Foresight Update 27
A publication of the Foresight Institute
Conference on Molecular Nanotechnology
By Jim Lewis
The International Business Communications conference on
"Biological Approaches and Novel Applications for Molecular
Nanotechnology" was held December 9-10, 1996, in San Diego,
CA. The conference, attended by about 120 researchers and
business leaders, focused on the areas of nanosystems technology
outlined in welcoming remarks by conference Chairperson Allen J.
Bard of the University of Texas at Austin: (1) fabrication, (2)
characterization, (3) connections to the outside world, and (4)
near-term applications, particularly in the areas of sensors,
electronic devices, and photodevices.
Within these clearly defined areas of focus, 20 speakers and 6
poster presenters covered a wide array of technological
approaches. This article summarizes briefly a portion of the
interesting work presented.
The results presented at this conference were for the most part
focused on near term applications of nanometer scale
technologies, rather than upon the complex molecular machinery
and general molecular manufacturing capabilities that will come
later, and which are the focus of Foresight Institute's efforts.
Nevertheless, the excellent work presented is well worth our
attention. Some of these research efforts offer potential direct
paths to the construction of complex molecular machinery; others
would appear to contribute to the long term goals only indirectly
via the development of infrastructure and the success of
industries committed to developing molecular scale technologies.
It is also worth considering that the rapid and varied
development of these technologies brings the possibility that
capabilities useful for the development of molecular
manufacturing may come from unexpected directions.
The Monday morning session was largely devoted to scanning probe
microscopy. Dr. Bard described his work with scanning probe
electrochemical (SECM) methods for fabrication and
characterization of nanostructures. Although SECM is not capable
of atomic scale resolution, applications to the fabrication of
micrometer and sub-micrometer scale structures by electrochemical
deposition and etching were presented. John T. Thornton of
Digital Instruments presented a wide range of applications of
tools made by his company to the study of biological samples.
This includes using mechanical force to induce conformational
changes in certain proteins such as bacteriorhodopsin. Dr. Kong
Gay Loh of TopoMetrix Corporation presented the use of his
company's tools for novel applications, including thermal
conductivity characterization of polymers and near field optical
microscopy of individual fluorescent molecules.
Prof. William A. Goddard III of the California Institute of
Technology addressed the use of atomistic molecular dynamic
simulations to understand and design nanosystems. He excited the
audience by predicting that the protein fold prediction problem
for sequences up to 50 amino acid residues (such a polypeptide
would have 1023 possible configurations) would be
solved within the coming year, either by a hierarchical folding
strategy he described or by similar efforts of others.
The topic for the afternoon session was programmable
self-assembly systems. Dr. Devens Gust of Arizona State
University described his work with complex organic molecules that
mimic photosynthetic electron transfer, and how these can be used
to design molecular optoelectronic switches. Ned Seeman of New
York University (winner of Foresight Institute's 1995 Feynman
Prize) presented his recent work on the construction of
nanoscale topological structures using designed DNA molecules. He
described progress toward making the angles in such constructions
less floppy by incorporating double cross-over DNA molecules in
triangles constructed of DNA.
Dr. Michael Heller of Nanotronics Inc. and Nanogen Inc. and his
collaborator Prof. Sadik Esener of UC San Diego gave two
presentations of the very elegant work of their groups in using
DNA to make micrometer-scale patterns on silicon surfaces, and
their designs to use DNA to control the assembly of molecular
electronic and photonic nanostructured materials. Among the most
visually impressive demonstrations presented at the conference
were videos of their technique of electric field-assisted
assembly of DNA structures. Fluorescence-tagged DNA
oligonucleotides in solution were made to hybridize to specific
regions of a silicon chip containing complementary DNA
oligonucleotides orders of magnitude faster than they otherwise
would by imposing an electrical bias on that specific region of
the chip. By manipulating where the bias was applied, DNA
molecules could be made to desert their complementary partners on
one section of the chip and to bind to another such section in
Professor Donald E. Bergstrom of Purdue University presented a
wide range of options to modify the characteristics of DNA by
incorporating novel bases synthesized via organic chemistry, and
by modifying the nucleic acid backbone. Even more interesting
were his methods to attach DNA molecules to rigid small organic
molecules so that DNA complementarity can be used to guide the
assembly of small molecules into various larger nanoscale
structures. Dr. Roger Cubicciotti of Biotechnology Development
Associates expanded upon the theme of DNA directing the formation
of larger structures by proposing the use of specially evolved
DNA sequences to form molecular switches and other molecular
devices by binding each of two specifc functional molecules, such
as a donor and its associated receptor molecule, and then
positioning these two molecules with respect to each other to
elicit the desired function.
The second day of the conference was more heavily focused on
micromachinery-based approaches and applications of less
relevance to Foresight Institute's purposes. Dr. Gregory T. A.
Kovacs of Stanford University presented an excellent and
entertaining overview of methods in micromachining, and Dr.
Thomas G. Thundat of Oak Ridge National Laboratory described a
wide range of applications of micromachined sensors. Dr. Thomas
Neumann of the University of Washington and Dr. Gil U. Lee of
Naval Research Laboratory each discussed different applications
of micromachined devices to measuring the forces exerted by
specific individual molecules. Dr. Dennis M. Newns of IBM
proposed a field effect transistor based upon the Mott transition
in a molecular layer. Dr. Harry Stylli of Aurora Biosciences
Corporation presented a miniaturized system for high throughput
screening for use in drug discovery. Dr. Nir Kossovsky of
Heisenberg Principles, Inc. described their "aquasome"
technology for preventing biomolecules adsorbed to ceramic
particles from denaturing.
The last three talks focused on molecular electronics and
photonics. Dr. David Beratan of the University of Pittsburgh
described theoretical studies of tunneling of electrons through
DNA and proteins. Prof. Robert R. Birge and Jack Tallent, both of
Syracuse University, described the rich applications of
bacteriorhodopsin, both the natural molecule and several
specially designed mutations, to holography and to
three-dimensional optical associative memory devices.
The Senior Associates Program has been established to provide
steady support for the research projects of the Institute for
Molecular Manufacturing, and for the education and communication
projects of the Foresight Institute, enabling long-term planning
and commitments, and providing seed money for new efforts.
The Senior Associates Program supports vital research and
education in molecular nanotechnology. It enables individuals to
play a key role in advancing this technology and its responsible
use through their individual or corporate contributions.
By pledging an annual contribution of $250 to $5,000 a year for
five years, Senior Associates join those most committed to making
a difference in nanotechnology. Benefits of becoming a Senior
Associate include special publications, online interaction, and
special meetings. Senior Associates will also beta-test
Foresight's Web Enhancement debate software.
Foresight is a nonprofit foundation; donations are tax-deductible
in the U.S. to the full extent permitted by law. Donations can be
made by check from a U.S. bank, postal money order, VISA, or
Mastercard. Credit card donations may be sent by fax.
More about the Senior
To contribute, obtain a donation form
on the Foresight Institute World Wide Web site, call
415-917-1122, fax 415-917-1123, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Baker's Half Dozen
Book publishers have brought a number of
nanotechnology-related books into print during 1996 or announced
plans to do so in early 1997. New offerings include:
- Future Trends in Microelectronics--Reflections on
the Road to Nanotechnology: Proceedings of the NATO Advanced
Research Workshop, Ile de Bendor, France, July 17-21 1995.
By Serge Luryi, Alexander Zaslavsky and Jimmy Xu.
Published by Kluwer, July, 1996. 436 pages. $199.00.
- Nanotechnology in Medicine & the Biosciences.
By Richard Coombs and Dennis Robinson. Published by
Gordon & Breach, June 1996. $90. ISBN: 2-88449-080-9.
- Nanotechnology. By Gregory Timp, to be published
by American Institute of Physics, January 1997. $90.
- Nanotechnology: Molecularly Designed Materials. Edited
by Kenneth E. Gonsalves. Published by American
Chemical Society, March 1996. 424 pages. $114.95.
Illustrated. ISBN: 0-8412-3392-6.
- Molecular Manufacturing. Edited by Sergei Vakula
and Claudio Nicolini. Published by Plenum, April 1996.
222 pages. $79.50. Illustrated. ISBN: 0-306-45284-7.
- Nanotechnology: Molecular Speculations on Global
Abundance. Edited by, B. C. Crandall. Published by
MIT Press, May 1996. 224 pages. $17.00 paperback.
Illustrated, ISBN: 0-262-03237-6.
- Nanofabrication & Biosystems: Integrating
Materials Science, Engineering & Biology Edited
by Harvey C. Hoch,, Lynn W. Jelinski and Harold G.
Craighead. Published by Cambridge University Press, June
1996. 480 pages. $125.00. Illustrated. ISBN:
Update readers who possess a copy of any of these books and
are interested in writing a review should contact Update
Editor Lew Phelps through the Foresight office or via email to Lew@PhelpsConsulting.com.
Books Available from Foresight
Foresight Institute stocks for sale most of the significant
books discussing nanotechnology and its potential impacts. These
- Nanosystems: Molecular Machinery, Manufacturing and
Computation, by K. Eric Drexler (1992, Wiley
- Nanotechnology: Research and Perspectives, edited
by BC Crandall and James Lewis (1992, MIT Press,
the Future: The Nanotechnology Revolution,
by K. Eric Drexler, Chris Peterson & Gayle Pergamit
(1991, Morrow, paperback) $9.95.
- Engines of Creation:
The Coming Era in Nanotechnology, by K.
Eric Drexler (1986, Doubleday, paperback) $10.95.
- Nanotechnology Playhouse, by Christopher Lampton
(1993, Waite, softcover) $14.95.
- Prospects in Nanotechnology: Toward Molecular
Manufacturing, edited by Markus Krummenacker and
James Lewis (1995, Wiley, hardbound), $49.95.
Shipping and handling, and California sales tax for CA
residents, need to be added. For more information, or to order,
contact Foresight Institute at 650-917-1122, email
inform@foresight. org, or download the order form.
Special thanks this issue go to Gayle Pergamit for serving
along with me as co-host for the Senior Associates Gathering;
Russell Whitaker for ongoing Hyper-G assistance; all the speakers
at the Senior Associates Gathering (including those who weren't
warned in advance, e.g. Russell Whitaker, Jim Von Ehr, and Mark
Miller); Patrick Salsbury for demoing software at the Gathering;
Tanya Sienko for news on nanotechnology in Japan; Philippe Van
Nedervelde for sending a European report on nanotechnology; Dave
Kilbridge for doing lots of html for our web site; and many
others--this column can no longer fit in all who should be
thanked, so many are helping now.
For sending information, we thank Frank Bourgeois, M. Colpitts,
Dave Forrest, John Gilmore, Al Globus, Frank Glover, Roy Gordet,
Marie-Louise Kagan, Alan Lovejoy, Scott MacLaren, Tom McKendree,
Stuart McHugh, Ralph Merkle, Mark Miller, Anthony Napier, John
Papiewski, Mike Pique, Gary Pullar, Gregory Sullivan, Eric
Tilenius, and Will Ware.
-Chris Peterson, Director
Biomolecular Design, Form and Function
Feb. 1-5, Ft. Lauderdale, FL; Nature Biotechnology.
Self-assembly, protein design. Tel 305-243-3597, fax
305-324-5665, email email@example.com
Chemistry and Physics of Small-Scale Structures
Optical Society of America, Feb. 9-11, Santa Fe. Includes some
self-assembly; STM nanofabrication. Tel 202-416-1980, fax
202-416-6100, email firstname.lastname@example.org,
Science Forum on Nanoscale Science and Technology
NATO Advanced Research Workshop, March, Spain, invitational.
Dr. M. Nieto-Vesperinas, Inst. Cienca de Materiales, C-III,
Universidad Autonoma, Cantoblanco, E-28049, Madrid, Spain. Web http://www.wkap.nl/natopco/arw_97_1.htm
European Workshop on Microtechnology and Scanning Probe
April 7-9, Mainz, Germany. Goal: to discuss needs of next
generation SPMs, "an important prerequisite for advances in
nanotechnology." Dr. Abraham, tel +49-6131-990-130, fax
+49-6131-990-305, email email@example.com,
Second European Symposium of the Protein Society
April 12-16, Cambridge, England. Includes protein design. Tel
301-530-7010, fax 301-530-7014, email firstname.lastname@example.org, Web http://www.faseb.org/meetings/europro/epmp.htm
Belarausian State Univ, May 19-23, Minsk, Belarus. Includes
nanotechnology, atomic engineering instruments, software for
nanotechnological instrumentation, "chemical synthesis of
nanostructures on the basis of scanning probe fabrication."
Prof. Borisenko, tel +375-172-398-869, fax +375-172-310-914,
Ninth International Precision Engineering Seminar &
Fourth International Conference on Ultraprecision in
May 26-30, Braunschweig, Germany. Includes SPM; "Trends
and Priorities in Precision Engineering and Nanotechnology."
Tel +49-531-592-5300, fax +49-531-592-5305, email IPES-UME@ptb.de
On the Edge: Exploring Tomorrow's High-Risk, High-Payoff
Index Vanguard, July 15-16, Philadelphia. Includes
nanotechnology and ultrascale computing. Index Vanguard,
Cambridge, MA; Tel 617-492-1500, Web http://www.csc.com/csc_vanguard/u_recent_schedule.html#jul
American Vacuum Society Annual Meeting
Oct 20-24, San Jose, CA. Includes nanoscale science &
technology. Tel 212-248-0200, fax 212-248-0245, email email@example.com, Web http://www.vacuum.org
Fifth Foresight Conference on Molecular Nanotechnology
Nov. 5-9, Palo Alto, CA. Enabling science and technology,
computational models. A list of distinguished speakers have
already been confirmed for the conference: Richard Smalley
(keynote), Phaedon Avouris, Eric Drexler, James Gimzewski, Al
Globus, William A. Goddard III, Ralph C. Merkle, and Nadrian C.
Seeman. For more information browse the Web.
Contact Foresight, tel 415-917-1122, fax 415-917-1123, email firstname.lastname@example.org
7th International Symposium on Molecular Electronics and
Nov. 10-12, Nanjing, PR China. Tel +86-25-361-9983, fax
+86-25-771-2719, email email@example.com,
From Foresight Update 27, originally
published 30 December 96.