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News from the National Academies

Date: June 10, 2002
Contacts: Jennifer Burris, Media Relations Associate
Chris Dobbins, Media Relations Assistant
(202) 334-2138; e-mail <news@nas.edu>

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Publication Announcement

National Nanotechnology Initiative Needs
More Long-Term, Interdisciplinary Investment

Manipulating individual atoms and molecules to alter a material's makeup at the most basic level seems more like science fiction than science, but scientists are doing just that, changing everything from the composition of lipsticks and sunblocks to the most advanced medicine and information technology. This science and technology, known as nanotechnology, is carried out on a scale of approximately 1/100,000 the width of a human hair.

For nanotechnology to fulfill its promise of revolutionizing industry, however, the government-funded National Nanotechnology Initiative needs to increase its support of long-term research and promote more interdisciplinary effort, says a new report from the National Academies' National Research Council. The White House Economic Council and other federal agencies requested a review of the initiative, which has received almost $1 billion in funding since 2001.

The second half of the 20th century saw the advent of microtechnologies, which allowed the creation of computers and the Internet, and set the stage for today's nanotechnology revolution. Manipulating matter at the atomic level will have a dramatic impact on fields such as computing, telecommunications, and medicine. For example, when nanosized semiconductor crystals known as "quantum dots" are irradiated, they fluoresce. Attaching dots of different sizes to different molecules allows researchers to track biological processes by monitoring the molecules' fluorescence. Quantum dots also can be attached to DNA base pairs and used as markers for DNA diagnostics. Because of their semiconducting properties, these quantum dots also might serve as components of potentially faster, more efficient computers based on the laws of quantum mechanics. In the future, nanotechnology is expected to improve medical diagnostics and therapies, as well, and to create more compatible materials for use in bone and tissue transplants.

Further study of the basic scientific principles of nanotechnology is needed before many of the anticipated applications can be achieved. Nanoscale science and technology combines many disciplines, such as biology, physics, chemistry, and engineering, so researchers need to be able to work across multiple fields, the report says. Nanotechnology centers in the United States encourage collaborations, but creation of a more widespread interdisciplinary culture is needed. Creative programs and long-term funding commitments are needed to encourage the development of interdisciplinary research.
An independent advisory board composed of leaders from industry and academia should be established to provide guidance to federal agencies on important research and development opportunities in nanoscale science and technology, the report adds. Federal leaders of the initiative need to develop an overarching strategic plan, and outline goals and objectives, especially long-term ones.

One of the initiative's current long-term goals is to move the science out of the laboratory and into society. In order for this to occur, however, continued investment in the development of nanotechnology instruments -- tools that allow scientists to view, model, and manipulate nanoscale objects -- is necessary, the report says. Historically, many important advances in science have come only after the necessary investigative instruments have become available.

The initiative will require continued collaboration at the local, national, and international level, the report emphasized. Partnerships with industry should be stimulated and nurtured to make the science a commercial reality.

This study was sponsored by the National Science Foundation, U.S. Department of Defense, NASA, National Institutes of Health, and the U.S. Department of Energy. The National Research Council is the principal operating arm of the National Academy of Sciences and the National Academy of Engineering. It is a private, nonprofit institution that provides science and technology advice under a congressional charter. A committee roster follows.
Read the full text of Small Wonders, Endless Frontiers: A Review of the National Nanotechnology Initiative for free on the Web, as well as more than 1,800 other publications from the National Academies. Printed copies are available for purchase from the National Academy Press Web site or by calling (202) 334-3313 or 1-800-624-6242. Reporters may obtain a pre-publication copy from the Office of News and Public Information (contacts listed above).

[This announcement and the report are available at http://national-academies.org].


NATIONAL RESEARCH COUNCIL
Division on Engineering and Physical Sciences

Committee for the Review of the National Nanotechnology Initiative

Samuel Stupp (chair)
Board of Trustees Professor of Materials Science, Chemistry, and Medicine
Northwestern University
Evanston, Ill.

Moungi Bawendi
Professor of Chemistry, and
W.M. Keck Foundation Professor of Energy
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Cambridge

David Beebe
Assistant Professor of Biomedical Engineering
University of Wisconsin
Madison

Roberto Car
Professor
Department of Chemistry
Princeton University
Princeton, N.J.

Shirley Chiang
Professor of Physics
University of California
Davis

Denis Gray
Professor and Coordinator
Psychology in the Public Interest Program
North Carolina State University
Raleigh

Michael Heller
Professor
Department of Bioengineering, Electronic Engineering, and Computer Engineering
University of California
San Diego

Karl Hess2
Swanlund Professor
Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering
University of Illinois
Urbana-Champaign

Gerald Iafrate
Professor of Engineering
North Carolina State University
Raleigh

Lynn Jelinski
President
Sunshine Consultants
Green Cove Springs, Fla.

Timothy Jenks
President and Chief Executive Officer
Nanogram Corp.
Fremont, Calif.

Philip Kuekes
Senior Computer Architect
Quantum Science Research
Hewlett-Packard Laboratories
Palo Alto, Calif.

Cherry Murray1,2
Director
Physical Research Laboratory
Bell Laboratories
Lucent Technologies
Murray Hill, N.J.

Lydia Sohn
Assistant Professor
Department of Physics
Princeton University
Princeton, N.J.

T.S. Sudarshan
Co-founder, Vice President, and Technical Director
Materials Modification Inc.
Fairfax, Va.

Tom Theis
Director of Physical Sciences Research
Thomas J. Watson Research Center
IBM Corp.
Yorktown Heights, N.Y.

RESEARCH COUNCIL STAFF

Dorothy Zolandz
Board Director

Michael Davey
Study Director


1 Member, National Academy of Sciences
2 Member, National Academy of Engineering