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Does nanotechnology’s definition matter?

SmallTimes Online Managing Editor David Forman takes on the question of the definition of nanotechnology in SmallTimes Direct, their free email newsletter: “Should sub-100 nanometer integrated circuits be considered nanotechnology? And, other than for the purposes of allocating National Nanotechnology Initiative dollars, does it matter?

“The responses were entertaining, to say the least. Some went over our heads, technically speaking. Others were, well, many pages long. (Okay, I asked for it.). Most were pretty thought provoking and tended to agree that it matters and that there are some strong arguments for including sub-100nm chips.

“My pick for the most elegantly incisive litmus test was reader Justin Boland’s comment: “The key to honestly applying ‘nano’ to a device is this test: Does the key functionality derive significant advantage from a ‘nano’ scale phenomena that is not as significant in other length scales?” However, Boland also made the point that the patent office addresses both process and device, and perhaps we should, too, in determining a test for “nano-ness”.

“As for whether it matters, General Dynamics’ Tihamer Toth-Fejel [a Foresight Participating Member --CP] boiled it down to this: “Constant terminology is necessary for clear communication.” And without clear communication we risk wasting taxpayer money and undermining our efforts to fund nanotechnology. And so, the argument goes, yes it matters.”

CP: Let’s look at the criterion stated above, “Does the key functionality derive significant advantage from a ‘nano’ scale phenomena that is not as significant in other length scales?” My question is, since the usual size range given for “nanoscale” is 1-100 nm, doesn’t this include all phenomena based on chemistry or materials science properties? Doesn’t the NNI definition have this same problem?

3 Responses to “Does nanotechnology’s definition matter?”

  1. Anonymous Coward Says:

    If you allow inclusion of all nanometer-scale technologies, then obviously you’ll include all of chemistry and materials science. A proper distinction between those and Drexler’s ideas of real nanotechnology is the same as that between piles of scrap metal and piles of machine tools: a deliberate mechanical function, achieved by mechanical, electrical, or chemical means. By this definition, a nanotube is not nanotechnology. A motor made from nanotubes is. Likewise, any nanostructured material is not nanotechnology, but a nanosensor that uses it to convert temperature, light, or chemical potential into mechanical motion is.

  2. John Novak Says:

    Let us posit for the sake of argument that the definition does matter. What would you propose to do about it? That could be you, Christine; you, Foresight; or you, reader.

  3. Anonymous Says:

    Insted of thinking to define nano-technology, extensive research should be carried out in all the aspects and parts of nanotechnology like nanotubes,naoelectronics switches based on ionic conductors,organic electronics at nano level and so on.

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