The State of Nanotechnology

It is always interesting to look forward into the rest of the year.  Nanotechnology will continue to grow and have more applications.  While there is strong and continuing interest in graphene, the application in electronics will continue.  In the semiconductor world, the current focus in on 10 nm, 7 nm, and even 5 nm nodes.  These semiconductor circuits will be based on traditional enhancement of existing device structures and not the application of graphene and carbon nanotube transistors.

The technology advances to work in the “nano” realm have been significant.  The ability to see and measure features at these dimensions have taken science to new concepts.  The ability to see the atomic bonds holding atoms together was accomplished a few years ago.  There is now work being conducted that is able to determine the spin of electrons.  Just recently, Harvard scientists managed to create metallic hydrogen. [Ref. 1]  This was achieved at pressures approaching 500 GPa.  The current thoughts are that the metallic hydrogen will be meta-stable, which should remain when the pressure is removed.  This could open new areas of material science.

In a slightly different area, researchers in Japan are working on evaluating the properties of anti-matter.  The work is done with CERN’s Antiproton Decelerator and the resulting “material” is stored in magnetic bottles. [2]  There is work done by French researchers at CERN to measure properties of antimatter.  Where does this lead?  That will require the development of additional tools.

A term that has been around for a few years is “Atomically Precise Manufacturing”.  The Forbes article [3] provides some insight into advantages and opportunities of APM.  Zyvex Labs is the manager of the Texas based Atomically Precise Manufacturing Consortium. [4]  The long term focus is to work at the atomic scale.  Much of the work in nanotechnology materials development fits into this category.

There are interesting developments in the medical field as biology and nano-sized materials are developed to address various medical conditions.  Imaging of neurons and the interactions have been increasing.  It is quite possible that there will be some breakthroughs on the functioning of the brain that can be used to address “issues of old-age”.  These appear to be conditions where learning what the root causes of the deterioration may indicate means to suppress or even alleviate the effects.  This would provide a double benefit in providing a better quality of life and reducing the impact on medical costs.  This won’t happen quickly, but progress will be made.

Work in superconductors has been working toward a goal of room temperature superconducting material.  Since one of the largest “uses” of electricity is the resistance generated heat of transmission lines, a successful development of material would have the impact of increasing the power generation capacity by much more than 15%.

2017 should be an interesting year with new developments in materials and medicine.  We have many different applications currently in production, but do not have the “one” that everyone needs and can only be supplied by nanotechnology.



About Walt

I have been involved in various aspects of nanotechnology since the late 1970s. My interest in promoting nano-safety began in 2006 and produced a white paper in 2007 explaining the four pillars of nano-safety. I am a technology futurist and is currently focused on nanoelectronics, single digit nanomaterials, and 3D printing at the nanoscale. My experience includes three startups, two of which I founded, 13 years at SEMATECH, where I was a Senior Fellow of the technical staff when I left, and 12 years at General Electric with nine of them on corporate staff. I have a Ph.D. from the University of Texas at Austin, an MBA from James Madison University, and a B.S. in Physics from the Illinois Institute of Technology.

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