Nanotechnology Five Years On

It’s hard to believe that we’ve been doing this for five years already. The first ever issue of TNT Weekly went out in December 2000, and in a fit of nostalgia we opened up the archives to see what we were talking about back in January 2001.

While the environmental and ethical issues were yet to emerge, surprisingly, what we were reporting was very similar to todays new blog enabled TNTlog – a mixture of science , speculation and nanobots.

So join us for a trip back in time to January 15th 2001. We have chosen

TNT Weekly

Week 2, 2001.

The Trends in Nanotechnology (TNT) newsletter provides links and introductions to articles and press releases that have appeared on the web in the last week on the subject of nanotechnology. It is widely believed that in the near future nanotechnology will spawn a variety of world-changing industries, leveraging developments in a broad range of scientific disciplines, from the biological sciences, through chemistry and classical and quantum physics.

The editorial team that compiles this newsletter consists of leaders from the scientific & business communities. A key advantage of our editorial team is the ability to cut through the nanotechnology hype. As such, we will occasionally bring you some of that hype (and our critique) to assist in the learning process for those who need it.

Our mission is twofold:

– to inform researchers in all disciplines relevant to nanotechnology, a field where, like no other in history, multidisciplinary collaborations will bear the greatest fruit

– to provide lay and business readers with access to the latest and most relevant information on research and existing and upcoming businesses poised to capitalise on the vast potential of nanotechnology

Given the diversity of these two groups, our focus is on providing a concise, readable, first-stop resource for busy people that will enable them to home in quickly on the latest news of interest to them. There may be dozens of (highly-technical) nanotechnology-related papers published each week in the various subscription-only academic journals. We do not attempt to comprehensively review these, looking instead for freely-available, not-too-technical reviews that will be accessible to the bulk of our readers. The more technical reader can always follow through to the original publication. We will make exceptions to this rule at times, where an article or an issue of a journal warrants, and hope to extend this service in the future.

Our brief commentary on links is intended to help the reader’s selection process (once they have come to trust our judgement). We hope it will also raise the occasional smile or two, and that you come to look forward to receiving our newsletter as not just a source of information but as an enjoyable read.

KEEPING MOORE’S LAW ALIVE

Berkeley Labs’ Science Beat brings us a report of a project at that institution to develop commercially-applicable nanolithographic techniques using ion beams. Certainly the ability to dispense with the masks, resists and etching used with prevailing lithographic techniques seems appealing.

For the broader picture on miniaturisation in semiconductor technology using more traditional techniques, see the rather ponderous article in EETimes on the International Technology Roadmap for Semiconductors, or, also from EETimes, a comparison of progress in ultraviolet and electron beam lithographic approaches, that also includes some skepticism about the potential of maskless techniques.

Better, though, and covering the areas of both the EETimes links and more, is a fine article from Red Herring. This article has broad coverage, clear non-technical explanations of difficult issues and injects some humour too. It stops short of looking into the more exotic possibilities for going beyond the limits of lithographic techniques, e.g. using nanowires (as mentioned below), nanotubes (such as in the latest edition of Science, or self-assembling molecular electronics (also mentioned below), but that would be a whole new article. Red Herring at its best.

Beyond lithographic techniques, there may be nanowires. The Financial Times briefly reports on a letter in the current issue of Nature on the assembly of doped nanowires into a variety of basic electronic elements. Several other recent papers on the production and manipulation of nanowires have pointed to the advantages of such over carbon nanotubes for basic nanoelectronics (but nanotubes have other interesting properties, such as high tensile strength or the ability to act as rheostats when rotated, that offer other possibilities). The summary of the letter in Nature is at http://www.nature.com/cgi-taf/DynaPage.taf?file=/nature/journal/v409/n6816/abs/409066a0_fs.html&filetype=&_UserReference=C0A804EE46B40E658A9C06C0A0653A57DC36.

A STEAK IN THE FUTURE?

The UK’s Guardian newspaper brings us a year-end look at the future of nanotechnology (courtesy of the Financial Times site that offers just a few possibilities and ends with some of the wilder predictions of the potential of self-replicating nanomachines, this time not the dreaded grey goo but the even more implausible vision of nanobots picking vegetable matter apart atom by atom and rebuilding it into juicy steaks. Harrumph.

Part of the same Guardian ‘Science 2001’ special section is an article that hardly mentions nanotechnology (and badly when it does) but we felt worth including because it’s tremendous fun, and because it does cover well the other of the great fears of Sun co-founder Bill Joy (nanotechnology being the first), as expressed in his now infamous Wired article. This other fear is hyper-intelligent computers taking over the world, which we actually find far more plausible than nanobot-assembled best brisket.

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