On November 21, 2006, IEEE San Francisco Nanotechnology Council held its second annual symposium showcasing graduate research at SEMI headquarters in San Jose.
If you’ve ever tried to thread a needle without your glasses or pull out a splinter without tweezers, you’ll understand the problems facing people in nanotechnology. You need to see what your doing and be precise.
Fortunately there is a new generation of scientists using Atomic Force Microscopy (AFM), Scanning Tunneling Microscopy (STM) and other tools to build nanostructures atom by atom. After seeing their images, I was struck by how messy things are on that scale. Frankly, some of the structures look like the flint arrowheads I used to find as a child. Maybe we are at the stone age in nanotechnology, but I think the people I met will take us much farther down the road.
Dr. T. James Rudd of the NSF gave the keynote speech on the importance of graduate research in developing new technologies can give the U.S. the competitive edge in the global marketplace. Other countries are spending much more research money on the physical sciences than we are, resulting in more efficient manufacturing methods at lower cost. We need to be the magnet for the world’s best and brightest.
Hyung Gyu Park of UC Berkeley’s Department of Mechanical Engineering delivered his paper on fast mass transport through sub-2 nanometer carbon nanotubes. Basically he can screen out anything larger than two nanometers wide. A nanofilter could provide clean water for millions of people. It could clean the air we breathe.
Xing Chen of UC Berkeley’s Department of Chemistry and Physics talked about nanoinjectors made from carbon nanotubes. Combined with an atomic force microscope and other equipment, they can inject a substance into a mammal’s cell without damaging it. This could dramatically speed up biological research.
Vignesh Gowrishankar of Stanford’s Department of Materials Science and Engineering is working on ways to create organic-based solar power collectors. I always thought they were called plants, but these are organic light absorbing semiconductors that could create energy cheaper than existing photovoltaics (PV).
Steve Crane of UC Berkeley’s Department of Materials Science and Engineering talked about nickel ferrite (ferroelectric and ferromagnetic) properties on thin films deposited by pulsed lasers. This will help create more efficient electronics in things like cell phones.
Moony Tong of UC Santa Cruz’s Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry synthesized silver particles less than three nanometers in diameter using dithiocarbamite derivatives and superhydride reduction. Another possibly useful application for electronics.
Edward de Asis of Santa Clara University’s Center for Nanostructures (which the sounds like it could be the smallest building on campus) talked about building very small electrodes with carbon nanotubes to measure signals in neuronal networks like those found in rat hippocampal cells. Useful for biological research.
Anna Merzylak of UC Berkeley’s Bioengineering and UC San Francisco’s Physical Biosciences LBNL delivered her paper on genetically engineered viruses like the M13 bacteriophage for tissue-engineering scaffolds to detect activity in cells. The virus creates a filament the right size for building such scaffolds. Useful for biological research.
In short, there may be big money in small packages.
Copyright 2006 DJ Cline All rights reserved.