Putting Major Resources Into Nanotechnology Research
By Tanya Sienko
Dr. Tanya Sienko of Japan's National Institute of Science and
Technology Policy tracks nanotech-nology R&D in that country.
In addition, Dr. Sienko also serves as Director of International
Relations for Molecular Manufacturing Enterprises, Inc.
Japan has emerged as one of the three leading research areas for
nanotechnology, along with the United States and Europe
(especially the United Kingdom). Japan has been responsible for
several nanotechnology firsts (picking up and replacing
individual atoms, for example) and has been extremely strong in
developing instrumentation (variants of STMs and AFMs, etc.) for
Nanotechnology research is an anomaly in Japan. Its broad
interdisciplinary aspects are very rare in the standard structure
of university and government institutions. Until now most of the
leading-edge Japanese work in nanotechnology seems to have been
done in institutions which have been specifically set up from an
inter-disciplinary viewpoint, such as the Institute of Physical
and Chemical Research (RIKEN), the Exploratory Research for
Advanced Technology program (ERATO), the Research Center for
Advanced Science and Technology (RCAST), etc. However, individual
laboratories at particular universities also seem to have
developed specialties in particular sub-areas.
The Japanese government, in its handling of nanotechnology
research, seems to be attempting to create research networks
within Japan as well as international collaborations. However,
nanotechnology per se is not yet being handled as a
full-scale research project (such as the Fifth Generation
Computer Project) nor has it yet been identified officially
as one of the technologies for the next century, in the same way
that micromachines have been.
On the other hand, the sub-disciplines of nanotechnology have
been realized as being very important. One of the projects within
the Ministry of International Trade and Industry's Industrial
Science and Technology Frontier Program deals with individual
atomic manipulation. At present, most so-called
"nanotechnology" research in industry is considered to
refer to the construction of nanostructures on semiconductors and
is being carried out by the giant electronics companies (NEC,
Hitachi, Sony, etc.) with a view towards developing the next
generation computer chip.
At present, the government should be considered the major player
in more speculative nanotechnology-related research.
Within MITI is housed the Industrial Science and Technology
Frontier Program (ISTF). These are projects dealing with research
in either obviously important areas (Non-linear Photonics
Materials, for example), or leading-edge technology. Each project
lasts for 3 to 12 years, and receives anywhere from $2 million to
$200 million of funding. Each project contains both public and
private participants. The current projects related to
Advanced Chemical Processing Technology (1990-1996)
This breaks down into:
ultra-high-purity separation and processing technology
using a laser beam to selectively excite particles, which
then can be pulled down onto a charged substrate;
ultra-fine-grained crystal controlling technology which
allows the manipulation of particles in a plasma to
produce laminated sheet materials or gradient materials;
the synthesizing of high-performance organic materials
through controlling their formation under ultra-high
pressures, strong magnetic fields, and ultra-low
Synergy Ceramics (1991 onwards, first phase 5 years)
By introducing the concept of "hyper-organized structure
controlling," that is the simultaneous control of structural
elements at diverse scale levels from the atomic-molecular scale
to the macro scale, this project attempts to create "Synergy
Ceramics," a new family of advanced ceramics in which
diverse properties are made compatible, and different functions
are integrated in the same material.
Molecular Assemblies for a Functional Protein System
Proteins suitable for artificial reconstruction are screened
from protein assemblies in biomembranes. The basic conditions
necessary to analyze the functions and structures of the proteins
will be established. The elementary technologies necessary for
artificial reconstruction of functional protein assemblies will
be determined. Finally, working protein assemblies will be
reconstituted, and their function and structure will be
evaluated. So far, the protein involved in a photosystem reaction
center utilizing solar energy has been artificially improved and
stabilized. A world first was the production of a large amount of
this protein using genetic engineering on E coli. Second,
the ion channel receptor protein which controls a reaction
through molecular recognition has been genetically determined and
a technique for producing a large quantity of the protein has
Quantum Functional Devices (1991-2000)
This is working on the next generation computer chip, for a
"Stepping into the mesoscopic realm in fabrication
size, conventional semiconductor devices can not work well
due to the appearance of quantum phenomena. In order to
overcome the problem, it will be necessary to control quantum
effects such as electron tunneling, electron wave
interference, and energy level quantization and to pursue
operational principles of devices based on quantum effects.
The purpose of this project is to establish basic
technologies for developing innovative devices with
ultra-high speed and multi-functions by utilizing quantum
effects appearing in ultraminute structures."
So far for results, they have fabricated TiOx
quantum wires of 18 nm width using a scanning tunneling
microscope, as well as proposed and ascertained the basic
operation of several kinds of quantum transistors.
The private sector partner for this project is the Research and
Development Association for Future Electron Devices, while the
public sector partner is the Electrotechnical Laboratory.
Ultimate Manipulation of Atoms and Molecules (1992-2001)
The purpose of R&D is to develop technology for exactly
observing and identifying atoms or molecules, and arranging them
in a desired layout. In combination with mechanical probe
techniques and beam techniques, the new technology allows the
identification, observation, measurement and manipulation of
atoms and molecules on the surface of various materials, organic
molecules such as DNA, and atomic assembly in free space. R&D
of simulation technology will also be pursued to exactly predict
atomic and molecular processes. In JYF 1994, it was found
possible to manipulate structures down to the atomic level by
means of magnetic fields. This suggests the possibility of
creating new materials through the control of materials'
structures at atomic and molecular levels. A list of targets to
achieve by the final date (2001) include:
(Control of Local Surface Reactions)-> Manipulation of
(Control of Subnanometer Structures)-> Control of Bulk
(Observation and Control of Growing Surfaces)->
Formation of Superstructures;
(Control of Reactions in Atom Clusters)-> Formation of
(Observation of Molecules)->Molecular Fabrication;
(Simulation Based on First Principle
Calculations)->Reaction System Simulation.
This last project has the Angstrom Technology Partnership as the
private sector partner, and the National Institute for Advanced
Interdisciplinary Research (NAIR) as the public sector partner.
Both have come together to form the Joint Research Center for
Atom Technology (JRCAT) to carry out the above-mentioned
research. The research groups involved are the same as those in
Tokumoto Group: Measurement and Control of Atomic Level
Structures by Mechanical Probe
Ichikawa Group: Observation and Formation of Atomic Scale
Structure Using Beam Technology
Ozeki Group: Measurement and Control of Surface Reactions
for Nano-Structure Fabrication
Yao Group: Atomic Level Analysis and Control of II-VI
Tokura Group: Exploration of Transition Metal Oxides and
Organic Molecular System
Kanayama Group: Formation and Control of Clusters in Ion
Trap and on Solid Surface
Okada Group: SPM and Optical Analysis for DNA and Organic
Terakure Group: Organic Molecules and Solids; New
Techniques for Computer Simulation
ERATO projects are 5 year projects, each with a total budget
of ¥1.5-2.0 billion (US$14-18 million). Although labeled as
"interdisciplinary," each project focuses on one
research topic, under one well-known research scientist. ERATO is
more a mechanism for top-class, young researchers to concentrate
on particular research areas than an institute by itself, since
research is carried out in rented labs in universities,
government labs, and industry. So far, nanotechnology-related
quantum device research projects have been the following:
RIKEN (Institute of Physical and
RIKEN (Institute of Physical and Chemical Research) is another
research organization under STA. Known for its international
flavor and interdisciplinary flair, three of its laboratories out
of the 20 are noted for their nanotechnology slant: Laboratory
for Nano-Electronics materials, Laboratory for Nano-photonic
materials, and Laboratory for Exotic Nano-materials. So far,
research seems to have been geared towards construction and
characterization of quantum device structures. RIKEN projects
which are related to nanotechnology research are:
Frontier Materials Research:
Laboratory for Nano-Electronics Materials
T. Sugano, Head
Characterization and Control of Surface and Interface
Electrical Properties of Nano-electronics Materials
Optical Properties of Nano-electronics Materials
Development of Nano-electronics Materials and
Nanostructures Research to Device Applications
Laboratory for Nano-Photonics Materials
H. Sasabe, Head
Creation of QW Structures of Low-dimensional Conjugated
Elucidation of Dynamic Behaviors in Excited States by
Study on Photorefractive Index Change in Photonics
2D Crystallization of Photoresponsive Proteins and
Creation of Optical Neural Networks with Self-Feedback
Laboratory for Exotic Nano-Materials
was headed by W. Knoll who has now left
Studies of Nanoscopic Fabrication
Studies of Nanoscopic Characterization
Studies of Nanoscopic Modification
Studies of High Resolution Electron Microscopy
The other laboratories at RIKEN are the following:
Plant Homeostatis Research:
Laboratory for Photo Perception and Signal Transduction
Laboratory for Plant Hormone Function
Laboratory for Plant Biological Regulation
Laboratory for Glyco-Cell Biology
Laboratory for Molecular Glycobiology
Laboratory for Glyco Technology
Research on Brain Mechanisms of Mind and Behavior:
Laboratory for Neural Information Processing
Laboratory for Syntaptic Function (Neural Networks)
Laboratory for Neural Systems
Research on Brain Information Processing:
Laboratory for Neural Modeling
Laboratory for Information Representation
Laboratory for Artificial Brain Systems
Laboratory for Submillimeter Waves
Laboratory for Photophysics
Laboratory for Organometallic Photodynamics
Laboratory for Photo-Biology
Bio-Mimetic Control Research:
Laboratory for Neural Circuits,
Laboratory for Genes of Neural Systems
Laboratory for Bio-Mimetic Sensory Systems
Laboratory for Bio-Mimetic Control Systems
Ministry of Education, Science, Sports, and Culture (MESC)
MESC provides money to Japanese universities, so any direct
university research in nanotechnology falls under its
jurisdiction. At present, the major interdisciplinary research
center under MESC is the Research Center for Advanced Science and
Technology (RCAST). This center, part of Tokyo University and
located at the Komaba campus, is one of the offshoots formed upon
the reorganization of Tokyo University's Institute of Space and
Astronautical Science in 1981. Among the 22 areas of research are
the following related to nanotechnology:
Advanced Materials Dept.
Photonic Materials (Prof. Y. Shiraki)
Atomically controlled growth technology of semiconducting
materials for photonic devices
Fabrication and characterization of photonic devices
Physics of mesoscopic and low-dimensional electron
Advanced Devices Dept.
Quantum Microstructure Devices (Prof. H. Sakaki -- also
connected with ERATO project)
Molecular Beam Epitaxy and Ultrafine Lithography for
Quantum Wells, Wires, and Boxes
Scanning Tunnelling Microscopy of Quantum Microstructures
Transport Study of Quantum Microstructures and Ultrafast
Optoelectronic and Spectroscopic Studies of Quantum
Microstructures, Lasers and Other Photonic Devices
Advanced Systems Dept.
Nanometer-scale Manufacturing Science (Prof. T. Suga)
Ultra-precision machining of advanced materials
Surface activated bonding of dissimilar materials
Interconnections and packaging of microelectronic
Life Engineering Dept
Many of the above projects have been done in conjunction with
groups at Tokyo University's Institute of Industrial Engineering.
Also not to be missed is Prof. Karube's work in bioelectronics,
which deals with "organic sensors on a chip."
Many individual universities are undertaking research projects
which can be considered part of nanotechnology (quantum effect
devices and mesoscopic structures, biotechnology, advanced and
improved instrumentation), although I do not believe anyone has
claimed to be doing research on "straight'' nanotechnology.
The universities which seem the most active in these areas are
the University of Tokyo's Institute of Industrial Engineering,
Tokyo Institute of Technology, Osaka University (bioscience), and
Tohoku University. Tokyo Institute of Technology has just
established a new department for bioscience; it is also where
quite a few of the quantum effect device research projects are
based. Tohoku University, aside from other projects, is starting
more STM-based work. This is by no means a complete list. We are
also starting to see more collaborative work, such as the joint
project between NEC researchers and a team at the University of
Tokyo, who have found a way to apply computer-generated holograms
to the fabrication of nanostructures.
As mentioned, many of the large electronics firms are involved
in the ATR project as well as in the Research and Development
Association for Future Electron Devices. (It seems reasonable to
assume that Japanese biotech and chemical industries are
equivalently associated with the Research Association for
Biotechnology--connected with the Molecular Assemblies for a
Functional Protein System.) Individual research efforts, too many
to list, are also being carried out. Just in passing I would like
to mention the two "quasi-companies" NTT and ATL, both
of whom are carrying out very interesting research, albeit in
different areas. In nanotechnology-related work, NTT's Atsugi
labs are working on Coulomb effect devices, using STMs to create
holes in silicon, and self-organization of growth on strained
materials to produce quantum dots. ATL is more on the
"information" side of research, working on evolutionary
programming, cellular automata, and virtual reality--Dr. Tom Ray
and his computer program Tierra demonstrating evolutionary life;
Dr. Hugo de Garis and his "growing an artificial
brain." Another researcher, Dr. Hemmi, has been working on
evolutionary programming techniques to "evolve"
One of the groups at Hitachi's Advanced Technology Laboratory has
been able to incorporate a Transmission Electron Microscope
inside the chamber of an STM, and has been able to directly
observe in situ behavior under the STM tip. The STM in question
is actually a "STM on a chip" formed by standard dry
etching of a silicon wafer, and is the brainchild of Mark
Lutwyche and Yasuo Wada. [M.I. Lutwyche, Y. Wada, Sensors and
Actuators A 48 (1995) 127-136] They are hoping to
additionally incorporate electron tomography as well, so both
inside- and surface-behavior of the sample can be investigated.
Another of Dr. Wada's ideas, more futuristic, is of
atom/molecular switching devices, Atom Relay Transistors (ART)
and Molecular Single Electron Switching (MOSES) devices. These
devices would have total dimensions well below a few nm and an
operation speed of more than a terahertz (1012 Hz).
The basic ART configuration consists of an atomic wire, a
switching atom, a switching gate, and a reset gate. When the
switching atom is displaced from the atom wire by an electric
field (supplied by the switching gate), the ART turns off. Memory
cell and logic gates have also been conceived. A supercomputer
based on such devices with 107 logic gates and 109
bits of memory would fit in an area of 200 microns square and
operate at terahertz switching speeds.
Dr. Wada's proposed molecular devices (MOSES) are actually a form
of a Single Electron Tunnelling device. Here, metal and
semiconductor are replaced with conducting and insulating
polymers, respectively. Simulations have been carried out
assuming polyacetylene and polyethylene. Polydiacetylene (a
polyringed molecule) is another possible candidate if one of
triple bonds linking its rings is changed to a single bond to
produce a tunnelling gap. [Optoelectronics­pDevices and
Technologies Vol 10, No.2, pp.205-220, June 1995]
The above-mentioned projects are just a small sample of the
research involving construction of nanostructures and
next-generation computer chip research. At present, my opinion of
the scale of the biotech-related nanotech research is that it
lags the US, although in certain areas (e.g., construction of
enzymes and amino acids) Japanese industry is relatively strong.
From what I have seen so far, the first wave of government ERATO
projects focused on quantum effects and basic technology useful
for next-generation electronic device research. This has now been
picked up by the electronics companies. The second (present) wave
of ERATO projects is far more biotech related. It may be that
MITI, with an eye towards the future, is hoping that the Japanese
chemical companies and pharmaceutical companies will pick up and
run with the resultant technology. Japanese chemical companies
have up to now concentrated on bulk production of chemicals and
biologics (enzymes, amino acids, etc.) and are under steadily
increasing competition from other Asian countries. Hence the need
to find a high-value-added product, which biotechnology may
So far, nanotechnology research in Japan has proceeded along the
line of extrapolation of existing fields and with obvious
applications well in mind. As far as I can tell, all work has
proceeded with the goal of "weak nanotechnology" in
view. Even the concept of "strong nanotechnology," with
the idea of nanobots, does not seem to be talked about.
From the viewpoint of future nanotechnology research, Japan
possesses both disadvantages and advantages. The disadvantages
include a lack of expertise in software, more or less across the
board. Simulation software lags the US in many ways. Japanese
pharmaceutical companies are weak compared to the US
pharmaceutical industry, which may place limits on the impetus
provided by designing new drugs. Japan does not have a tradition
of entrepreneurship, which may present problems.
On the other hand, Japan does not seem to have the mental
barriers between research areas in the same way that occurs in
the US. Micromachine research can readily fuse together with
nanotechnology research, and in fact, instrumentation used in
developing the former will undoubtedly prove essential in
developing the latter. Biotechnology is starting to become fused
together with chemistry, electronics and mechatronics. Since it
is at the point of fusion between all of these that
nanotechnology is expected to occur, such seamlessness may be an
essential condition for actual realization of nanotechnology.
Member Firms in the Japanese Angstrom Technology Project
Biosym Technologies, Inc.
Du Pont Kabushiki Kaisha
Fuji Electric Corporate R&D Ltd.
The Furukawa Electric Co., Ltd.
Hamamatsu Photonics K.K.
Hewlett-Packard Japan, Ltd.
Hitachi Chemical Co., Ltd.
Kobe Steel, Ltd.
Matsushita Elec. Ind. Co., Ltd.
Mitsubishi Electric Corp.
Mitsubishi Materials Corp.
Nippon Steel Corp.
Oki Electric Industry Co.,Ltd.
Olympus Optical Co., Ltd.
Samsung Electronics Co., Ltd.
Sanya Electric Co., Ltd.
Sumitomo Elec. Ind., Ltd.
Toray Research Center, Inc.
Ulvac Japan, Ltd.
A four-hour video of Dr. J. Storrs Hall taped June 2, 1996, is
available on video from Frontier Research Seminars.
Dr. Hall of Rutgers University is one of the leading proponents
of nanotechnology. In the videotaped series he explains what
nanotechnology is and how it might develop. Dr. Hall also
discusses what types of products might emerge from the
technology, based upon developments in the field, and how these
products could dramatically alter mankind's existence.
The video is available for $29.95 in the U.S. or $39.95 outside
the U.S., from:
Frontier Research Seminars
1510 B Hamilton Street
Somerset, New Jersey 08873 USA
Note: Some of Dr. Hall's slides did not show up well on video, so
the company is mailing paper copies of these with the tape.
This video is only available on U.S. format video. Call Frontier
Research at (908) 873-5374 or email them at 71531.1617@Compuserve.com
for more information about the Nanotechnology Seminar video.
Special thanks this issue go to Russell Whitaker for
completing the conversion of the book Engines of Creation
by Eric Drexler into World Wide Web hypertext format. This was a
huge task, aided by the earlier work of John Quel, John Cramer,
and Jim Lewis in getting the book into machine readable form. It
can be found at http://www.foresight.org/EOC/.
For sending information, we thank Hagan Bayley, Wesley Du Charme,
Michael Edelstein, Dave Forrest, Tom Glass, Frank Glover, V.S.
Gurin, Norm Hardy, Mark Haviland, Tad Hogg, Marie-Louise Kagan,
David Koehler, Joy Martin, Anthony Napier, Bill Pelican, Mark
Reiners, Pat Salsbury, Donald Saxman, Ronnie Thomson.