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Foresight Update 47

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A publication of the Foresight Institute


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The Ninth Foresight Conference on Molecular Nanotechnology
Ninth Conference Covers Both the Science and Business of Nanotech

In his welcoming remarks, conference co-chair Donald Brenner noted the Foresight Conference series pre-dates the U.S. National Nanotechnology Initiative (NNI) by well over a decade, and said this annual meeting remains at the forefront of the field of nanotechnology.

Keynote speaker James S. Murday (far right) speaks with attnedees of the Ninth Foresight Conference following his address.

The keynote address, “Nanotechnology and the NNI: A Report Card”, was delivered by James S. Murday, Executive Secretary, Nanometer Science, Engineering and Technology Committee of the National Science and Technology Council (NSTC) and a research head at the Naval Research Laboratory. Calling nanotechnology the “last frontier” for materials science, Murday expected future advancements in the field to come in complexity, not size, noting that new models of behavior are needed once the size of your device/object is of the same order as the characteristic lengths of your system.

Involvement in nanotechnology research and development is accelerating around the world, Murday said. The worldwide economic impact over the next 15-20 years could well total over $1 trillion. Many governments are getting into the field, particularly in nanoelectronics. Investment in nanotech research programs has jumped from $430 million in 1997 to $1.23 billion in 2001; Murday speculated this might rise to $1.5 billion by 2002. While the U.S. is one of the leading countries in this increase in activity, it is not overwhelmingly dominant; about the same level of funding is being poured into nanotechnology in Japan and Western Europe (see article in this issue).

Murday also spoke of the increasingly collaborative nature of nanotech R&D. At the nanometer scale, he said, there is no difference between a physicist, chemist, biologist, materials scientist. Research centers and networks involved in NNI are designed to promote interdisciplinary collaboration and information exchange. Murday touched on the work being done at various national laboratories, but also discussed state-funded programs as well. The California NanoSystems Institute (CNSI) offers an interesting public-private partnership that will devote $100 million over the next 4 years, primarily to build up infrastructure. Murday said this strategy complements federal funding, which is intended primarily for research projects.

Murday said the challenging task for the NNI and other programs is to accelerate the transfer of scientific discoveries into technological innovation that leads to commercial products. His “report card” for the NNI included an “A” for Effort; a “B” for technology transfer, fundamental research, and the development of federal infrastructure; a “C” for meeting developing state-based infrastructure and addressing the “Grand Challenges” spelled out in the NNI planning documents (see Foresight Update #40); and only a “D” for education and training. Murday estimated that the number of graduate students being produced who have experience in or exposure to nanotechnology is only about 800 each year; this is too low.

A wide variety of technical sessions were presented throughout the conference. Many of the sessions were related to rapidly advancing field of molecular electronics (see cover article), including presentations by Mark Ratner and Charles Lieber, the recipients of the 2001 Feynman Prizes in Nanotechnology (see article). Abstracts and, over time, full papers from many of these presentations can be found on the archival website for the conference.

Another session of great interest was presented by IMM President Neil Jacobstein on “Technical Considerations in the Foresight Guidelines for Nanotechnology Development” on Saturday, 10 November. Jacobstein pointed out the important distinctions between nanoscale science and molecular nanotechnology, and offered a rebuttal to claims that it is impossible (such as in the September 2001 issue of Scientific American; see Foresight Update #46; see also “A Debate About Assemblers” on the IMM website).

It is time, he said, to put the feasibility debate to bed. There are many challenges to be overcome to develop a molecular assembler, Jacobstein acknowledged, among them the development of the necessary tools; the appropriate building blocks or components; energy sources and transport mechanisms; systems for operational communications and control; scaling up for practical industrial processes; and implementing security guidelines and controls. But these are engineering challenges, he said, not issues of basic feasibility. He also noted how the Foresight Guidelines on Molecular Nanotechnology are intended to provide a proactive approach to developing reasonable necessary controls on nanotechnology, and preempt reflexive or uninformed controls.


Venture capital panel discussion

Members of the panel on “Venture Capital for Nanotechnology” included, from left to right, Josh Wolfe, Nicholas Vita, John Ryan, Steve Jurvetson, and Ed Niehaus.

Highlighting the rapidly expanding interest in the commercial potential of nanotechnology was a panel discussion on “Venture Capital for Nanotechnology” held on Friday, 9 November. The panelists included Steve Jurvetson of Draper Fisher Jurvetson, Josh Wolfe of Lux Capital (both of whom are also Foresight Senior Associates), John Ryan of J.P. Morgan Partners, and Nicholas Vita from Tuva Capital Partners. The panel moderator was Senior Associate Ed Niehaus of Niehaus Ryan Wong, a high-tech marketing and public relations firm. The discussion included observations on who is funding nanotech now, what they want to see in a business proposal, and how the nanotech business community is developing.

Josh Wolfe noted that amid all the hype over nanotechnology, it is important to distinguish what is really nanotech and what is not. He observed that the development of nanotech commercial ventures is fundamentally different from the Internet-based “dot-com” boom and bust which, he said, was often driven by marketing and eased by low competitive barriers. New nanotech ventures, on the other hand, face significant obstacles, including high equipment costs, requirements for deep knowledge in the relevant science and technologies, and the need for strong intellectual property “platforms.” Wolfe noted that hype is bad when it creates confusion and expectations that cannot be easily or quickly met; however, hype can be good if it “lubricates” the flow of funding and capital investment from governments, corporations and venture capital funds. He said he expects that equipment and instrumentation manufacturers will be early beneficiaries of the growing interest in nanotechnology, such as makers of scanning probe instruments.

Nicholas Vita concurred on many of these points. Vita stressed the importance of a credible business strategy for any new nanotech venture, no matter how sound the underlying science, because it is the business that you invest in. He cautioned that it is necessary to ignore hype and focus on realities, because credibility is essential for securing capital investment.

John Ryan offered a succinct primer on some essential steps to creating a viable nanotech start-up. He offered a number of points ranging from the importance of knowing whether a technology is really ready for commercialization and also worth the effort, to acquiring the necessary entrepreneurial expertise or working with people who already have, to actually setting up a new business and getting it funded.

Steve Jurvetson began by noting that the density of “eye-popping” moments during the technical presentations had been very high. He said that the cross-disciplinary interaction was great and the level of innovation was startling. This was refreshing, he said, after the formulaic dot-com pattern of business development. Jurvetson observed that breakthroughs occur at interstices between disciplines, but he also cautioned that rarely does a breakthrough idea get an “Ah-Ha!” from everyone at the beginning.

Patent roundtable session

A related special pre-conference session was the “Nanotechnology Patent Roundtable” held in the afternoon on Thursday, 8 November. Foresight and Foley&Lardner, Attorneys at Law, sponsored the session to allow for members of the nanotechnology community who are involved in patenting their inventions or who are interested in improving the patent process to discuss the present status of nanotechnology patents and how to improve the process in the future.

The Roundtable included senior U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) officials, nanotechnology industry leaders, and patent attorneys discussing how to improve the nanotechnology patent examination process. Issues discussed included the steps that the USPTO is taking to examine nanotechnology patent applications, as well as the possibility of creating a special classification for nanotechnology patent applications, creation of a database of nanotech-related prior art and a creation of a industry/USPTO partnership to provide training for patent examiners in the current topics in nanotechnology.

Outside the technical sessions and special presentations, attendees of the Ninth Foresight Conference also found time to view an extensive array of poster presentations (upper and lower left), and to celebrate the presenation of the 2001 Feynman Prizes and the Distinguished Student and Communication Awards at an evening banquet.

Additional Conference Information Available

For more information about the Ninth Foresight Conference On Molecular Nanotechnology, visit the archival website. The site includes links to listings of the invited speakers, and to presenters of papers and posters. Online abstracts of the conference and poster presentations are also available, and full papers of many of the presentations will be posted to the site as they become available.

For more information about the Feynman Prizes in Nanotechnology, and the winners and finalists for the 2001 Feynman Annual Prizes:
http://www.foresight.org/about/2001Feynman.html

For more information about the Distinguished Student Award, and about this year’s winner, visit:
http://www.foresight.org/about/StudentAward4.html

For more information about the Foresight Communications Prize and about this year’s winner, visit:
http://www.foresight.org/about/communicationprize1.html

Our Thanks to All Who Helped Make the Ninth Foresight Conference
One of Our Most Successful Conferences Ever!

Our sincere thanks to the corporate sponsors who supported the Ninth Foresight Conference On Molecular Nanotechnology. They include:

Gold Level Sponsors:
Sun Microsystems
Zyvex

Silver Level Sponsors:
Foley & Lardner
Manatt Phelps Phillips
NanoGram
NIST Advanced Technology Program

Bronze Level Sponsors:
Howard, Rice, Nemerovski,
Canady, Falk and Rabkin
JEOL
NanoDevices

Thanks to our conference organizers: Conference Co-Chairs Don Brenner (left) and Susan Sinnott (center), and Tutorial Chair Jim Spencer (right).
2001 Distinguished Student Award sponsors James Ellenbogen of MITRE Corp. (left) and Ravi Pandaya of IECommerce Inc. (right), with this year’s award recipient, Jing Kong of Stanford University (center). Jim Von Ehr of Zyvex Corp. was also a sponsor of this year’s Distinguished Student Award.
The U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) Advanced Technology Program display.
Bronze Sponsor NanoDevices displayed their new products during the conference. Zyvex founder and
CEO Jim Von Ehr

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Foresight Institute Awards 2001 Feynman Prizes in Nanotechnology

Distinguished Student Award and Communication Prize are also presented

Above: Mark Ratner (left) receives the 2001 Feynman Prize (Theoretical) from Ralph Merkle. Below: Charles Lieber was awarded the Experimental Prize.

The 2001 Foresight Feynman Prizes in Nanotechnology, the field’s highest annual honors, have been awarded to researchers at Northwestern University and Harvard University for major advances in the fields of molecular electronics and carbon nanotube devices. The Prizes were given at the Ninth Foresight Conference on Molecular Nanotechnology, held this year in Santa Clara, California. Two Prizes are given annually, one for theoretical work and one for experimental achievement.

The 2001 Feynman Prize for Theoretical work was awarded to Mark A. Ratner, Professor of Chemistry at Northwestern University. Professor Ratner was cited as a theorist whose work has made major contributions to the development and success of nanometer-scale electronic devices. He was a visionary co-inventor of the concept and scientific study of molecular-scale electronics. Ratner has continued to refine his early concepts with a series of theoretical innovations and articles. His work has been instrumental in establishing scientific understanding, worldwide, about the mechanisms and magnitudes of conduction in molecular junctions, and in particular, the nature of charge transport in single-molecule nanostructures.

The 2001 Feynman Prize for Experimental work was awarded to Charles M. Lieber, Professor of Chemistry, Harvard University. Professor Lieber was cited for his pioneering experimental work in molecular nanotechnology, which included seminal contributions to the synthesis and characterization of the unique physical properties of carbon nanotubes and nanowires. He has developed numerous innovative applications of nanowires and carbon nanotubes, including the assembly of these building blocks into complex structures for nanodevice applications. Lieber’s work led to the creation of new tools for molecular nanotechnology and represents a significant advance towards molecular scale computation and nanotechnology.

The Foresight Feynman Prize in Nanotechnology is named in honor of the late Nobel physicist Richard Feynman, whose visionary talk in 1959 continues to inspire today’s nanotechnology R&D community.


Distinguished Student Award

Distinguished Student Award winner Jing Kong (left) receives her award from IMM Chair Neil Jacobstein.

The 2001 Foresight Distinguished Student Award went to Jing Kong, a graduate student at Stanford University. The award was presented by Neil Jacobstein, Chairman of the Institute for Molecular Manufacturing, who made these comments as he announced the winner:

“The Distinguished Student Award keeps getting more competitive every year. If you ever had any doubt about the United States getting the best and the brightest graduate students from all over the world, our Distinguished Student Award winner tonight will help convince you. Jing Kong has a BS in Chemistry from Beijing University. She is presently a Ph.D. candidate in Chemistry at Stanford. Jing has made real contributions to the problem of combining the synthesis and fabrication of individual carbon nanotubes, and integrating them into electrical circuits. Papers she has authored or co-authored on this topic have been cited 64 times since publication in 1998. She has contributed to the use of carbon nanotubes as extremely sensitive chemical sensors to detect toxic gases. A feature article in the New York Times in March of 2000 highlighted this work.
“Jing has published or co-authored 21 papers in journals such as Science, Nature, Physical Review Letters, the Journal of Physical Chemistry, and others during her 4 years in graduate school. She is also the co-inventor of two pending patents on nanotubes. Please join me in congratulating Jing Kong as our Distinguished Student Award Winner for 2001!”

The Foresight Distinguished Student award provides a $1500 grant to the college graduate or undergraduate student whose work is deemed most notable in advancing the development and understanding of nanotechnology. The award, provided this year through the generosity of Jim Von Ehr of Zyvex Corp., Ravi Pandya of IECommerce Inc. and James Ellenbogen of MITRE Corp., is intended primarily to enable the winning student to attend Foresight Institute’s Conference on Molecular Nanotechnology.


Communication Prize

Ivan Abel Amato, associate editor for Science News magazine, a well-known weekly magazine in the world of science communication, was named the winner of the year 2001 Foresight Prize in Communication. Previously he was an editor for Science magazine. In addition to work for Science News and Science magazines, Mr. Amato has contributed to National Public Radio, done work for the Naval Research Laboratory, the National Institute of Standards and Technology, and the American Chemical Society, along with various freelance assignments.


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Credits and Kudos

Christine PetersonSpecial thanks from Foresight and IMM go to the funding Sponsors of our recent Foresight Conference on Molecular Nanotechnology: Sun Microsystems; Zyvex; Foley&Lardner; Manatt Phelps Phillips; NanoGram; National Institute of Standards&Technology (Advanced Technology Program); Tuva Capital; Howard, Rice, Nemerovski, Canady, Falk&Rabkin; JEOL; and NanoDevices. For performance above and beyond the call of duty, thanks go to Conference Co-Chairs Don Brenner (NCSU) and Susan Sinnott (University of Florida), and Tutorial Chairperson Jim Spencer (Syracuse University). Susan and Jim have already started work as Co-Chairs of the 2002 meeting; Don finally gets a well-earned break.

Ed Niehaus, who moderated the Venture Capital panel, and Elizabeth Powers, who represented Foresight at the Patent Roundtable, deserve special recognition for these special roles.

Thanks also go to the funders of prizes given at the conference. Feynman Prizes: Marc Arnold and Jim Von Ehr. Distinguished Student Award: James Ellenbogen, Ravi Pandya, and Jim Von Ehr. Communication Award: Millstein&Taylor, PC, which underwrites the Prize, and to Foresight Senior Associate Larry Millstein of that firm, who initiated the program.

Vigorous thanks go to David Forrest and Troy Hudson, whose note-taking enabled us to report on the oral presentations at the meeting. We hope their hands have recovered from this tiring task.

More thanks to conference volunteers: Emanuel Barros, Rochelle Fuller, Mary Beth Haggerty, Patrick McKee, Norma Peterson, Charlene Piercey, and Jason Spitzer.

We don’t normally thank Foresight staff, but we’ll make an exception this time. A round of applause goes to Marcia Seidler, conference planner, and to the staffers who worked on the meeting: Yakira Heyman, Tanya Jones, Jim Lewis, Chuck Piercey, Elaine Tschorn, and Harriet Weiss.

And as long as we’re thanking staffers: immense ongoing thanks go to Richard Terra, editor of both Foresight Update and Nanodot.org.

Continual thanks to all those who submit information to Foresight, especially those who are able to take the time to send that information to Nanodot.org in the preferred standard format — this is greatly appreciated.


— Christine Peterson, President



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From Foresight Update 47, originally published 31 December 2001.



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