corp. Res. Lab) elucidated the use of these quantum dot labels for single molecule detection in microfluidic flow channels. In particular, Joe described how the problem of non-specific binding can be evaded through the use of multiple colors which significantly improve the statistical odds of positive detections. The link between research and clinical genetics is shortened through the single molecule, whole genome analysis offered by BioNanomatrix. Finally, RainDance Technologies has commercialized a unique microdroplet platform that allows researchers to detect, sort, and capture individual picoliter environments at rapid rates. This venture stems from research at Harvard University, The Medical Research Centre in Cambridge, England, and the ESPCI in Paris. These examples highlight the path whereby nanoscale materials and devices will enhance the toolbox available for biotech discovery and applications.

While taking in the robust discussion of these novel technologies, I was struck by the realization that the theme of the BIO conference was the importance of both the utility and originality of technology itself. This point was driven home by one CEO who told the audience to forget about their own innovative, high-tech offerings and instead focus on the specific needs of the customers. This is not a lesson taught in graduate school, but one learned throughout the course of professional life.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

It Starts with Tape

Many years ago I interviewed for a job with 3M. At that time, I was certain that I was destined for fame and fortune in academia-- after all, I had the sport coat with the patches on the elbows. With my newly-minted Ph.D. in hand, I had the audacity to tell the interviewer that I was not interested in making tape. Needless to say, the interview was brief, and I was not offered a position with 3M. It took a few years of maturing for me to realize how arrogant and ill-informed I had been.

This story came to mind recently as I have been thinking and reading about commercialization of nanotechnology. A recent editorial in Nature Nanotechnology (Vol. 4, pg. 1, January, 2009) entitled “The Other Nanotech” discusses this issue. In particular, it is pointed out that 2007 was a milestone year in which corporate R&D spending for nanotechnology ($6.6 billion) surpassed that of government spending ($6.2 billion). All of these research dollars are not going solely to develop the complicated and expensive devices we are familiar with in university nanoscale research. Rather, much of this money is being spent on commercial applications of nanotechnology that are or will be household products.

The assortment of commercial nanotechnology applications are inventoried on a terrific website run by The Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies which lists more than 800 products. The inventory includes the DeWalt power drill (available at Home Depot) which contains lithium iron phosphate nanocrystal batteries created by MIT-spinoff A123 Systems. This company was also mentioned this week in a story in the business section of the New York Times, where it was described that emerging U.S. automotive policy directed toward electric cars may speed the involvement of A123 in developing nanotechnology-based car batteries. However, interestingly, more than half of the products in the commercial nanotechnology inventory fall into the health and fitness category, which includes such items as cosmetics and sunscreens.

The important point here is that while industry is peddling “bulk nanotechnology” for seemingly mundane applications (the “other nanotech” of the editorial), they are funneling what they are learning about material properties, mass production, packaging, and stability into more high-tech and demanding applications in areas such as medicine, energy, and electronics. Even 3M currently has several nanotechnology products in areas such as dental restoratives and automotive window coatings. And you may have heard about the variety of academic and corporate labs developing adhesives based on the nanoscale structures found on gecko feet. I guess it all comes back to the tape.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Nano Everything

The American Chemical Society (ACS) runs a web site via its publications arm call ACS Nanotation. This site serves as a compendium of information and resources for the nanoscience and nanoengineering community. Journal article reviews, multimedia (images, video, podcast), career resources, calendar events and the like are all available in one convenient location.

One of the recent public relations/outreach activities of ACS Nanotation was a contest for the best video that answers the question “What is Nano?” The idea was to use creativity and humor, while maintaining scientific accuracy, to convey the significance and impact of nanotechnology to the YouTube generation. Videos were submitted and available for viewing during the first quarter of 2009, and the winners, selected by both a panel of judges (Critics’ Choice) and by popularity (People’s Choice), were announced earlier this week.

And the envelope please (with my comments added)...

Critics’ Choice and People’s Choice (1st Place): The Nano Song
Patrick Bennett, David Carlton, Molly Felz, Nola Klemfuss, Glory Liu, Ryan Miyakawa, Stacey Wallace, and Angelica Zen (University of California, Berkeley)
A musical number that made me think of Kukla, Fran and Ollie.

Critics' Choice (2nd Place): Introduction to Nanotechnology
Dan Graham (Asemblon Inc.)
Remember those film strips from elementary school (at least in the 1970s)?

People’s Choice (2nd Place): Nanotechnology Brings us Delicious New Solar Cells
Blake Farrow (University of Notre Dame).
Kitchen (mostly) science with wry commentary.

Check these out at your leisure (and there is plenty more where these came from on the ACS Nanotation website). You might learn something, and, if nothing else, I promise you will be entertained.

Monday, May 4, 2009

The NanoFANS Forum

Last Friday was the third installment of the NanoFANS (Focusing on Advanced Nano-bio Systems) Forum , a biannual symposium for the nanoscience and nanotechnology community held at the Georgia Tech NRC. This was the first major event held in the conference facilities of the Marcus building, and it was a bit of a shakedown cruise as we learned the ins and outs of the new audio-visual systems. Nevertheless, it was an extremely well-attended event, with nearly 150 pre-registrations – a number that could not be accommodated in the space within the Pettit building. Credit and kudos to Paul Joseph, NRC Senior Research Scientist, who has organized this event since its inception in 2008.
The theme of the symposium was Cancer Nanotechnology, and the three speakers all touched on the use of nanomaterials for cancer diagnosis and treatment. Shuming Nie (GT and Emory School of Biomedical Engineering) is one of the pioneers in development and application of semiconductor quantum dots as fluorescent labels, and he discussed their tunability using size, composition, and strain. QDs have progressed steadily over the past 10 years through in vitro cellular studies and in vivo animal studies, and human applications appear just around the corner. John McDonald (GT School of Biology) represents the successful collaboration between cancer biology and nanoscience through his work with Andrew Lyon on nanohydrogels for siRNA delivery and John Zhang on magnetic nanoparticles for capture of metastatic cells. Finally, Mostafa El-Sayed (GT Chemistry and Biochemistry) explained the unique electronic properties of nano-gold which are promising for spectroscopic and thermal generation applications in cancer detection and therapy.

If you missed this NanoFANS event, you will be able to find the talks on SMARTech , the library’s archive, when they are posted (along with the previous presentations). However, if you are interested at all in the intersection of nanotechnology and the life sciences, I recommend you not miss NanoFANS when it returns in the fall.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

A Rising Nanotech Star

Philip V. Streich, an unassuming and polite 18 year-old, represents the future of nanotechnology research in this country.

I met Philip last year when he was a high school junior, at the 2008 Intel International Science and Engineering Fair (ISEF) in Atlanta. I led a team of judges who were selecting the best chemistry projects for special awards from the American Chemical Society. Although I did not speak with Philip during the two days of judging, I had this opportunity at the awards ceremony. Our team of judges unanimously awarded him the first place ACS award of $4000 for his research proving that carbon nanotubes can be dissolved in certain organic solvents such as N-methyl-2-pyrrolidone. He did this using light-scattering instrumentation he assembled from spare parts he found in the lab of his mentor, James Hamilton at the University of Wisconsin, Platteville. Oh, did I mention that Philip is home-schooled on the family’s 400 acre farm? As it turns out, we were not alone in our awe of his work and accomplishments-- Philip won additional awards totaling nearly $18,000 in 2008.

The previous year, as a sophomore, he was one of the three top winners of a $50,000 prize at ISEF 2007. He continues his streak this year, taking 3rd place in the Intel Science Talent Search (another $50,000 prize) and being selected by his fellow finalists for the Glenn T. Seaborg Award. These are just some of the many accolades he has won over the last several years. Not bad for a young man who is also a member of the 4H club, plays guitar and piano, and is treasurer of the Democratic Party of Grant County.

Finally, Philip is co-founder and co-owner of Graphene Solutions LLC, a company formed to commercialize the results of his research. You can find out more about Philip and his research from his Wikipedia entry, or from an interview on the Discovery channel, or by watching this YouTube video.

With Philip Streich entering the world of nanotechnology research (he will attend Harvard in the fall), the outlook is bright.

Monday, April 27, 2009

A Ribbon is Cut…

…and now the work of building a world-class, state-of-the-art nanotechnology research facility really begins.

The speakers (Prof. Jim Meindl, GT President G.P. Peterson, USG Chancellor Erroll Davis, and Mr. Bernie Marcus) at last Friday’s dedication ceremony for the Marcus Nanotechnology Building all spoke about the opportunity that this facility, with its forward looking and flexible design and room for considerable expansion, offers to the state, region and nation. We are all cognizant of the potential for nanoscience and nanoengineering to fundamentally alter a vast array of businesses including manufacturing, energy, consumer electronics, and healthcare. If we consider this effort a journey, then the hardest part, in which we are currently engaged, may be in “packing our bags” and “preparing the itinerary”. While there has been considerable preparation to get us to this point, the work of outfitting the Marcus facility with the right tools and staffing it with experienced staff is our current challenge.

The other observation I wanted to make about the dedication ceremony was the wide variety of individuals (numbering over 200) who attended. These interested parties represented Georgia Tech administration and faculty, donors and potential donors, building design and construction, equipment vendors, state of Georgia, NRC users, and NRC personnel. We all had our own reasons for attending, but it was interesting in speaking with people to understand their perceptions of nanotechnology and the potential for its application in science and business. At various times I discussed how nanotechnology is and will continue to impact biomedical research, such as the detection and treatment of cancer. Others were interested in applications in electronics, and the role graphene may play as the next generation successor to silicon. Finally, each of the speakers were unanimous in their desire that Georgia Tech and the state of Georgia play a preeminent role in the nanotech economy, with the NRC as a center for research, education, and commercialization. This is a lofty goal, requiring collaboration and coordination between disparate organizations, some existing and some needing to be established.

I also want to congratulate the staff of the NRC for all of their efforts that culminated in Friday’s celebration. Now let’s get to work.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

When Art Meets Science

The great thing about blogging, as I am discovering, is that it is a really easy medium to rapidly convey thoughts of the blogger (me). So please indulge me as I briefly share my recent excursion into the world of art via nanotechnology.

Today’s (April 21, 2009) Nano@Tech speaker was Michael Oliveri, an Associate Professor of Art at the University of Georgia. If there ever was a renaissance man, Michael could audition for the role. In his one hour with us (one of the largest turnouts in recent memory), he touched on agriculture, biology, chemistry, cosmology, materials science, and space science (in alphabetical order), among his many topics, to illustrate (pun intended) what he termed curiosity-based research. More specifically, Michael was here to discuss his ongoing investigations and research (and I use this term specifically) into using nanotech imaging tools (SEM) for creating artistic renderings of natural and synthetic materials. As Michael communicated, however, art is not just a pretty picture, but context plays a role, and some of his most awe-inspiring images are of “landscapes” created from SEM photographs. I show one example here, but you can see more at Michael’s website. The discussion later turned to biomimicry and nature-inspired design.

A short description of Michael Oliveri’s collaboration with Prof. Zhengwei Pan (UGA, Physics) can be found in the article “Postcards from Innerspace” in Chemical and Engineering News (November 24, 2008, Volume 86, Number 47, pp. 40-41).

Finally, aside from the fascinating images and dialogue, I was just as delighted by the interactions among artists, engineers, and even biologists, as I view the Nano@Tech setting as an opportunity to foster creative thinking and innovation via interdisciplinary conversation and collaboration. As I showed Michael some of the tools we have available in the Pettit building, and the vastness and scale of the Marcus building (and gallery), additional opportunities for interaction became obvious. I know all scientists and engineers think their work is elegant and beautiful, but it is nice to have independent confirmation of this as well.

Friday, April 17, 2009

More Air Time

Bernie Marcus, co-founder of the Home Depot and namesake of the Marcus Nanotechnology Building, was on the airwaves this week talking up nanotechnology and Georgia Tech.

Squawk Box with Bernie Marcus (CNBC Cable Networks - April 15)

Home Depot Founder Talks Nano (Fox Business - April 15)

Mr. Marcus will also be on the Georgia Tech campus next week, Friday, April 24, for the dedication and grand opening of the Marcus building.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Nano on the Air

I guess it counts as a positive thing that I got the phone call from my non-scientist wife, who was driving our kids to school and listening to NPR, as she usually does. When she reached me in my office, she was excited as she recounted the story she heard on WABE about the intersection of nanotechnology and biotechnology occurring at Georgia Tech. I consider her random hearing of this news story among many others as a sign that nanotechnology news is reaching the general public (as much as NPR listeners are considered the general public), highlighting the positive impact it can have for the economic well-being of Georgia and the United States.

The WABE report was the second installment of an eight-part series, BIO on my Mind, produced in advance of next months Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO) conference here in Atlanta. I had planned to write more (and still do) about BIO when it occurs, but this timely plug is too good to pass up. In addition to background information from Kevin Martin (NRC Assoc. Director) and Greg Book (NRC Asst. Director for External Users), the story highlighted the work of Swaminathan (Swami) Rajaraman. In particular, Swami, who recently defended his ECE doctoral thesis, discussed how his multi-electrode array for electrophysiology can be used for cellular analysis with applications to pharmaceutical research. It was also mentioned that he is now working with start-up Axion Biosystems which is commercializing this research.

There is a considerable effort to position Georgia as a home for biotechnology, and it is gratifying that nanotechnology is considered to play a significant role in this. Just wait until next week (April 24), when the dedication of the Marcus Nanotechnology Building provides a new model for the interdisciplinary research required in this endeavor.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

You Say Micro, I Say Nano

It was Shakespeare who said “What is in a name…?”, but it was Louis Armstrong who famously sang about potatoes and tomatoes. What I am trying to get at (in my attempt at humor) is the name change that is currently occurring in nanotechnology research here at Georgia Tech.

If you have only recently become acquainted with nanotechnology at Tech, you may not realize that the Nanotechnology Research Center is a new addition. For more than 20 years, the open fabrication and characterization user facilities at Georgia Tech (which have operated as part of the National Nanotechnology Infrastructure Network for the last 5 years) have been known as the Microelectronics Research Center (MiRC). With the opening of our newest facility, the Marcus Nanotechnology Building, this entity will now be known as the Nanotechnology Research Center (NRC). The NRC consists of both facilities, the original Pettit Microelectronics Building and the new Marcus building, which will operate under a unified management. This does not indicate any radical shift in the focus of the research that goes on here, as the drift away from traditional microelectronics to the broad and multi-disciplinary nanotechnology (which George Whitesides calls “a word, not a field”), has been occurring for some time. The NRC will continue with state-of-the-art nano- (and micro-) scale fabrication, but will now include additional capabilities for life sciences and materials research. More on this in later posts.

Along these same lines, the existing MiRC websites (both MiRC and the Grover cleanroom) that you are used to, as well as the more general NanoTech website which catalogs nanoscale research at Tech, can all be found linked at the new NRC website http://www.nrc.gatech.edu/. This is currently just a start, and as we move forward a more thorough integration of this web information will occur.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Nanotechnology and the Social Sciences

I consider myself somewhat of a generalist. By that, I mean that I like to study all aspects of a particular topic that I am interested in. I am not always successful, and sometimes I run the risk of spreading myself too thin. In other words, I tend to know just a little about a lot of things, rather than become an expert in one small niche. Nanotechnology is an area that is ripe for this sort of approach, because it is so interdisciplinary by its very nature. I have followed this tactic when I schedule speakers for Nano@Tech seminars, trying to bring in viewpoints on nanotechnology from diverse disciplines.

In this vein, I wanted to point out to NRC users and other nano-enthusiasts the presence at Georgia Tech of a group that many may not be aware of (at least I wasn’t until very recently). The Center for Nanotechnology in Society is an NSF supported multi-university consortium (led by Arizona State University). The Georgia Tech group (http://www.nanopolicy.gatech.edu/), part of the School of Public Policy, the Enterprise Innovation Institute and others, is “focusing on Research and Innovation Systems Assessment - research to characterize the technical scope and dynamics of the [nanoscale science and engineering] enterprise.” Additional activity includes looking at equity and equality issues in nanotechnology and public deliberation through a citizen engagement forum in Atlanta.

Two of the CNS-ASU/Georgia Tech faculty (Philip Shapira and Alan Porter) recently presented a webinar entitled “Nanotechnology: Will It Drive a New Innovation Economy for the U.S.?” at the Woodrow Wilson Institute’s Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies. More information on this talk and the presentation slides can be found at http://www.nanotechproject.org/events/archive/shapira/, although the webcast video is not available yet. You will have an opportunity to hear Prof. Porter again when he is a Nano@Tech seminar speaker during the fall semester.

The CNS-ASU/Georgia Tech group also hosted a seminar on campus (March 31) by Dr. Ismael Rafols, (Science and Technology Policy Research, University of Sussex, UK) on the topic “How to shape the direction of innovation in nanomaterials? Broadening the agenda from risk regulation to innovation governance”. Among the tidbits I gleaned from this fascinating discussion is that we need to be careful when we speak about “nanotechnology”. From a policy, environmental, and regulatory perspective this almost always means “manufactured nanomaterials” (i.e. CNT, QD, nanoparticles). However, the public and mass media don’t discriminate between these synthetic materials and natural nanomaterials as well as nanoscale-based devices. At the same time, basing regulation on size alone is not logically supportable; rather application is much more of a classifier. In fact, I recently heard it put succinctly, based on the past experience with genetically modified organisms (GMOs), that “the public has no problem with injecting them (biomedical applications), but they don’t want to eat them (food and agriculture applications).”

Friday, March 27, 2009

ACS Spring 2009 National Meeting

Earlier this week I had the pleasure to attend the Spring 2009 national meeting of the American Chemical Society in Salt Lake City. Notably, the coordinating theme of this meeting was “Nanoscience: Challenges for the Future”. The theme’s organizer was Prof. Paul Weiss of Penn State University and Editor-in-Chief of the journal ACS NANO.

As a first for an ACS national meeting there was an opening Keynote Address delivered by Angela Belcher (MIT) titled “From nature and back again: Giving new life to materials for energy”. Belcher provided a broad overview of nanotechnology and the various approaches to the global issues of energy, healthcare, and the environment. In particular, she discussed her own work in leveraging the properties of living systems to design future technologies. She described the creation of new batteries using a “tool kit” of natural biomaterials and combinatorial methods to generate new synthetic materials.

The Kavli Foundation sponsored a Plenary Session Symposium on Challenges in Nanoscience. This program offered perspectives on the future of nanoscience and nanotechnology by luminaries George Whitesides (Harvard University), Vicki Colvin (Rice University), Jim Hutchison (University of Oregon), and Grant Willson (University of Texas, Austin). All of these were fantastic presentations, but I was most impressed with Willson who delivered a technical analysis of high resolution patterning for modern electronics fabrication in the style of an old-time fundamentalist tent preacher. If you are willing to follow the advice of someone largely responsible for the chemically-amplified photoresists in use today (which means he might know a thing or two about fabrication), don’t invest in extreme UV (EUV) photolithography, and place your bets on step and flash nanoimprint lithography for the next advances in nanoscale pattern transfer.

Finally, the meeting contained more than 50 other symposium related to nanotechnology on topics as diverse as Green Nanoscience, Food-related Nanotechnology, Chemical Methods of Nanofabrication, and Small Chemical Businesses and Nanoscience among many others. I could only attend a fraction of these (in the absence of human cloning), but I was uniformly impressed by the quality of the research I did get to hear about.

I have been told, in another ACS first, that the Keynote Address and the Plenary Session were captured on video and will be available on the ACS website soon. When I find out the address, I will post it here.
Here it is: http://www.softconference.com/acschem/slist.asp?C=2763

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

An Introduction

Nanotechnology. The word itself conjures up a variety of meanings and images for scientists, engineers and the general public. And believe me, or do a google search yourself, there are many bloggers out there posting and discussing on this subject. So why do we need another one? Well, this blog will be focused on nanotechnology as it relates to Georgia Tech (my home base) and the Nanotechnology Research Center (NRC) specifically. In addition, I will write about various tidbits on nanotechnology and nanoscience that I come across in my work and daily experience. Examples might include interesting web sites, journal articles, conferences, and applications.

Most of what I post here won't be original, but rather I view this site as a compendium of everything nano that will hopefully have relevance to the audience of Georgia Tech nano fanatics and NRC users. If you are a regular attendee at the Nano@Tech seminars (more about these in a later post), you know that I strive for an inclusive look at the topic. Expect to find some fun and humor here (at least by my standards), as I direct your attention to bizarre nanotechnology commercialization ventures or education initiatives.

By the way, the title of this blog refers to the December 1959 lecture by Richard Feynman in which he predicted the importance of nanotechnology, without using that terminology. To quote: "It is a staggeringly small world that is below. In the year 2000, when they look back at this age, they will wonder why it was not until the year 1960 that anybody began seriously to move in this direction."

As in all blogs, I welcome your comments, suggestions for blog entries, and feedback.