Manufacturing Nanotech Wonders

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Manufacturing Nanotech Wonders

Nanotechnology involves the design, engineering and manufacture of products at the scale of less than one one-billionth of a meter and viewable only with an electron microscope. As we’ve been discussing, nanotech is one of the core technologies that is revolutionizing the automobile industry, and that’s just the “tip of the iceberg.” In 2006 alone, governments, corporations, and venture capitalists invested $12 billion in nanotechnology research and development worldwide. And that investment is already producing astonishing scientific advances with great commercial potential in producing semiconductors, storing data, generating energy, and diagnosing and treating diseases. The implications for business and society are enormous. But why are nanotechnologists so fixated on size — and why should you be? In the 1960s, we used to hear that “small is beautiful.” With nanotechnology, small is also powerful, effective, and environmentally friendly.

David Rejeski, director of the Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies at Washington’s Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, says: “Nanotechnology promises to change just about everything — our medical care, energy sources, communications, and food. It’s leading us to what many in government and industry are calling ‘The Next Industrial Revolution.’”1

Consider nanotech’s role in the crucial semiconductor business, which is starting to run into a brick wall with traditional manufacturing methods. Without nanosized materials, the industry can’t proceed with its trademark approach of increasing power and decreasing product costs every 18 months, as dictated by Moore’s Law.

Finally, with cancer and other diseases, there’s a pressing need to stop treating people with approaches such as radiation and chemotherapy that kill healthy tissue along with the unhealthy variety. Nanotechnology promises a laser-like approach — eradicating bad cells without hurting good ones.

Mass-produced materials employing carbon nanotubes and other nanoparticles will soon become mainstream. However, true nanodevices generally still get meticulously built in laboratories one molecule at a time. Why? Because the technology to mass-produce complex structures at the nano level — quickly, cheaply, and reliably — hasn’t existed.

However, as we’ll explain, that’s all changing rapidly. Scientists are learning how to solve the problems that have prevented them from producing complex nanodevices cheaply, safely, and quickly...

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