November 15 th , the IEEE San Francisco Bay Area
Nanotechnology Council inaugurated a first-of-its-kind
annual symposium combining a celebration of the current
work of university graduate researchers, along with
and a challenge to local seasoned high-tech workers
to imagine some down-to-earth applications of that
work. A capsule of the presented work and the measures
of success are reported here.
Dubbed NANOTECH: IMAGINE THE POSSIBILITIES!, the
idea behind this event may have been in a lot of
ways ahead of its time, just like a lot of the aspects
of Nanotechnology. Based on the results however,
its time may have come just in time.
The idea started with a question. What would happen
if you put the next generation of high-tech R&D
scientists and engineers in the same room along with
their parent's generation of seasoned Silicon Valley
scientists and engineers? For once, no professors,
no looming tests, and no VCs to define their future
success. It was simple: The university graduate researchers
present pre-publication briefs of their current work
and, the audience conjectures about how it might
apply in industry now or someday hence. The researchers
would go away with positive feedback on their work,
and hopefully some real world possible applications
to energize them toward completing their projects.
The audience would go away in amazement over the
presented emerging research results and also with
the satisfaction that perhaps their own input might
someday have an impact on the direction of applied
nanotechnology. The Symposium's results met all its
imagined positive outcomes.
To understand the motivation for having such a symposium,
consider the following. In the 21 st Century's information
economy, IDEAs are the most priceless resource. High
technology industries are driving economic growth
the world over, and one third of the global market
for high technology products is owned by US high
tech companies. This US dominance is driven in large
part by its Science and Engineering education system
which closely couples advanced training with hands-on
research experience. According to NSF statistics,
the portion of science and engineering doctorate
holders who remain engaged in R&D as a major
work activity is 85%, 4 years after their degree,
and 45% after another 30 years. Also, even though
during 2002 US industry outspent universities on
R&D $194 billion to $36 billion, it was the universities
who performed 55% of the Country's basic research
. So given that university graduate researchers play
a key role in driving the engine known as the US
high technology industry, a forum to foster and perhaps
to provide a measure of focus seemed valuable. Also,
in light of the recent emergence of the rest of the
world on the high tech landscape, the timeliness
of such a forum seemed right.
The Symposium, held in the heart of Silicon Valley
at National Semiconductor's Sunnyvale meeting center,
featured eight current Doctoral candidates and Post
Doctoral university researchers. They came from UC
Berkeley, UC Davis, Santa Clara University , and
as far away as the University of Southern California
. As a measure of the geographical diversity represented,
they listed their home towns as Taipei, Tehran, Asheville
NC, College Station TX, Chongging City China, Portland
OR, Redlands CA, and Shingle Springs CA (for the
curious, a gold rush era town of 7500 inhabitants).
The audience only numbered a few dozen, but they
came full of ideas and energy to network among themselves
and the graduate researchers.
The presentations had outstanding technical depth,
stunning presentation materials, and were delivered
with an unanticipated maturity (given the seemingly
nano-dimensions of their ages and experiences compared
to the audience's).
Shelley Claridge of UCB's Chemistry Department showed
how she is using DNA as a scaffolding structure to
manipulate Gold nanoparticles for potential use in
the assembly, for example, of nanoscale optical devices.
DNA's programmability, structural features, and ease
of synthesis make possible the creation of unnatural
structural motifs as well.
Rong Fan from UCB's Chemistry Department also applied
DNA in his work. This time the DNA was squeezed through
inorganic nanotubes that had been fashioned into
a fluidic transistor circuit. His demonstration of
N-type and P-type FETs was a throwback of 30 years
for some of the CMOS pioneers in the audience.
Jacob Hooker, also of UCB's Chemistry Department,
described removing the harmful insides of a virus'
protective shell, and then synthetically modifying
the interior surface to accept the insertion of molecules.
The potential delivery of anti-cancer drugs appeared
to be a real possibility.
Daniel Scott, from UC Davis' Chemistry Department,
continued the nano-bio theme by showing his progress
with using enzymes as biological catalysts to build
metallic and bimetallic nanoparticles with near atomic
Ladan Mohaddes, who is on a research assignment
at UCB from the University of Maryland , showed how
she has assembled strongly ferromagnetic nanowires
into densely populated columns perpendicular to the
substrate. The hard disk drive soldiers in the audience
could see the terabit/square inch milestone being
left far behind with this potential innovation. From
the back of the room someone said: “Eat my dust FLASH
Ian Lee, doing Post Doctoral work in USC's Electrical
Engineering-Systems Department, showed the importance
of the early theoretical work on those ideas that
eventually get tested in the lab. His new theorem
predicts that nanotube-dipole antennas should be
capable of detecting narrowband wireless signals.
Banks of these tuned nanotube frequency detectors
could help build an artificial cochlea for the inner
ear. This really piqued the interest of those of
us now suffering hearing loss from all those days
in noisy fab environments.
Donald Sirbuly, from UCB's Department of Chemistry,
is also doing Post Doctoral research. He showed,
in essence, nanotubes performing like optical fibers.
His demonstration showed that they are robust enough
to stand significant flexing. These semiconductor
nanostructures were shown to be capable of combining,
deconvolving, and steering light in ways that may
have exciting applications in microfluidics and nanobiotechnology.
Quoc Ngo, of SCU's Center for Nanostructures, updated
his work on carbon nanofibers with potential use
to extend IC interconnects beyond the limitation
looming for copper vias. Ongoing improvements in
the resistance and current carrying capacity of carbon
nanofibers demonstrate the viability of these structures
for next-generation IC fabrication schemes.
The Symposium wrapped up late in the afternoon with
more networking and an unusual phenomenon for half-day
symposia – the audience stayed until the end.
The buzz was loud. Everyone marveled at the level
of technical sophistication demonstrated in the presentations.
The audience slowly retreated knowing they still
had what it takes to be a dreamer in valley where
Silicon Microtechnology changed the world. And the
young researchers, their work recognized by peers
to be, went away laden with notes about previously
unimagined possibilities for their work in Nanotechnology.
At the end the Symposium as well was an imagined
possibility that actually came to be.
Program organizer, Nanotech: Imagine the Possibilities!
IEEE SF BA Nanotechnology Council Steering Committee