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Reprinted with permission from Foresight Update 20 (foresight@cup.portal.com):

Nobel Chemist on Nanotechnology


Dr. Roald Hoffmann has made numerous contributions in the field of chemistry, most notably in geometrical structure and reactivity of molecules. His contributions have earned him numerous honors, including the 1981 Nobel Prize in Chemistry. He is currently a professor of chemistry at Cornell University, focusing in the area of applied theoretical chemistry. He is also on the technical advisory board of Molecular Manufacturing Enterprises, Inc. (MMEI). Here he gives his initial and expanded reactions to the goal of nanotechnology:

The first reaction is "I'm glad you guys [that includes women, of course] found a new name for chemistry. Now you have the incentive to learn what you didn't want to learn in college." Chemists have been practicing nanotechnology, structure and reactivity and properties, for two centuries, and for 50 years by design.

What is exciting about modern nanotechnology is (a) the marriage of chemical synthetic talent with a direction provided by "device-driven" ingenuity coming from engineering, and (b) a certain kind of courage provided by those incentives, to make arrays of atoms and molecules that ordinary, no, extraordinary chemists just wouldn't have thought of trying. Now they're pushed to do so.

And of course they will. They can do anything. Nanotechnology is the way of ingeniously controlling the building of small and large structures, with intricate properties; it is the way of the future, a way of precise, controlled building, with, incidentally, environmental benignness built in by design.

From From Foresight Update 20, a newsletter on nanotechnology published by the Foresight Institute, PO Box 61058, Palo Alto, CA 94306, USA; foresight@foresight.org.



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