This issue of NanoNews-Now covers military nanotech, from a nanoscale materials point of view, and from a molecular manufacturing p-o-v.

In our opening piece, Editor Rocky Rawstern interviews Neil Gordon of the Canadian NanoBusiness Alliance on near-future nanotech.

In our first contributed article, Chris Phoenix of the Center for Responsible Nanotechnology talks about Military Implications Of Molecular Manufacturing.

In our second contributed article, Futurist Brian Wang brings us an article titled Considering Military and Ethical Implications of Nanofactory-Level Nanotechnology.

In our third contributed article, Ethicist Patrick Lin and Futurist Brian Wang write about Nanotechnology: Shifting Political and Economic Winds, or a Firestorm of Change?

In our fourth contributed article, Kevin G. Coleman of Technolytics presents Nanotechnology: Homeland Security Applications.

Next, Rocky Rawstern interviews Dr. Victor Bellitto and Dr. Jason Jouet of the Indian Head Division, Naval Surface Center on their work and it's potential military impact.

In the 6th of 6 articles on Building The Winning Nano Venture Team, Bo Varga covers Identifying & Filling Gaps In Management.

And last, a brief Q&A with nanoscale materials company, QuantumSphere.

Technology Monitoring Service

Helping form profitable partnerships

Nanotechnology Now, the leading Internet portal for nanotech information, provides a specialized service for businesses committed to bringing new technologies to the people and institutions that need them. We call it the Technology Monitoring Service.

What kinds of proprietary services and specialized information do we provide?

  • A monitoring service, updated by a crew of professional investigators working closely with university researchers, administrators and attorneys involved in technology transfer.
  • In addition to the Technology Monitoring Service, subscribers will receive our NanoTech Transfer Report and University Patent Database.
  • Subscribers will also receive our bi-weekly NanoNews Custom, our "what you want - when you want it" solution to NanoNews.

Learn more here

Table of contents:
Neil Gordon
Chris Phoenix
Brian Wang
Kevin Coleman
Bo Varga
Useful Links

About Us

University Technology Transfer & Patents
Learn More
Only the news you want to read!
Learn More
The latest news from around the world, free
Full-service, expert consulting
Learn More

Neil Gordon President Canadian NanoBusiness Alliance
Neil Gordon,
P.Eng, MBA, President,
Canadian NanoBusiness Alliance

Interview with Neil Gordon on Military Nanotech

NN: First, why should the military be interested in nanotechnology?

Advanced technologies have repeatedly allowed early adopters to gain an advantage over their competitors - in business, sports and especially in the military. This has been the hallmark of the US DOD which is not only the biggest buyer of technology in the world, but in the process has also made the US aerospace and defense industry the greatest exporting sector in the US economy. Militaries throughout the world are facing budgetary constraints which are placing increasing pressures to “do more with less”, including making extended use of infrastructure created during the cold-war. Nanotechnology offers military stakeholders the ability to “get more” performance, functionality, and lifespan “with less” weight, size, maintenance, power, and cost. This will result in more-efficient operations along with economic development in the US from manufacturing nanotech-enabled end-products as a by-product of nanotechnology investments by the military.

NN: How do you define “nanotechnology?”

Nanotechnology is a family of powerful technologies that occur when materials and structures have nanometer dimensions. Technical properties of materials change due to different aspects of science working at the nanoscale. Because of nanoscale features, materials can be stronger, conduct electricity with less resistance, be more resistant to corrosion, and better than bulk materials on many more dimensions. Because materials are stronger, structures can be thinner so an end-product’s weight could be reduced. But the real opportunity from nanotechnology goes beyond the materials, and consists of the tiny yet powerful “nanosystems” that can be made from nanomaterials and nanoscale structures. Nanosystems work at the molecular level and allow minute inputs, outputs and processes from molecules to be visualized, detected, manipulated, separated, and harnessed. As large arrays of nanosystems can be embedded in devices and linked with big systems, a new generation of advanced products will be developed with capabilities that could only be imagined. The range of possibilities includes new medicines that deliver toxic payloads exclusively to cancerous cells with minimal affect to the body, and power systems that extract energy from heat given off by the human body.

NN: In your opinion, what does nanotechnology have to offer to the military?

Nanotechnology in collaboration with other technologies can be used to make better products and systems that solve military challenges. According to the Institute for Soldier Nanotechnologies, the US Secretary of Defense has identified four overriding defense strategy objectives for the military: 1) to assure friends and allies; 2) to dissuade future adversaries; 3) to deter threat and counter coercion; and 4) to defeat adversaries if deterrence fails. As a result, the military is currently modernizing itself to meet these objectives in a post cold-war world. Many of these efforts are focused on increasing command and control, lethality, mobility, survivability, and sustainability of operations in the field. In addition to a significant emphasis on vehicles and systems, recent military engagements have demonstrated a need for a light/medium tactical force capable of rapidly escalating capabilities in their local region of influence. Nanotechnology can be used to meet these needs as enabling technologies and technology platforms such as materials, structures, sensors, devices, computer components and lasers that become part of subsystems in military applications. End-products that will improve from these platforms include military vehicles (air, ground, marine and submarine), unmanned vehicles, robots, armaments, command and control systems, soldier warfare, and human performance enhancement devices.

military uses of nanotchnololgy. copyright CNBA

NN: What are some of the near-term applications that we are likely to see, and what will be their impact?

Many near-term military applications will see benefits from reducing the high lifecycle cost of equipment operations and maintenance through nanotechnology-based coatings and composite materials, sensors and diagnostic devices, miniature systems and actuators on a chip, and an increased use of commercial off the shelf technology products that are made with nanotechnology and microsystems. These will be used to allow machines, devices and structures to work better and last longer, require less power, be easier to repair and replace, and reduce the overall labor support requirements. In parallel, many innovations have been taken place in

  • Newer aircraft using lightweight nanocomposite structures to improve speed, maneuverability and range with better fuel economy;
  • Smaller, lighter weapon systems that are more mobile, have longer range and increased velocity from high strength lightweight materials and more powerful energetic materials;
  • Lightweight multifunctional soldier uniforms to improve mobility, survivability and flexibility.

Innovation in better stealth materials, smart materials that change with the environment, self-healing amour and miniature robots are on a longer time horizon.

NN: Traditionally, advances in military technologies translate into the public sector. Which nanotech-enabled military advances do you see following that trend?

The greatest single challenge in the commercialization of nanotechnology is getting the first customer. The military offers a unique proving ground for nanotechnology commercialization that will ultimately evolve into civilian applications. A subset includes military aircraft which have inspired next generation commercial aircraft such as the Boeing Dreamliner which replaced the traditional aluminum fuselage with composite materials employing embedded stress detectors to make it lightweight, more fuel efficient and easier to maintain. Early warning systems for chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear (CBRN) terrorism threats in Homeland Security will evolve into environmental early warning systems for natural threats. Advanced technologies used in battlefield medicine and treatment of traumas have considerable value in conventional medical centers. Other application areas are illustrated in my presentation to Defense Research and Development Canada which can be downloaded here

NN: In your presentation to the Defence Research and Development Canada, you state “Nanotechnology will facilitate the creation of both EVOLUTIONARY and DISRUPTIVE innovation” could you elaborate?

Just like the personal computer was a disruptive innovation from mainframe computers, the satellite industry is likely to fragment into two distinct segments: “broadcast” satellites for television (DTH), radio (DARS) and broadband; and “narrowcast” satellites for remote sensing and earth observation.

Broadcast satellites are experiencing evolutionary innovations with an increased use of small technologies to address more complex requirements. According to Futron Corp, over the past 12 years average improvements in power (up from 1.6 kW to 7.6 kW), transponder equivalents (up from 26 TEs to 48TEs), and design life (up from 10 years to 14 years), has made the average satellite launched in 2002 do the work of 9 satellites from 1990. But new technologies have greatly increased the satellites’ costs and placed an added burden on military budgets.

With new and emerging challenges facing the military, homeland security, other government agencies, and the private sector from new technologies used by foes, asymmetric threats, complex conflict spectrum, terrorism, and the impact of natural disasters, a growing need has developed for narrowcast satellites for:

  • Defense Surveillance – for ship and wake detection, vehicle monitoring, border monitoring, and monitoring critical infrastructure such as dams and pipelines
  • Disaster Management – for emergency response, and monitoring of floods, oil spills, landslides, fires, crop and hail damage
  • Earth Observation and Environmental Mapping – for geological, agricultural, forestry, marine and land use including terrain elevation, geological structure mapping, terrain analysis, watersheds and wetlands, coastal vegetation and erosion

To meet the needs of the narrowcast market, a disruptive technology making use of nanotechnology and other technologies will be seen in low-cost miniature satellites with significant improvements over traditional satellites in weight, energy consumption, reliability, operational life, and many diverse properties. In addition to improved capabilities and functionality, miniature satellites employ low cost components making them rapid to develop, and 80-90% less expensive to launch, operate, and insure than their larger counterparts. As a result, miniature satellites will fulfill many of the functions of traditional satellites on a fraction of the budget, and make new applications feasible – both technologically and economically. This will allow militaries and other government and industrial organizations to afford their own satellites for 24/7 use independently of third party satellite service providers. An excellent example of a miniature satellite for narrowcast applications which is already in orbit can be found at the University of Toronto Space Flight Laboratory (see

Neil Gordon is President and co-founder of the Canadian NanoBusiness Alliance (CNBA), a Canadian trade association involved in establishing a Canadian National Nanotechnology Initiative, and in developing nanotechnology commercialization initiatives in Canada and throughout the world. CNBA offers leadership and know-how for establishing commercial-oriented nanotechnology programs, and brings management, marketing, partnerships, and finance brokering to research projects and early stage ventures.

Neil specializes in nanotechnology commercialization and global initiatives. He is heading the establishment of a NanoImprint Lithography Centre that will be offering prototyping services and low volume production for nanoscale devices that make use of low cost polymer substrates instead of silicon such as biosensors, lab-on-a-chip, solar panels and OLED displays. As a nanotechnology business consultant, he has worked with various government agencies, investors, start-ups, and business units in large companies throughout the world in diverse industries. Mr. Gordon has a Bachelor's degree in Metallurgical Engineering from McGill University, a Masters degree in Business Administration from the University of Western Ontario, and 22 years of business experience in management consulting, information technologies, aerospace & defense, and engineering sectors, and has founded several companies.

Neil headed the commercialization initiative of CANEUS, a NASA-led effort between multiple government agencies in the US and allied countries and the private sector, to develop standards, prototypes and collaborative investments in Micro and Nano Technologies (MNTs) for aerospace and defense applications. He is also on the Advisory Board of the Nanotechnology Opportunity Report and the World NanoEconomic Congress, Judge for the annual SmallTimes Awards, and is regularly interviewed as a nanotechnology industry analyst. Neil was a Runner-up as Nanotechnology Advocate in`s “Best of Nanotechnology 2003” Awards.

Chris Phoenix - CRN

Military Implications Of Molecular Manufacturing

Chris Phoenix Director of Research CRN

This article will survey the technology of molecular manufacturing, the basic capabilities of its products, some possible weapon systems, some tactical and strategic considerations, and some possible effects of molecular manufacturing on the broader context of societies and nations. However, all of this discussion must take place in the context of the underlying fact that the effects and outcome of molecular manufacturing will be almost inconceivable, and certainly not susceptible to shallow or linear analysis.

Although it is tempting to start with a question like, "What would a modern battlefield be like with molecular manufacturing," this question is meaningless. It is as pointless as trying to imagine a modern battlefield without electricity. Without radios, airplanes, and computers, war would be completely different. Imagination is not sufficient to generate this picure-it simply doesn't make sense to talk of a modern military without electricity. Molecular manufacturing will have a similarly profound effect on near-future military affairs.

If it is impossible to conceive of a modern military without electricity-a technology that exists, and the use of which we can study-it will be even less feasible to try to project a military with molecular manufacturing. Even where we can imagine a capability or physical effect, it will be hard to predict how it will be used. For example, radium and X-rays were discovered within months of each other. Within a few years, X-rays had inspired stories about military uses of "death rays," while radium was used to treat cancer. It would have been nearly impossible to predict that a few decades later, X-rays would be a ubiquitous medical technology, and radioactivity would be the basis of the world's most horrific weapons. The military implications of various molecular manufacturing products and capabilities will be at least as unpredictable and counterintuitive.

Technical basis of molecular manufacturing

Molecular manufacturing will be the world's first general-purpose manufacturing technology. Its products will be many times more plentiful, more intricate, and more high-performance than any existing product (1). They will be built faster and less expensively, speeding research and development. They will cover a far greater range of size, energy, and distance than today's weapons systems. As increasingly powerful weapons make the battlefield untenable for human soldiers, computers vastly more powerful and compact than today's will enable far higher degrees of automation and remote operation. Kilogram-scale and larger manufacturing systems, building directly from the latest blueprints in minutes, will utterly transform supply, logistics, and deployment.

At its foundation, molecular manufacturing will function by doing a few types of fabrication operations, very rapidly, at the molecular level, using nanoscale mechanisms under computer control. It can thus be viewed as a combination of mechanical engineering and chemistry, with some additional help from rapid prototyping, automated assembly, and related fields of research.

A fundamental "scaling law" (2) of physics is that small systems operate faster than large systems. Moving at moderate speed over tiny distances, a nanoscale fabrication system could perform many millions of operations per second, creating products of its own mass and complexity in hours or even minutes. Along with faster operation comes higher power density, again proportional to the shrinkage: nanoscale motors might be a million times more compact than today's technology. Computers would shrink even more profoundly, and non-electronic switching technologies already analyzed could dissipate little enough power to make the shrinkage feasible. Although individual nanoscale machines would have small capacity, massive arrays could work together; it appears that gram-scale computer and motor systems, and ton-scale manufacturing systems, preserving nanoscale performance levels, can be built without running afoul of scaling laws or other architectural constraints including cooling. Thus, products will be buildable in a wide range of sizes.

Atoms and inter-atomic bonds are completely precise: every atom of a type is identical to every other, and there are only a few types. Barring an identifiable error in fabrication, two molecules manufactured according to the same blueprint will be identical in structure and shape (with transient variations of predictable scale due to thermal noise and other known physical effects). This consistency will allow fully automated fabrication. Computer controlled addition of molecular fragments, creating a few well-characterized bond types in a multitude of selected locations, will enable a vast range of components to be built with extremely high reliability. Building with reliable components, higher levels of structure can retain the same predictability and engineerability.

A complete list of advantages and capabilities of molecularly manufactured products, much less an analysis of the physical basis of the advantages, would be beyond the scope of this paper; however, several additional advantages should be noted. Precisely fabricated, defect-free covalent materials will be much stronger than materials formed by today's imprecise manufacturing processes. Precise, well-designed, covalently structured bearings should suffer neither from wear nor from static friction (stiction). Carbon can be an excellent conductor, an excellent insulator, or a semiconductor, allowing a wide range of electrical and electronic devices to be built in-place by a molecular manufacturing system.

Development of Molecular Manufacturing

Although its capabilities will be far-reaching, the development of molecular manufacturing may require a surprisingly small effort. A finite, and possibly small, number of deposition reactions may suffice to build molecular structures with programmable shape-and therefore, diverse and engineerable function (3). High-level architectures for integrated kilogram-scale arrays of nanoscale manufacturing systems have already been worked out in some detail (4). Current-day tools are already able to remove and deposit atoms from selected locations in covalent solids. Engineering of protein and other biopolymers is another pathway to molecularly precise fabrication of engineered nanosystem components. Analysis tools, both physical and theoretical, are developing rapidly.

As a general rule, nanoscale research and development capabilities are advancing in proportion to Moore's Law-even faster in some cases. Conceptual barriers to developing molecular manufacturing systems are also falling rapidly. It seems likely that within a few years, a program to develop a nanofactory will be launched; one or more covert programs may already have been launched. It also seems likely that, within a few years of the first success, the cost of developing an independent capability will have dropped to the point where relatively small groups can tackle the project. Without stringent and widespread restrictions on technology, it most likely will not be possible to prevent the development of multiple molecular manufacturing systems with diverse owners.

Products of Molecular Manufacturing

All exploratory engineering in the field to date has pointed to the same set of conclusions about molecular manufacturing-built products:

  1. Small products can be extremely compact.
  2. Human-scale products can be extremely inexpensive and lightweight.
  3. Large products can be astonishingly powerful.
  4. Products of molecular manufacturing systems include more manufacturing systems.

The feature size of nanosystems will probably be about 1 nanometer (nm), implying a million features in a bacteria-sized object, a billion features per cubic micron, or a trillion features in the volume of a ten-micron human cell. A million features is enough to implement a simple CPU, along with sensors, actuators, power supply, and supporting structure. Thus, the smallest robots may be bacteria-sized, with all the scaling law advantages that implies, and a medical system (or weapon system based thereon) could be able to interact with cells and even sub-cellular structures on an equal footing. (See Nanomedicine Vol. I: Basic Capabilities (5) for further exploration.)

As a general rule of thumb, human-scale products may be expected to be 100-1000 times lighter than today's versions. Covalent carbon-based materials such as buckytubes should be at least 100 times stronger than steel, and materials could be used more efficiently with more elegant construction techniques. Active components will shrink even more. (Of course, inconveniently light products could be ballasted with water.)

Large nanofactories could build very large products, from spacecraft to particle accelerators. Large products, like smaller ones, could benefit from stronger materials and more compact active systems. Individual nanofactories should scale to at least ton-per-hour production rates for integrated products, though this might require significant cooling capacity depending on the sophistication of the nanofactory design.

If a self-contained manufacturing system can be its own product, then manufacturing systems can be inexpensive-even non-scarce. The cost of a product can approach the cost of the feedstock and energy required to make it (plus licensing and regulatory overhead). Although molecular manufacturing systems will be extremely portable, most products will not include a built-in manufacturing system-it will be more efficient to manufacture at a dedicated facility connected to feedstock, energy, and cooling supplies.

Possible weapons systems

The smallest systems may not be actual weapons, but computer platforms for sensing and surveillance. Such platforms could be micron-scale. The power requirement of a 1-MIPS computer might be on the order of 10-100 pW; at that rate, a cubic micron of fuel might last for 100-1000 seconds. The computer itself would occupy approximately one cubic micron.

Quite small devices could deliver fatal quantities of toxins to unprotected humans.

Even the smallest ballistic projectiles (bullets) could contain supercomputers, sensors, and avionics sufficient to guide them to targets with great accuracy. Flying devices could be quite small. It should be noted that small devices could benefit from a process of automated design tuning: milligram-scale devices could be built by the millions, with slight variations in each design, and the best designs used as the basis for the next "generation" of improvements; this could enable, for example, UAV's in the laminar regime to be developed without a full understanding of the relevant physics. The possibility of rapid design is far more general than this, and will be discussed below.

The line between bullets, missiles, aircraft, and spacecraft would blur. With lightweight motors and inexpensive manufacturing, a vehicle could contain a number of different disposable propulsion systems for different flight regimes. A "briefcase to orbit" system appears feasible, though such a small device might have to fly slowly to conserve fuel until it reached the upper atmosphere. It might be feasible to use 1 kg of airframe (largely discarded) and 20 kg of fuel (not counting oxidizer) to place 1 kg into orbit; some of the fuel would be used to gather and liquify oxygen in the upper atmosphere for the rocket portion of its flight. (Engineering studies have not yet been done for such a device, and it might require somewhat more fuel than stated here.)

Advanced construction could produce novel energy-absorbing materials involving high-friction mechanical slippage under high stress via micro- or nano-scale mechanical components. In effect, every molecule would be a shock absorber, and the material could probably absorb mechanical energy until it was destroyed by heat.

New kinds of weapons might be developed more quickly with rapid inexpensive fabrication. Many classes of device will be buildable monolithically. For example, a new type of aircraft or even spacecraft might be tested an order of magnitude more rapidly and inexpensively than today, reducing the cost of failure and allowing further acceleration in schedules and more aggressive experimentation. Although materials and molecular structures would not encompass today's full range of manufactured substances, they could encompass many of the properties of those substances, especially mechanical and electrical properties, and some quantum properties. This may enable construction of weapons such as battlefield lasers, rail guns, and even more exotic technologies.

Passive armor certainly could not stop attacks from a rapid series of impacts by precisely targeted projectiles. However, armor could get a lot smarter, detecting incoming attacks and rapidly shifting to interpose material at the right point. There may be a continuum from self-reconfiguring armor, to armor that detaches parts of itself to hurl in the path of incoming attacks, to armor that consists of a detached cloud of semi-independent counterweapons.

A new class of weapon for wide-area destruction is kinetic impact from space. Small impactors would be slowed by the atmosphere, but medium-to-large asteroids, redirected onto a collision course, could destroy many square miles. The attack would be detectable far in advance and probably not difficult to avert-if the defender had a molecular manufacturing-enabled space program. Another class of space impactor is lightweight solar sails accelerated to a respectable fraction of light speed by passage near the sun. These could require massive amounts of inert shielding to stop; it is not clear whether or not the atmosphere would perform this function adequately.

A hypothetical device often associated with molecular manufacturing is a small, uncontrolled, exponentially self-replicating system. However, a self-replicating system would not make a very good weapon. In popular conception, such a system could be built to use a wide range of feedstocks, deriving energy from oxidizing part of the material (or from ambient light), and converting the rest into duplicate systems. In practice, such flexibility would be quite difficult to achieve; however, a system using a few readily available chemicals and bypassing the rest might be able to replicate itself-though even the simplest such system would be extremely difficult to design. Although unrestrained replication of inorganic systems poses a theoretical risk of widespread biosphere destruction through competition for resources-the so-called "grey goo" threat-it seems unlikely that anyone would bother to develop grey goo as a weapon, even a doomsday deterrent. It would be more difficult to guide than a biological weapon. It would be slower than a device designed simply to disrupt the physical structure of its target. And it would be susceptible to detection and cleanup by the defenders.


A detailed analysis of attack and defense is impossible at this point. A substantial variety of attack mechanisms will be available, including kinetic impact, cutting, sonic shock and pressure, plasma, electromagnetic beam, electromagnetic jamming and EMP, heat, toxic or destructive chemicals, and perhaps more exotic technologies such as particle beam and relativistic projectile. A variety of defensive techniques will be available, including camouflage, small size, physical avoidance of attack, interposing of sacrificial mass, jamming or hacking of enemy sensors and computers, and preemptive strike. Many of these offensive and defensive techniques will be available to devices across a wide range of sizes. Development of new weapon systems and countermeasures may be quite rapid, especially if automated or semi-automated design is employed.

It is not known whether sensor systems will be able to effectively detect and repel an encroachment by small, stealthy robotic systems; it should be noted that the smallest such systems might be smaller than a wavelength of visible light, making detection at a distance problematic. It is unknown whether portable or even fixed armor will be able to stop the variety of penetrating objects and forces that could be directed at it. Semi-automated R&D may or may not produce new designs so quickly that the side with the better software will have an overwhelming advantage. The energy cost of construction has only been roughly estimated, and is uncertain within at least an order of magnitude; active systems, including airframes for nano-built weapons, will probably be cost-effective in any case, but passive or static systems including armor may or may not be worth deploying.

Some things appear relatively certain. Unprotected humans, whether civilian or soldier, will be utterly vulnerable to nano-built weapons. In a scenario of interpenetrating forces, where a widespread physical perimeter cannot be established, humans on both sides can be killed at will unless protected at great expense and inconvenience. Even relatively primitive weapons such as hummingbird-sized flying guns with human target recognition and poisoned bullets could make an area unsurvivable without countermeasures; the weight of each gun platform would be well under one gram. Given the potential for both remote and semi-autonomous operation of advanced robotics and weapons, a force with a developed molecular manufacturing capability should have no need to field soldiers; this implies that battlefield death rates will be low to zero for such forces.

A concern commonly raised in discussions of nanotech weapons is the creation of new diseases. Molecular manufacturing seems likely to reduce the danger of this. Diseases act slowly and spread slowly. A sufficiently capable bio-sensor and diagnostic infrastructure should allow a very effective and responsive quarantine to be implemented. Rapid testing of newly manufactured treatment methods, perhaps combined with metabolism-slowing techniques to allow additional R&D time, could minimize disease even in infected persons.

Despite the amazing power and flexibility of molecular manufactured devices, a lesson from WWI should not be forgotten: Dirt makes a surprisingly effective shield. It is possible that a worthwhile defensive tactic would be to embed an item to be protected deeply in earth or water. This could avoid detection as well as blunting attack, but without active defenses, which would also be hampered by the embedding material, this would be at best a delaying tactic.

Information is likely to be a key determiner of military success. If, as seems likely, unexpected offense with unexpected weapons can overwhelm defense, then rapid detection and analysis of an attacker's weapons will be very important. Information-gathering systems are likely to survive more by stealth than by force, leading to a "spy vs. spy" game. However, to the extent that this involves destruction of opposing spy-bots, it is similar to the problem of defending against small-scale weapons. Note that except for the very smallest systems, the high functional density of molecularly constructed devices will frequently allow both weapon and sensor technology to be piggybacked on platforms primarily intended for other purposes.

It seems likely that, with the possible exception of a few small, fiercely defended volumes, a robotic battleground would consist of interpenetrated forces rather than defensive lines (or defensive walls). This implies that any non-active matter could be destroyed with little difficulty unless shielded heavily enough to outlast the battle.


As implied above, a major strategy is to avoid putting soldiers on the battlefield via the use of autonomous or remotely operated weapons. Unfortunately, this implies that an enemy wanting to damage human resources will have to attack either civilian populations or people in leadership positions. To further darken the picture, civilian populations will be almost impossible to protect from a determined attack without maintaining a near-hermetic seal around their physical location. Since the resource cost of such a shield increases as the size of the shield grows (and the vulnerability and unreliability probably also increase), this implies that civilians under threat could face severe physical restrictions from their own defenders.

In addition to the variety of physical modes of attack and defense, the cyber sphere will become an increasingly important and complex battleground, as weapons systems increasingly depend on networking and computer control. It remains to be seen whether a major electronic security breach might destroy one side's military capacity, but with increasing system complexity, such an occurrence cannot be ruled out.

Depending on what is being defended, it may or may not be possible to prepare an efficient defense for all possible modes of attack. If adequate defense is not possible, then the available choices would seem to be either preemptive strike or avoidance of conflict. Defense of civilians, as stated above, is likely to be difficult to impossible. Conflict may be avoided by deterrence only in certain cases-where the opponent has a comparable amount to lose. In asymmetric situations, where opponents may have very different resources and may value them very differently, deterrence may not work at all. Conflict may also be avoided by reducing the sources of tension.

Broader context

Military activity does not take place in isolation. It is frequently motivated by non-military politics (though warlords may fight simply to improve their military position). Molecular manufacturing will be able to revolutionize economic infrastructures, creating material abundance and security that may reduce the desire for war-if the resources are distributed wisely.

It appears that an all-out war between molecular manufacturing powers would be highly destructive of humans and of natural resources; the objects of protection would be destroyed long before the war-fighting ability of the enemy. In contrast, a war between molecular manufacturing and a conventionally armed power would probably be rapid and decisive. The same is true against a nuclear power that was prevented from using its nuclear weapons, either by politics or by anti-missile technologies. Even if nuclear weapons were used, the decentralization allowed by self-contained exponentially manufacturing nanofactories would allow survival, continued prosecution of the war, and rapid post-war rebuilding.

The line between policing and military action is increasingly blurred. Civilians are becoming very effective at attacking soldiers. Meanwhile, soldiers are increasingly expected to treat civilians under occupation as citizens (albeit second-class citizens) rather than enemy. At least in the US, paramilitary organizations (both governmental and commercial) are being deployed in internal civilian settings, such as the use of SWAT teams in some crime situations, and commercial security firms in natural disasters.

Many molecular manufactured weapon systems will be useable for policing. Several factors will make the systems desirable for police activity: a wide range of weapon effects and intensities to choose from; less risk to police as telepresence is employed; maintaining parity with increasingly armed criminals; and increased deterrence due to increased information-gathering and surveillance. This means that even without military conflict, a variety of military-type systems will be not only developed, but deployed and used.

It is tempting to think that the absence of nuclear war after six decades of nuclear weapons implies that we know how to handle insanely destructive weapons. It should be remembered, however, that on several different occasions, a single fortuitous person or event has prevented a nuclear attack. In addition, a number of factors will make a molecular manufacturing arms race less stable than the nuclear arms race. Nuclear weapons are hard to design, hard to build, require easily monitored testing, do indiscriminate and lasting damage, do not rapidly become obsolete, have almost no peaceful use, and are universally abhorred. Molecular manufactured weapons will be easy to build, will in many cases allow easily concealable testing, will be relatively easy to control and deactivate, and would become obsolete very rapidly; almost every design is dual-use, and non-military (police) use of weapons will be common. Nuclear weapons are easier to stockpile than to use; molecular manufactured weapons will be the opposite.

Interpenetrating arrays of multi-scale complex weapons cannot be stable for long (6). Sooner or later, and probably sooner, a perceived attack will be answered by an actual attack. Whether this mushrooms out of control into a full-scale conflict may depend on the programming of the weapon systems. As long as only inanimate hardware is at stake, probing attacks and small-scale accidental attacks may be tolerated.

Given the amount of damage that a hostile power armed with molecular manufacturing products could do to the civilian sector, it seems likely that hostile actors will be tolerated only as a last resort, and even apparently non-hostile but untrustworthy actors will be highly undesirable. This may be true for quite small actors, perhaps even molecular manufacturing-enabled individuals. As mentioned above, an asymmetry in values may prevent deterrence from working. An asymmetry in force, such as between a molecular manufacturing and a pre-MM power, may tempt a preemptive strike to prevent molecular manufacturing proliferation. Likewise, a substantial but decreasing lead in military capability may lead to a preemptive strike. It is unclear whether in general a well-planned surprise attack would lead to rapid and/or inexpensive victory; this may not become clear until offensive and defensive systems are actually developed.

One stable situation appears to be that in which a single power deploys sufficient sensors and weapons to prevent any other power from developing molecular manufacturing. This would probably require substantial oppression of civilians and crippling of industrial and scientific capacity. The government in power would have near-absolute control, being threatened only by internal factors; near-absolute power, combined with an ongoing need for oppression, would likely lead to disastrous corruption.

Widespread recognition of the dangers of arms race, preemptive strike, and war might inspire widespread desire to avoid such an outcome. This would require an unprecedented degree of trust and accountability, worldwide. Current government paradigms are probably not compatible with allowing foreign powers such intimate access to their secrets; however, in the absence of this degree of openness, spying and hostile inspections will only raise tension and reduce trust. One possible solution is for governments to allow their own citizens to observe them, then allow the information gained by such distributed and non-combative (and thus presumably more trustworthy) observation to be made available to foreign powers.


Molecular manufacturing will introduce a wide diversity of new weapons systems and modes of warfighting. In the absence of actual systems to test, it is difficult if not impossible to know key facts about offensive and defensive capability, and how the balance between offense and defense may change over time. Incentives for devastating war are unknown, but potentially large-the current geopolitical context may favor a strategy of preemptive strike.

Full information about molecular manufacturing's capabilities probably will be lacking until a nanofactory is developed. At that point, once an exponential manufacturing capacity exists that can make virtually unlimited quantities of high-performance products, sudden development of unfamiliar and powerful weapons systems appears likely. It is impossible, from today's knowledge, to predict what a molecular manufacturing-enabled war will be like-but it is possible to predict that it would be most destructive to our most precious resources.

Given these facts and observations, an immediate and urgent search for alternatives to arms races and armed conflict is imperative.

1. Nanosystems chapter 1: link
2. Nanosystems chapter 2: link
3. See Merkle and Freitas's proposal at link
4. link
5. link
6. link

About the Center for Responsible Nanotechnology
Advanced nanotechnology may build machines that are thousands of times more powerful-and hundreds of times cheaper-than today's devices. The humanitarian potential is enormous; so is the potential for misuse. The vision of CRN is a world in which molecular manufacturing is widely used for productive and beneficial purposes, and where malicious uses are limited by effective administration of the technology.

CRN acts to raise awareness of the issues. We believe that even a technology as powerful as molecular manufacturing can be used wisely and well-but that without adequate information, unwise use will be far too common. The mission of CRN is to raise awareness of the issues presented by nanotechnology: the benefits and dangers, and the possibilities for responsible use.

In order to provide well-grounded and complete information, clear explanation, and workable proposals, CRN studies, clarifies, and researches the issues involved-political, economic, military, humanitarian, and technological. CRN presents the results for both technical and popular audiences, and works to supply the information as effectively as possible. The purpose of CRN is to investigate the ethical, legal, and social implications (ELSI) of molecular manufacturing, and to educate those who will influence its use or be affected by it.

Chris Phoenix and Mike Treder are co-founders of the Center for Responsible Nanotechnology.

Brian Wang

Considering Military and Ethical Implications of Nanofactory-Level Nanotechnology

Brian Wang

This essay looks at some existing trends in military capability and technology development, and considers the impact of nanofactory-level nanotechnology (NN). A nanofactory (1) is a proposed manufacturing system that could be built if molecularly precise manufacturing technology is developed. Current projections indicate that a nanofactory should be able to fabricate its own mass of advanced products-including duplicate nanofactories-in just a few hours.

Assumptions of This Essay

The development of a nanofactory seems to be between five and fifteen years in the future. If there is a secret nanofactory development program, then nanofactories might be produced at an earlier date. The impact of an introduction of nanofactory capabilities will be considered for the 2011 to 2025 timeframe. Artificial intelligence with human or better performance across a broad range of functions could in theory speed development of nanotechnology, but this is assumed to come after the nanofactory, because it is assumed that nanofactory-level technology likely would be needed to successfully reverse engineer the human brain.

Safe Leads, and Who Will Get It First

Any non-US developer of a nanofactory will have to either develop systems that overcome the current US lead in conventional and non-conventional capabilities, or develop new tactics that circumvent those capabilities. However, NN could make large amounts of current weapons systems obsolete. For the US, superiority would have to be maintained by pressing ahead with nanotechnology development, because former advantages may no longer be decisive. Although game-changing shifts in military technology advantage are historically infrequent, the costs and required base of technology for developing NN are widely available in the world. It is not assured that any one country will reach game-changing capabilities first.

Also, nanofactories are not a finish line for technology. Nanofactories could massively accelerate the pace of research and development (2). Precise designs could be produced and tested in hours. The cost of production will be almost equal to the cost of generating a prototype. Currently the United States spends billions of dollars and takes about five years to create one prototype of a new fighter jet. In the first months of the project, there are multiple detailed fighter jet proposals, which are then reduced to the compromise that is developed. In the age of nanofactories, multiple design teams with superior computer assistance could generate many more detailed proposals, and all of them could be built for little additional cost and effort and compared in competitive showdowns. This change in the rate of development will enable leapfrogging shifts in capabilities.

Some Existing and Expected Capabilities by 2025

The following is a summary of existing and expected technology. Many people do not fully understand the power of current technology or the pace of technological progress. Military technology, surveillance, computers, and other technology are already very powerful and becoming more powerful. The capabilities listed in this section, which are projected to exist in the 2011-2025 timeframe, are those that currently are being funded and appear likely to be successful.

Precision-guided munitions provide one of the most important existing capabilities (3). Precision munitions lets the military destroy whatever can be identified as an important target. This places importance on airspace domination to allow the munitions to be delivered. Accurate military intelligence and electronic sensing are needed to identify and locate targets in real-time. In World War II, an average of 9,000 bombs were needed to destroy a specific target; now it usually takes only one or two. A month-long mission that used to require 30 sorties with 100 planes can now be accomplished with a cruise missile fired from 1,500 miles away, and the target will be destroyed in three hours.

The United States has a $2 billion UAV (unmanned aerial vehicle) annual budget (4) and possesses a large and increasingly wide variety of UAVs. Some are as small as insects, but they can be as large as supersonic fighters and bombers. Unmanned aerial vehicles will enable their users to conduct more capable and flexible military operations that do not have the political risk of loss of military personal. The trend towards unmanned military vehicles also is progressing in ground vehicles.

Standard computers should continue to follow Moore's law (5) for improvement and would be about 1,000 times more powerful than today by 2020. The potential developments can be summarized as a ten times increase in capability in most military systems and a 1,000 times increase in computing capability.

Production Revolution and Product Performance in the Age of Nanotechnology

One product of a nanofactory is another nanofactory (though security restrictions may limit this capability in deployed versions). This enables exponential manufacturing. The first tiny lab-built device can be made to build a system with two integrated devices, which can work in parallel to build four, and in just a few months can build a full-sized nanofactory. Less than a month after that, millions of nanofactories could produce thousands of tons of products (including more nanofactories) per hour.

Products of nanofactories will be high performance: small precise machines are more powerful than large ones--perhaps a million times more powerful, when shrunk to the nanoscale--and precise materials may be a hundred times stronger than today's best.

Nanofactories will be capable of general-purpose manufacturing: because structures will be made additively from tiny precise building blocks under automated control, simply changing the program (blueprint) will change the product. A wide range of components and products will be possible, including computers, sensors, motors, and displays.

Automated nanofactories will reduce direct manufacturing costs drastically. Carbon-based feedstocks are inexpensive. Services, design work, and intellectual capital costs would become the main drivers of overall costs and pricing.

Nanofactory-level nanotechnology would bring 100 to 1,000,000-fold increases in militarily relevant capabilities. Systems could become both cheaper and more functional, to an extent that would make a game-changing difference. Sufficiently advanced systems could have an overwhelming advantage over less advanced systems; for example, an essentially unlimited manufacturing capacity combined with fully automated battlefield weapons implies near-certain destruction of all soldier-based forces.

Surveillance and Data Mining from Now into the Age of Nanotechnology

Nanofactories will make computers millions of times faster and more powerful than traditional computers. What can you get with this capability? ECHELON (6) is a highly secretive world-wide signals intelligence and analysis network run by the UKUSA Community. It is estimated to intercept 3 billion communications per day. A similar nanotechnology-enhanced system would be able to intercept many more messages and perform more detailed analysis on the messages. Ten times more capability could be obtained for 100,000 times less money. Instead of a single billion-dollar project producing one machine, there could be thousands of $10,000 Echelon workstations and even $100 portable Echelons. Such a powerful state-run surveillance capability could profoundly impact civil rights.

Smart dust (7) is a hypothetical network of tiny wireless microelectromechanical sensors (MEMS), robots, or other devices installed with wireless communications, that can detect anything from light and temperature to vibrations. Work on smart dust is ongoing at the University of California. Nanofactory-level nanotechnology would enable smart dust that is orders of magnitude more compact and with vastly improved functionality (8). The improved sensing ability of nanotechnology-enabled smart dust and nanotechnology-enabled UAVs will revolutionize the military ability to identify and locate valuable opposing assets in real time. An arms race to make stealthy smart dust, smart dust detectors, and smart dust hunter-killers may be inevitable. One thousand times cheaper smart dust of similar capability would be the expectation from Moore's law. Today, a smart dust device costs about five dollars and has 32,000 bytes of memory. In 2025, standard advancement would provide the same device for half a cent. Four hundred million smart dust devices, one for every person in the United States, would cost just $20 million. Each device could record 80 bytes of information every day for a year.

Nanofactories could increase capabilities by a million times beyond that. The gain could be split between lower cost and higher performance: devices could be a thousand times cheaper and a thousand times more capable. The same $20 million referred to above could buy 400 billion devices. These could be distributed: two on each person in the world, eight for different locations that the person goes to or vehicles in which they travel, and 40 on different objects or animals that they possess. The improved devices would have 32 MB of memory and correspondingly more processing power and sensors. They could record video, audio, biosensors, and use better processing to discard redundant information. Information could be pooled to know which objects and people are together at different times. The history of any object or person could be tracked. Who and what were you with? What were you saying? How were your heart rate and blood pressure? Your mood? Your facial expressions and gestures? What was the weather? Did you have your dog, your wallet, your car keys, a gun hidden in your clothes? Did you swallow a balloon filled with contraband? Detailed records of 1600 bytes could be recorded every half hour for a year or every six seconds for a day.

Nano-enhanced smart dust also could be weaponized. A person who offended any of the 100 different groups using smart dust to track them could be killed when the smart dust was activated to release a toxin. Even without nano, a future smart dust could have this capability, but the nano-version would be some combination of cheaper, more flexible, and more capable. This could enable those that control the smart dust to eliminate or control exactly whom they want under precise parameters. This could be part of a system of super-oppression.

Destroying the World in the Age of Nanotechnology: Offense is Stronger

A 100kg nanofactory-built combat drone could be supersonic (9) and have the destructive capability of a modern fighter jet. Nanofactories could produce billions of these drones in a few months. Several could be targeted at every person on the opposing side of a military conflict. Genocide will become cheaper and easier. Image processing and sensors could also allow a more selective targeting.

It appears that offensive military capabilities will improve faster than defensive capabilities, especially since nanofactories would revolutionize access to space and the ability to utilize space-based resources (10). Nanofactory-built launch systems with widespread use of diamond and carbon nanotube material would enable $1-10/kg launch costs by reducing the mass and construction cost of vehicle and systems (11). Nanofactories could create space vehicles with ion drives with 739 kWe/kg specific power, 1000 km/s ideal exhaust velocity vehicle and 9.8 m/s2 acceleration. This would be an early capability provided by enhancing current designs with better materials and molecularly precise construction.

The enhanced space systems that nanofactories can create will provide ease of movement in and around the solar system. For military purposes, space vehicles could divert and accelerate asteroids and comets at the earth and other targets.

These vehicles could position themselves near a space rock (1,000,000 tons+) for months or years and divert large ones that would have passed near the earth so that they impact the earth. Even dinosaur killer comets could be diverted (12). This comet diverting capability would have physics that are orders of magnitude in the attacker's favor. It could be used as a second strike (13) capability for mutually assured world destroying capability.

The defender would need a comet shield (14) that works even if there are intelligent forces actively working to make the defense fail. Most plans for comet defense depend on detecting a comet that will hit the earth early enough to nudge it out of the way. Second strike crews deliberately nudging whatever they can onto earth collision courses would makes defense a lot more difficult. Attackers with space rocks have a huge advantage.

Large-scale space bombardment with large objects could be considered a doomsday response. This could actually be stabilizing: if certain powers have doomsday options, their enemies might back off from attempting to wipe them out. This does not address small-scale conflicts that do not trigger a doomsday response. It is unclear whether smaller incoming objects could be deflected or destroyed; objects too small will be destroyed in the high atmosphere, and it may not be possible to accelerate intermediate-sized objects to sufficient speed to evade destruction. If intermediate-scale space bombardment turns out to be a feasible offensive technology, it could deliver energies comparable to thermonuclear warheads.

Nations and alliances either possessing or on a path to develop significant space programs are the United States, China, Europe, Japan, Russia and India. Nanofactories would greatly enhance space capabilities.

On Deterrence

The maximum deterrence you can have is the ability to kill all of your enemies and destroy everything they care about. (Enemies who do not care about dying may not be deterred even by this.) Deterrence does not require this ultimate level of harm; deterrence of a rational opponent requires only being able to cause more damage to them than they gain from attacking you. China has relied upon that level of deterrent for the last 30 years. Useful discussions of deterrence levels can be found at various websites (15).

Being weaker than an opponent that is evil can be a very dangerous position. A surprisingly small advantage can be exploited for genocide. The Hutus, armed with machetes and guns, killed 937,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus. However, an imbalance of power does not mean that war or genocide is inevitable. One side or the other will always have an advantage. Motivation is a key determiner of conflict, and as described in the following section, advanced nanotechnology can reduce incentives for war.

Deterrence may not work if one side miscalculates the effectiveness of the deterrence of the other side. If an aggressor underestimates an opponent's defenses or willingness to resist, they could mistakenly start a more costly conflict than intended. More accurate knowledge may prevent such miscalculation between rational opponents. However, a strategy of providing misinformation and confusing information could be followed by a weaker power to confuse an opponent who needs good information and a clearer cost benefit calculation before acting.

Ethics, Shifting Motivations, and Rational Calculations in the Age of Nanotechnology

The powerful technologies that are being developed could rapidly shift military balances of power. Nations cannot assume that their existing weapons inventory provides assured security. A lead in current technology, even current nanotechnologies, does not guarantee a lead with molecular manufacturing. The future balance of power will be determined by a nation's level of development with advanced nanotechnology, as well as space capabilities and other new technologies that will be augmented by nanofactory technology. Nations without a molecular manufacturing capability will be at the mercy of opponents with the technology.

Nanotechnology can shift the motivations and rational calculation for war. For example, if nanotechnology makes a nation's economy grow at 24% per year, then in three years that nation will have twice as much stuff; they would have less incentive to attack an equal size opponent and try to take their stuff. Attacking an opponent brings in elements of risk and costs. With such large gains in the near future, rational groups should not want or need to engage in violent conflict for economic gain. Other differences between groups that lead to conflict need to be addressed to prevent violent conflict.

Genocide and super-oppression become technically easier with nanotechnology. Therefore, it is more important than ever for all people to work together toward peaceful resolution of differences and to keep those who would try to initiate atrocities in check. The economic bounty and other benefits (16) that nanotechnology could provide should be used by farsighted nations to reduce the motivations for conflict.

1. Phoenix, Chris (2003) "Design of a Primitive Nanofactory" link
2. Phoenix, Chris (2005) "Fast Development of Nano-Manufactured Products" link
3. Hallion, Richard P. (1995) "Precision Guided Munitions and the New Era of Warfare" link
4. link, The FY-07 budget request includes $1.7 billion for UAV buys and research programs and $9.9 billion between FY-08 and FY-11.
5. link, "Moore's Law" is about the empirical observation that, at the rate of technological development, the complexity of an integrated circuit, with respect to minimum component cost, will double about every 18 months.
6. link, link, ECHELON is a highly secretive worldwide signals intelligence and analysis network run by the UKUSA Community. ECHELON can capture radio and satellite communications, telephone calls, faxes and e-mails nearly anywhere in the world and includes computer automated analysis and sorting of intercepts. ECHELON is estimated to intercept up to three billion communications every day.
7. link
8. "Sensor networks for Dummies" MIT Technology Review, March 17, 2006 link
9. link, One small step for drones: Lockheed leaps into unmanned plane market, Feb 2006. Falcon, a conceptual drone bomber that would fly at Mach 9 near the edge of the atmosphere.
10. McKendree, T. L (2001) "A Technical and Operational Assessment of Molecular Nanotechnology for Space Operations," Ph.D. Dissertation, Industrial and Systems Engineering Dept., University of Southern California
11. link, Implications of Molecular Nanotechnology Technical Performance Parameters on Previously Defined Space System Architectures
12. Hammerschlag, Michael "It's the End of the World as We Know It" link
13. link, In nuclear strategy, second strike capability is a country's assured ability to respond to a nuclear attack with powerful nuclear retaliation against the attacker.
14. link, link
15. link
16. Center for Responsible Nanotechnology (2003) "Benefits of Molecular Manufacturing" link

Brian Wang is a long time futurist, who has been involved with nanotechnology associations since 1994. He is now a member of the Center for Responsible Nanotechnology (CRN) taskforce, and is moderating the technology sub-taskforce. He is also on the Nanoethics Group advisory board.

Wang has a degree in computer science and an MBA (from Canadian universities) and has worked in the information technology industry for 20 years. He created and ran his own professional services computer consulting company with offices in Canada and the United states and clients in the USA and Europe.

He won second place in the Honeywell University Futurist essay contest. He has been involved in nanotechnology as a Senior Associate of the Foresight Institute since 1997, and he helped write Foresight's 2003 relaunch plan.

Wang has a nanotech blog which we encourage you to visit at

Patrick Lin
Patrick Lin, Ph.D., The Nanoethics Group.

Nanotechnology: Shifting Political and Economic Winds, or a Firestorm of Change?

Brian Wang
Brian Wang, M.B.A., Member, Nanoethics Advisory Board.

As with biotechnology, there is a global race to develop nanotechnology, the science of the very small. Nanotech is estimated to be a US$1 trillion industry within 5 to 10 years, compared to biotech's current worldwide revenue of US$55 billion. Given national security concerns, including terrorism, and a still-jittery domestic and global economy, it's no wonder that policymakers are worried about competitive disadvantages economically as well as militarily, if their nations lag behind.

But beyond these immediate harms, there are mid- and far-term issues that arise from our excited pursuit of nanotechnology. If global security is a top concern, then we have a duty to ask whether our current path will take us to another arms race and everything that entails. And if nanotechnology lives up to its hype as "the Next Industrial Revolution", how might it impact the economy as well as nations that fail to keep up? To better appreciate and investigate these questions, we need to first consider the new capabilities that nanotechnology may give us.

Global Security Implications

As a major sector driving nanotechnology research and investments, the military has many innovations in progress or predicted, including the following:

  • New offensive capabilities: Smaller, more efficient weapons, including energy weapons; greater use of robotics; hypersonic missiles and jets; precision-guided munitions, including "smart bullets"; and improved stealth technology.
  • New defensive capabilities: Stronger, more dynamic personal and vehicle armor; better detection devices, e.g., "smart dust" and biochemical sensors; better jamming capabilities against booby traps; and energy weapons to defend against missiles.
  • Communications and control: Quantum computing for smaller, powerful devices as well as for better intelligence; quantum communications for greater eavesdropping and more secure messages; and greater ability to attack enemy systems.
  • Other: Bionic suits for superhuman strength and capabilities; more effective battlefield medicine; more powerful and lighter energy sources; faster production of military assets, i.e., force multiplier; and enhanced weapons of mass destruction, e.g., bio-weapons that can target specific DNA.

Given just this short list of forecasted capabilities, nanotechnology clearly has the potential to take a military well into the next generation and beyond. The prospect of having this sizable advantage, as well as the fear of being surpassed by other militaries, provides a strong incentive to engage in a new arms race. And as with previous arms races, without an agreement or treaty among nations to moderate or curb their activities, there will be an increased risk of mistrust, misunderstanding and catastrophic conflict.

For the US, it is no longer a foregone conclusion that it will be the first in this area, as it was in many previous technologies. Besides losing ground to other nations in education, particularly in science, as well as in research spending, our success in nanotechnology research is hindered by convoluted funding processes, intellectual property issues and other factors, according to a recent report from Lux Research.

So it's an open question which country might take the lead in nanotechnology and its military applications. If nanotech is developed unevenly among nations, our current balance of global powers may be upset, leading to difficult political change and greater insecurity. Further, if a non-democratic government, such as China, develops nanotechnology first, that would raise a host of additional worries, including becoming the target of a first-strike attack that we cannot effectively defend against or answer in kind.

Terrorists, however, is perhaps not a near- or mid-term worry in nanotechnology. The consensus among scientists seems to be that terrorists, though still very interested in new capabilities and tactics, can more easily and affordably employ conventional or biochemical weapons to achieve their goals. If nanotechnology weapons reach a point where they are easy to manufacture, or if lax security or political instability allows terrorists to acquire such weapons from a nation, then we may have good reason to worry. This, however, begs us to ask whether some research is too dangerous to conduct or publish - a question that biotechnologists are becoming increasingly familiar with.

Economic Implications

In the short and mid term, failing to keep up with other nations in the research or adoption of nanotechnology has obvious negative consequences for an economy, both domestically and globally as world markets are increasingly dependent on each other. As quickly as technology is advancing, following Moore's Law, it will be an extraordinary challenge for any nation (or ethics) to catch up, if they fall too far behind. Think of the nations that missed the previous Industrial Revolution in the last century or even the Internet bandwagon today.

And like other revolutions before it, we can expect nanotechnology to radically change many elements of society in the distant future, if not earlier. Particularly, if the predictions are right and nanotechnology, in its advanced form of molecular manufacturing, can enable us to create objects from the bottom up, i.e., one molecule at a time, then what's our incentive to trade if we can create nearly anything we want? Would that make entire industries obsolete overnight and lead to massive displacement of workers? Further, would that encourage an isolationist economic and political policy, and what problems might come from that?

One source of this large debate comes from a detailed speculative design for a "nanofactory", which might be a portable or desktop device - a black box of sorts - that can create virtually any object we want, from cakes to computers. To oversimplify things, raw materials, say dirt and water, might go in one end, and a raw steak or perhaps an unmanned fighter jet might come out of the other. While this may sound like science fiction, the theory behind it seems sound: if we can precisely manipulate molecules, and physical objects are only made up of molecules, then why wouldn't we be able create any physical object we want?

If this still sounds far-fetched, consider the similarities with today's 3-D printers that can print out plastic or ceramic objects one thin layer at a time. No longer limited to producing only manufacturing prototypes and machine parts, 3-D printers have recently broke new ground in printing out fully-functional and fashionable footwear, among an expanding and impressive array of print-on-demand products. The nanofactory operates by the same concept, except with much more precision and a mix of different materials.


The above scenarios may or may not come to bear - that's the nature of making predictions. As with other technologies, chances are good that some futurists are simply over-optimistic or over-impressed with nanotechnology, while others are too conservative in their imagination and vision. But the science behind these predictions at least appears credible, moving them from science fiction to now the realm of possibility and therefore deserving of our serious consideration.

So where to begin, and how? For the global security issues we raised, we need to engage not only political scientists and terrorist experts, but also historians in order to learn relevant lessons from our past and take the proper precautions. To study the market disruption described above, we need to engage economists as well as scientists to better understand what scenarios are plausible. Most of all, we need to engage the public in determining how their own future should unfold.

Nanoethics, or the study of nanotechnology's ethical and social implications, then must be collaborative. Besides being a highly cross-disciplinary field, it is an enabling technology that will accelerate progress in biotech, information technology, cognitive sciences, manufacturing and many other areas. Given this convergence as well as its broad and profound impacts, nanotechnology is looking more like a perfect breakthrough...or a perfect storm, for both ethicists and all of human kind.

Patrick Lin, Ph.D. is the research director of The Nanoethics Group, a non-partisan and independent organization that studies the ethical and social implications of nanotechnology. Brian Wang, M.B.A., is a member of the Nanoethics Advisory Board. For more information, please visit

Kevin G. Coleman
Kevin G. Coleman,
Senior Fellow with the Technolytics Institute.

Nanotechnology: Homeland Security Applications

The following is an updated version of an article that appeared in Directions Magazine ( on June 11th, 2003,

The advances in Nanotechnology in general has created numerous capabilities that have direct implications for Homeland Security and the Defense Industry. The broad reach of Nanotechnology, in terms of capabilities, has direct applications for Defense and Homeland Security. Early limitations of the immature technology are steadily being eliminated due to the rapid technology advances that have been seen over the three years since this article was first published.

From shape-shifting armor to fabric that can turn away microbes, as well as bullets to new power sources, the defense industries are launching major initiatives and planning for Nanotechnology. The Government is the major source of funding for current Nanotechnology initiatives. Centers of Excellence in Nanotechnology have been established around the country. The basic research in Nanotechnology conducted at these centers will provide the foundation upon which real world applications can be built. Other centers are already concentrating on military application of Nanotechnology. While there are efforts for new and improved weapons based on Nanotechnology, the vast majority of the Nanotechnology research and applied research fall into the support category.

From improved powers sources and batteries to advanced arming fuses, the defense industry and homeland security has great interest in how Nanotechnology can enhance their capabilities. They believe that Nanotechnology will advance sensors and protective equipment and will greatly assist them in their mission. In fact, current research and development efforts are working on micro power generating devices that can be used in a plethora of applications. If successful, these MPG's can provide enough energy to power sensors and sensor networks that will be deployed to protect critical infrastructure like water treatment plants, roadways, and bridges. Other applications could include such things as microscopic self-powered reconnaissance and surveillance devices like listening devices, vibrations sensors, as well as supplying power to sensor networks. Currently, the DoD is funding research in small-scale energetic device development and management.

The lifecycle development and support requirements for MEMS (micro-electro-mechanical systems) in support of advanced applications in munitions and armament systems are critical to advances in weaponry. MEMS has direct implications on integrated circuits, optical switches, pressure sensors, as well as the processes used to produce weapons. However, current thoughts are that MEMS can play a major role in new weapons and intelligence and surveillance.

As mentioned previously, the area that Nanotechnology holds the most significant promise is sensors and sensor networks. Hybrid NanoMaterials will produce orders of magnitude improvements in high-selectivity and high-sensitivity sensors for biological and chemical detection. This advanced detection of harmful chemical and biological agents; microsensors for radioactivity, low-power or self-powering consumption security electronics, polymer electronics, and nano-optics, will provide capabilities that are not available today.

Just imagine: in a few years advanced sensor networks self-powered with the smarts to communicate from sensor to sensor and have the ability to detect very small amounts of chemicals or biological agents installed in the water supplies across the country. Once a single sensor node detects the presence of one of the agents, it communicates to the others what was found and receives their verification. Once verified, the information is communicated to the control sensor that relays the information back to the National Infrastructure Protection Center for immediate action. Other applications like underwater sensor networks to detect the movement of ships into and out of our ports could also be advanced using Nanotechnology. Sensor networks that detect chemical, biological or radiological materials could be built into cargo containers.

The applications of NanoMaterials go far beyond semiconductors and sensors into NanoFabrics. NanoFabrics with unique properties are under development at this time. Properties like decreased receptivity to chemical or biological agents, materials with the ability to expand and contract (like a thermostat) so as to exhaust or conserve body heat, or to resist the penetration of a bullet.

Consider that today a soldier going into battle carries about 60 lbs of equipment. A significant part of that weight is resides in the bullet-proof-vest. What if that weight burden was reduced by 50%? How much more efficient would the soldier be? What if instead of having multiple types of camouflage there was only one uniform that adapted the outer colors to blend into the surroundings? How much physical stress would be relieved if the uniform had that thermostatic characteristic discussed earlier? When the soldier becomes over-heated the vents open to allow the flow of air, and when the soldier becomes cold the vents close to conserve body heat. In one discussion I had preparing for this article there was even the notion that the materials could sense an injury and automatically constrict like a tourniquet, or mast trousers used to treat victims in shock.

One of the early Nanotechnology successes was material that had the characteristics of Gortex with the look and feel of regular wool. Remember of course that Gortex is currently used in bulletproof vests. Today, ballistic resistant materials are heavy and many are extremely brittle. Super-strength nanofabrics sandwiched into normal contraction materials are expected to improve blast resistant construction practices making commercial and governmental structures much more resilient against bomb blasts. Bomb resistant containers for cargo and luggage on ships and aircraft, bomb resistant glass for office buildings and government complexes, advanced structural members that have the strength (but are pliable) to absorb the energy of a blast are all currently being investigated as real-world applications of Nanotechnology.

Another area of Nanotechnology that is receiving a great amount of attention is semiconductors. The ability to further compact the number of transistors in a given space increases the performance of a semiconductor. Nano-scale construction practices applied to semiconductors will substantially increase current processing capability and could change the entire industry overnight. Nanotechnology also has significant benefits in opto-electronics and communications. The ability to construct an optical switch on a chip would eliminate a significant amount of the complexity and cost of optical networks, not to mention increasing the capacity as well.

Within the past few years, there has been a noticeable increase in nanotechnology-related activities in the life sciences. It is important to note, 38% of venture capital investment in the past 6 years has been in the nano-bio area. Based on our analysis, the hottest area of nano-bio will be nano-bio-sensors. The advancement and application of nanotechnology toward integrated devices that can incorporate on a single chip, multiple fluid assay functions, such as separation, metering, fluid transport with delivery and detection capabilities. The market for such devices is expected to grow to nearly $1 billion by 2010.

Other areas such as hybrid highly energetic materials based on nano-structures and processes will assist in the development of smart munitions. Smart munitions are required in urban setting where the travel distances are limited and the possibility of death or injury to innocent civilians is increased. Smart munitions will breakdown after traveling a predetermined distance defined in the design of the nano-structures. The number of new and unique defense and intelligence applications for Nanotechnology-based materials, structures and assemblies are only constrained by our immaginitions and the current capabilities of nano-production science.

Application Highlight


Spy-Dust was a thought to be harmless powder the KGB used in the 1960s in an effort to track Western diplomats, military attachés and other intelligence targets. In the early 1960's the US Intelligence Community had information of its existence, but failed to believe the source of the information. This information was later confirmed in the mid 1980s. The primacy compound was nitrophenyl pentadien (NPPD) but luminol was also used. It was later determined that spy-dust was a cancer-causing agent and could have endangered the lives of those who came in contact with the powder. When the individual was painted with the spy-dust, their travels could be followed by applying chemicals that would turn the chemical bright yellow with (UV) ultraviolet light. Use of nano-materials to construct a 21st century version of spy-dust is not as far out as it seems. Assembling hybrid nano-compounds that emmit light at a set frequency under certain controlled conditions is well within the state-of-the-art of technology today.

We have just touched on a few of the many applications of nanotechnology and some of the issues faced by the defense community. Additionally, the advancement of this technology is accelerating. Early risks associated with nanotechnology were so high, that the vast majority of funding came from the government. Today however, private sector companies, venture capital firms, private investors and others are now investing in this technology. The future of nanotechnology in general as well as in defense, security and intelligence applications seems very bright.

Kevin G. Coleman, Ph.D. is a Kellogg School of Management Executive Scholar and a Senior Fellow with the Technolytics Institute - an executive think-tank. As an author, visionary, pundit and global management consultant he brings significant insight into the global technology and business environments of tomorrow. Formerly he was the Chief Strategist of Netscape, the quintessential Silicon Valley success story. Prior to that he was Chief Strategist at Claremont Technology Group, (Business Weeks' 44 fastest growing company). He was also a Principal in the National Consulting Practice at CSC and a Management Consultant at Deloitte & Touché. He currently holds a number of board positions including being a Science and Technology advisor for Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Lab. He also served for two years as an advisor to the National Technology Transfer Center. The NTTC was created by congressional mandate in the late 80s and responsible for the commercialization of Government sponsored research.

Victor Bellitto
Dr. Victor Bellitto,
Indian Head Division, Naval Surface Center (IHDIV, NSWC)

The Question: What are some of the potential military applications of your research?

Jason Jouet
Dr. Jason Jouet,
Indian Head Division, Naval Surface Center (IHDIV, NSWC)

Dr. Victor Bellitto: Currently, Al particles with native oxide coatings are widely used in explosives, propellants, and thermites to enhance performance. The use of nanoparticles and/or clusters would significantly increase the surface to volume ratios, and could greatly improve performance through tailored energy release and more efficient combustion. By eliminating the native oxide coating and passivating the Al particle surface with a reactive organic film, the available energy content of the particles can be increased by as much as 6X compared to presently available materials. The hope is that increases in energy content or efficiencies can directly translate into significant weight reduction in payload and propellant without any loss in the weapon system performance.

This impacts the DODs need to extend the range, quick reaction, and high speed stand-off (global strike) munitions by providing lighter payloads & propellants thus producing lighter missiles and aircraft that can travel farther and faster.

This achieves the need for hard and deeply buried target defeat by allowing for a significant increase in the payload energy delivered to the target.

This impacts the need for defeat of chemical/biological agents and production facilities by providing a new class of metal additive compositions for high temperature combustion of the agents and/or delivery of greater quantities of reactive materials to the target.

Dr. Jason Jouet: My research is focused on the passivation/functionalization of aluminum nanoparticles. Currently conventional explosive and propellant materials use micron sized Al particles for increased energy. For illustration, the energy density of CL-20, a very powerful organic explosive, is approximately 2 Kcal/g. Aluminum, on the other hand, has approximately 7 Kcal/g when oxidized by oxygen. The large size (5-100 m) of these Al particles limits their utility, however because the combustion reactions involving them are diffusion controlled. Additionally, such a large localized concentration of fuel, i.e. Al, often results in incomplete combustion as the oxide formed during the combustion actually inhibits the process. The overall result is that the energy release is too slow to be relevant in a detonation and incomplete in that not all of the Al is consumed.

One solution to this problem is to use nanoscale Al particles for fuels as they could be more finely dispersed (smaller diffusion distances) and the Al would combust completely prior to oxide inhibition. The main problem with conventional nanoscale Al particles is the large oxide content. The typical oxide coating of an Al surface ranges from 2.5 nm 6 nm. For a 40 nm particle this translates to 60% active Al and 40% oxide or dead weight. By passivating the surface using organic oxidizers we can dramatically increase the reaction rate, and efficiency so that the tremendous energy release potential of metals (Al) can actually be realized.

We have developed the technology to prepare and passivate Al nanoparticles with organic oxidizer species. This has the potential to enhance the weapons capability for many homeland security and military applications, such as lethality and effectiveness of thermobaric ingredients, energetic fuel ingredients, propellant ingredients, MIC primaries, etc. Additionally these composites have tremendous potential as high performance propellants. Additionally by using multifunctional passivating agents we can link Al particles together to form covalently bound particle networks which have application as energetic structural materials - now a warhead casing made of conventional steel can be replaced by an energetic structural material thereby increasing the weapon's lethality.

More fundamentally, this technology begins to tangibly bridge the gap between traditional formulations chemistry and cutting edge materials science in that the composites developed contain both fuel and oxidizer chemically bonded together in one nanoscale composite material, which provides the enhanced formulations needed for weapons systems in today's military environment.

Thus energetic materials can truly be designed and their reactivity tailored for each specific application. The need to reduce collateral damage in combat situations has driven the improvement of guidance systems to the point that strikes within a few feet of target are possible. Now the drive is to tailor the effect of the strike so that, for example, a structure's integrity can be maintained while the contents, e. g. chemical and biological agents, computer equipment, enemy combatants, are neutralized. This will become possible by designing and tailoring the energy release of the weapon to its application.

Additionally because of the tremendous energy available from metal oxidation reactions, hard and deeply buried targets can be eliminated without the need for nuclear weapons. Improved standoff will be possible through the development of enhanced propellant ingredients developed in this research. This gives our soldiers an added layer of protection in combat in that they can neutralize targets while remaining safely out of the range of our enemy's systems. By controlling the surface moieties on Al nanoparticles used in weapons applications we can enhance the energy content, energy release rate, and overall efficiency of our weapons thereby giving our soldiers longer standoff distances and increased lethality.

Finally, deep space exploration will become possible as the efficiency of propellants is increased. The use of organic oxidizer-passivated Al nanoparticles will increase the rate, efficiency, and overall energy content of propellants thereby making manned missions to Mars achievable.

Details on Aluminum nanoparticle research at Indian Head

The technological requirements of the "Navy After Next" demand more than conventional energetic materials using micron-sized particles can provide. There is a limit to the energy content possible with classic CHNO based energetic materials. Composite (metal/oxidizer) based energetic materials can have higher energy than CHNO based high explosives on both a mass and volume basis.

The critical issue with regard to metal/oxidizer based materials is realization of the energy release on a timeframe relevant to the detonation phenomenon. Because metal/oxidizer reactions are intermolecular, they are limited in reaction rate by the diffusion time necessary for the reactants to interact. Energetic formulations and metal/oxidizer composites based on μm-sized materials simply cannot react fast enough to fully realize their energetic potential in a relevant timeframe.

Our research at Indian Head Division, Naval Surface Warfare Center (IHDIV, NSWC) is concentrating on developing oxide (Al2O3) free aluminum nanocomposites. To that end we have developed a room-temperature solution phase method for formation and chemical passivation/functionalization of nanoscale Al as illustrated in Figure 1. The nanoscale Al is formed in solution via the catalytic decomposition of an amine adduct of AlH3 using a catalytic amount of a TiIV complex. The alane adduct decomposes to Al, H2, and the free amine which acts to cap the nanoparticle surface and prevent large scale agglomeration. The next step in the process involves exposure of the unpassivated Al nanoparticles to a solution of a perfluorinated carboxylic acid. The -COOH binds to the Al surface forming a covalently bound self assembled monolayer and the result is a passivated, oxide free Al nanocomposite. The perfluorinated carboxylic acid was chosen because of the oxidizing capacity of fluorine. We have essentially designed a novel nanoscale material capable of reacting with itself.

alumninum nanoparticles, nswc

This method has been used to prepare material with as much as 33% active Al. The molar ratio of the C13F27COOH/Al material is 1:13 SAM:Al, making the material fuel rich as there is more than enough Al than can be fully oxidized by the available fluorine.

The self-assembled monolayer (SAM) coating serves two purposes 1) it passivates the Al and prevents oxidation of the particle in air and 2) it supplies an oxidizer, F, for the Al core. Interestingly, the material is insensitive to friction (BAM Friction: >360 N) impact, (ERL Impact: 320 cm) and only moderately ESD sensitive (ABL Electrostatic Discharge: 0.037 J). This is peculiar because nanoscale fuel/oxidizer combinations are typically extremely ESD sensitive.


This technology begins to tangibly bridge the gap between traditional formulations chemistry and cutting edge materials science in that the composites developed contain both fuel and oxidizer chemically bonded together in one nanoscale composite material. As such, reaction times for Al oxidation should be significantly faster relative to Al combustion in conventional formulations. In the case of our C13F27COOH/Al material, the distance from the fluorine oxidizer to the aluminum surface is only four bond lengths (Fig. 2).

Perfluorocarbon passivated Al nanoparticles could see use in a number of potential applications that would benefit the Navy's weapons capability as well as energetic materials processing. These nanocomposites have potential as thermobaric ingredients, energetic fuel ingredients, propellant ingredients, reactive materials, MIC primaries, etc.

Additionally these composites have tremendous potential as high performance propellant ingredients. Conventional Al based propellants are inefficient in that the Al does not fully combust. This is because combustion product Al2O3 condenses on the particle during combustion ultimately stopping the process prior to completion. The presence of F as the oxidizer results in gaseous Al-F combustion products. This coupled with the extremely small particle size renders the incomplete combustion problem highly unlikely. The F will also prevent or reduce the slag formed from Al2O3 condensation that can clog rocket nozzles.

More fundamentally, the functionalization of nanoscale Al opens the door to more innovative and elegant design of materials for specific applications. The attachment of gas generating species on the surface will allow for tremendous PV work potential for the Al based composites. Use of multifunctional acids will result in molecular connectivity between the nanoparticles. This could result in energetic structural materials or conductive composites for electronics applications.

Dr. Victor Bellitto received a BS in Physics from Florida International University in 1987. This was followed by a MS in Physics from Georgia State University in 1995 where he investigated the use of positron annihilation to monitor the encapsulation of molecules. In 1999, Bellitto continued his studies and research earning a PhD in Physics from Georgia State University where he investigated the GaN semiconductor surface using vibrational and electron spectroscopies. After earning his Doctorate, Bellitto was selected for a National Research Council post-doctorate at the Naval Research Laboratory where he investigated the coating of the aluminum surface with low dielectric materials and the interaction of the aluminum surface with triazine using Infrared and X-ray photoelectron spectroscopies. Dr. Bellitto is a physicist within the High Energy Materials Division of Indian Head Division, Naval Surface Warfare Center's Research and Technology Department.

A native Texan, Dr. Jason Jouet earned a B.S. in Chemistry from the University of Texas in Austin and a Ph. D. in organometallic chemistry from Duke University. Prior to coming to Indian Head Division, Jouet held a postdoctoral fellowship at the Naval Research Laboratory in Washington, DC. He joined the Indian Head Division, Naval Surface Warfare Center as a Scientist in the Research and Technology Department in 2001. Jouet resides in Washington, DC with his wife and son. He is an amateur bicycle racer and will be competing in the Marine Corps Marathon this fall.

Indian Head Division, Naval Surface Center (IHDIV, NSWC) is a Department of Defense (DoD) Energetics Center and Navy laboratory specializing in the research and development of energetic materials (explosives, propellants, and pyrotechnics).IHDIV, NSWC is the only facility with the comprehensive capability to research, develop, scale-up, manufacture and support any type of energetics for the DoD. For more information, visit

Bo Varga

Building The Winning Start-Up Team: Part 6 of 6

By Bo Varga

Let us help you "ride the wave" of advanced technology with

NanoStrategies provides the resources, expertise and connections throughout the global nanotech community to support the development and success of your venture.

Nanotechnology Now -- resumes and jobs - post them Here

Subscribe to our
Nanotechnology Now Newsletters - Sign Up Here
This one you are reading now, our
Premium Report

And our News Digest

Past Premium Newsletter Issues - click on the titles to read a short abstract

July '03 - (*) Batteries Excluded.

Aug '03 - (*) Riding the Tiger. Preparing for nanotechnology.

Sept '03 - (*) Nanomedicine.

Oct '03 - (*) Small is Bountiful. Investing in nanotechnology.

Nov '03 - (*) Nanotechnology and Warfare.

Dec '03 - (*) Molecular Nanotechnology.

Jan '04 - (*) Change Management.

Feb '04 - (*) Nanotechnology Education.

Mar '04 - (*) Bulk Nanotech.

Apr '04 - (*) Nanotechnology & Security.

May '04 - (*) Nanotubes & Buckyballs.

Jun '04 - (*) Tools of the nanoTrade.

Jul '04 - (*) Memory and Chip Technology.

Aug '04 - (*) Nanotechnology Jobs.

Sep '04 - (*) Life Extension and Nanotechnology.

Oct '04 - (*) The Space Elevator.

Nov '04 - (*) Investing in Nanotechnology.

Dec '04 - (*) Self-Assembly.

Jan '05 - (*) Patents.

Feb '05 - (*) Molecular Nanotechnology.

Mar '05 - (*) CPU and Memory Technology.

Apr '05 - (*) Jobs and Education.

May '05 - (*) Tools.

June '05 - (*) Investing in Nanotech.

July '05 - (*) Nanotechnology Patents.

Aug '05 - (*) Life Extension & Medicine.

Sep '05 - (*) Nanotechnology and the Military.

Oct '05 - (*) Nanoscale Materials.

Nov '05 - (*) Possible Futures.

Dec '05 - (*) Investing in Nanotech.

Jan '06 - Nanotechnology Patenting Issues.

Feb '06 - Jobs in Nanotechnology.

Mar '06 - Molecular Manufacturing.

Apr '06 - Tool Makers.

May '06 - Investing.

June '06 - Nanomedicine.

(*) Now Free

"For those searching for news and background information on trends and research in the field of nanotechnology, consider your search over!"

NanoNews-Now is an official
media sponsor for:

NanoBusiness 2006, New York - 17th - 19th May, 2006
NSTI Nanotech2006, Boston - 7th - 11th May, 2006
International Space Development Conference, Los Angeles - 4th - 7th May, 2006
Nano4Food 2006, Atlanta - 12th - 13th October, 2006

The industries that nanotechnology will likely have a disruptive effect on in the near term include the following:
(Amounts are Billions of US Dollars)

$1,700 Healthcare
$600 Long Term Care
$550 Electronics
$550 Telecom
$480 Packaging
$450 U.S. Chemical
$460 Plastics
$182 Apparel
$180 Pharmaceutical
$165 Tobacco
$100 Semiconductor
$92 Hospitality / Restaurant
$90 US Insurance
$83 Printing
$80 Corrosion Removal
$57 US Steel
$43 Newspaper
$42 Diet Supplement
$40 Diet
$32 Publishing
$30 Catalysts
$27 Glass
$24 Advertising
$18 Cosmetics
$13 Chocolate
$10 Battery
$5 Blue Jeans
$4 Khakis
$2.8 Fluorescent Tagging

Figures are from:

The Next Big Thing Is Really Small: How Nanotechnology Will Change the Future of Your Business. J Uldrich & D Newberry. March 2003
Read our review

Got Nanotechnology?
If not, read this:

Our Molecular Future: How Nanotechnology, Robotics, Genetics, and Artificial Intelligence Will Transform Our World.
Douglas Mulhall, March 2002
Read our review

Tiny Tech Jobs August 2005

Introduction: Bo Varga helps start-up & early stage high technology companies close funding, find customers, and recruit people, including recruiting senior technical and executive talent, since 1979. He is currently helping a company developing process chemistry software with positioning & presentation prior to closing a $5 million A round funding. He will next start a monthly column on "Funding Nanotechnology Ventures."

Article 1: Why Hire an External Recruiter? (Click here for a quote, and to here to buy.)

Article 2: Building The Winning Start-Up Team: Performance Requirements

Entrepreneurs, start-up teams, investors, and recruiters often intersect to match a startup with the experienced business management required for success.

Click here to read (for free) the rest of this report in full.

Article 3: The Recruiting Process

This article addresses the actual recruiting process an entrepreneur or team can use and the knowledge, background and reference checking to establish baseline trust in a new team member.

(Click here to buy.)

Article 4: Covered: Hiring, Motivating, Retaining Key Employees - the CEO example

(Click here to buy.)

Article 5: What investors and customers look for in start-up companies

(Click here to buy.)

Article 6: Identifying & Filling Gaps In Management


Many nanotechnology startups usually are started by a scientist or engineer, often with no business experience. These entrepreneurs often have a lack of customer focus, little to no background in launching or heading a corporation, or do not realize that they cannot drive a business as well as develop a technology and get a product to market. Even companies with the strongest potential and IP can become an unattractive investment decision if the right management team isn't in place and if a cooperative team environment is not established & maintained both internally & with investors, customers, and strategic allies.

Objectives: Upon completion of this article, you will understand how to evaluate your management capabilities, gaps that need to be filled, and ways to fill those gaps with employees, long term & project contractors, boards, and advisors. In addition you will gain some understanding of two important tools, the Bell Mason Diagnostics and the Stage-Gate® Product Development Process.

1. Bell Mason Diagnostics

The Bell Mason Framework is online at:

The start-up / early stage company has 12 critical dimensions to monitor, of which the CEO, the team, and the Board of Directors are the three critical people dimensions responsible for the three key business domains - product, market, and finance.

The model covers four stages in a company's emergence, vision & launch, alpha product, beta product, and market establishment & expansion.

Progress is measured in each dimension by establishing key milestones and the incremental performance measures required to achieve these milestones.

Spider graphs map the company's status on all 12 dimensions.

For the launch the key requirements are the technology, the CEO, the business plan, financeability (positioning & presentation of team, product/market goals, and operational plan), and cash (closing funding).

The power of the Bell Mason Diagnostics lies in mapping the desired status in all 12 dimensions against the actual performance.

For example, a new company that is technology rich, up to an including a beta product at founding, but lacks a CEO with business experience, is unlikely to succeed even with a plan & financeability supported by consultants leading to A round funding.

Since all dimensions including financial controls are implemented by people, the diagnostics are a powerful tool for determining in-house capabilities and what capabilities need to be acquired at each stage of the company's growth to market success.

2. Stage-Gate®

Details on the Stage Gate process are at:

Stage-Gate® process is a conceptual and operational road map for moving a new-product project from idea to launch. Stage-Gate® is a widely employed product development process that divides the effort into distinct time-sequenced stages separated by management decision gates. Multifunctional teams must successfully complete a prescribed set of related cross-functional tasks in each stage prior to obtaining management approval to proceed to the next stage of product development.

The key components of the process are screens after every step from idea to revenue:

  1. idea / vision screen - establish & implement criteria for product implementation of technology - team focuses on product
  2. scoping - size, time to market, ramp time for each idea
  3. second screen - team focuses on product/market strategy
  4. building business case - resources required - time, people, money versus return to company over time
  5. third screen - team buys into business & financial model
  6. development of product(s)
  7. fourth screen - product testing & validation - product tested in market
  8. product launch
  9. fifth screen - post launch evaluation at times and against performance measures determined in second screen

As with the Bell Mason Diagnostics, Stage-Gate® requires people to implement each step in the successful product launch.

Both can be very useful tools, especially for the scientist or engineer or other founder who wants to succeed but who is not ready to turn over the company to an "outside" CEO. While we strongly recommend hiring a proven CEO to lead & manage your business, we recognize that not always possible for a start-up nano venture, for financial, personal, or other reasons.

Using both processes will help you identify the gaps in your people capabilities. These gaps can be met by employees, contractors or consultants, your Board of Directors, or your Board of Business Advisors or your Board of Technical Advisors. The following sections cover some characteristics of these different stakeholders in your venture.

We strongly recommend that you reach out early in your company's history to successful individuals who have relevant experience and work to recruit those individuals to one of your boards. The advice and networks of people who have "been there, done that" can help your company succeed and at a minimum avoid the most common missteps leading to failure of your venture.

3. Employees

The company needs a "permanent" team of employees as the base platform to close funding, develop product, and build relationships with customers. The issue with start-ups is that they are usually long on stock and short on cash. Often the most desireable people are very hard to get because they have other opportunities that pay more, are less risky or just plain less work - established ventures, large corporations, academic or government labs, etc.

At a minimum this team includes the key technical to commercialize the product plus an entrepreneur, founder, manager, or CEO - the business lead who talks with investors & customers, manages the team, and is responsible for meeting the payroll.

In general employees should be hired when needed and should be people who clearly can commit to 3 to 5 years full time (often including evenings & weekends) commitment to the company.

Past performance is the best predictor of future performance - a candidate who has held 3 jobs in the past 3 years is unlikely to be able to commit long term to your company as an employee.

4. Contractors & Consultants

Generally contractors are temporary workers while consultants have an established business in sales, marketing, financial services, etc.

The advantage of working with contractors as temporary workers includes:

  1. you need people skills short term for a task
  2. you want to evaluate a candidate before offering full time employment
  3. the skills are too expensive to afford full time & you only need part time
  4. you only need part time but on a long term basis

The advantage of working with consultants for marketing, sales, fund raising, etc. is that these people usually have an extensive network of existing relationships that can benefit your business. Of course you need to inquire regarding possible conflicts of interest with other clients. And as with contractors you need to make sure that you limit access to your key information on a "need to know" basis and under an NDA (non-disclosure agreement.

5. Boards of Directors and Advisors

The general goal of a business lead, CEO, entrepreneur, or founder is to recruit the largest number of quality people to his or her goals while limiting the compensation in cash or stock.

Board of Directors represent the stockholders in a company and hire & fire the CEO and contribute to corporate governance. Usually the business lead, CEO, or entrepreneur is on the Board and often the chief scientist or engineer. And of course investors will want one or two board seats. Usually there is one to three board seats that can be filled by industry figures who can add credibility to the company.

Board of Advisors usually provide either business or technical advice. The business board has either significant business experience and/or industry specific experience. The technical board has relevant technical experience. Both advisory boards consist of people who can be called on for information, advice, and connections.

Both Board of Directors and Board of Advisors people can you access extensive networks of investors, customers, and people who can help your business grow.

But in both cases you have the problem of recruiting people of high professional status who usually gain some stock in your venture but risk their reputation and credibility on promoting your venture.

In our experience the best way to build boards is to start with someone who has reputation & credibility they are willing to risk on your venture. In turn you can leverage this person to recruit a second person and so forth.

That is, you can build a network of influence by recruiting the first board member if you choose wisely.

As with employees, contractors, and consultants, past performance is the best predictor of future performance. Proven success as a director or advisor, preferably with a mix of large and small companies is one important criteria for your board members. Their resume will clearly reflect this proven success - often that resume should be available on-line based on prior board membership or other accomplishments. Other criteria are relevance to your venture - which can be established through several personal interviews - as well as time availability.

A member of the Board of Directors would normally commit one half day per month for regular board meetings and then probably one day per quarter for strategic meetings.

Board of Advisors normally would be available for an annual meeting and then for phone or personal contact for an hour or two every month.

Angel & Venture Capitalist investors can often be tapped for more time. In our experience this time can only be utilized well if the company's business leads has clearly defined goals & needs and communicates well and follows up to get what he or she needs from the investors. Investors want to help but are bandwidth limited - usually they are involved with five or six companies as well as with their funds and the investors in their funds. We strongly recommend that you contact your investors with both opportunities and problems and ask for there help - and in fact tie them down to a time commitment, if needed, when they invest in your company.

For more information or advice on these topics please email Bo Varga,, or call 650-747-9238.

© Copyright 2006 Bo Varga

Bo Varga is the Managing Director of Silicon Valley Nano Ventures.

Bo has 30 years business development and team building experience. His primary focus is to bring money to companies via angel, corporate, or VC investment, strategic alliances, development partnerships, or OEM sales. Bo has operations, sales, & marketing management experience in computer software & peripherals and in leading edge reconfigurable computing systems. He has worked with wireless, nanotechnology, reconfigurable computing, information technology, & ecommerce companies in team-building or business development roles.

He has helped executives, investors, and Boards of Directors for software, hardware, IS/IT, molecular engineering, & wireless companies by finding key team members and consultants for both technical & business positions.

His experience includes working as a strategic consultant to develop & implement marketing plans & presentations, with a specific focus on affiliate & event marketing to close business transactions. His focus since 2000 is on building global nanotechnology business networks via the nanoSIG & various nanotechnology conferences, forums, and symposiums. He is Chair of the NanoMaterials & Manufacturing Forum. Since 2001 he has organized over 60 nanotechnology events. His education includes a BA & MA from the University of Chicago and the MBA program in Accounting at UC Berkeley.

For more information on his work, see,

He can be reached at, or 650-747-9238 for more information.

QuantumSphere, Inc. responds to our survey on their use of nanoscale materials.

Nanotech-enabled products:

  • Direct Methanol Fuel Cell electrodes
  • Metal-air Battery electrodes
  • Hydrogen Generating materials

How nano enabled their development:

Nanoparticles lowered the cost because they replaced more expensive materials; many products would otherwise be cost-prohibitive or not generate enough power.

How they are used:

Fuel Cells can replace the heavy batteries that the military uses in their portable packs to lower the amount of weight soldiers need to carry, and enable power for longer mission duration.

Civilian applications:

Portable electronics: Cell phones, laptops, MP3s, watches, hearing aids, etc.

How they are better performing:

Better value; increased performance and lowered cost. Power increase due to higher surface area or nanoscale particles.

QuantumSphere, Inc. is a leading manufacturer of high quality nanometals and alloys for applications in energy, electronics, aerospace, defense and other markets demanding advanced materials.

Unlike other manufacturers, QuantumSphere has a proprietary capability to enable production of ultra-pure, highly uniform nanometals and alloys at sizes under 100nm in high volume at commercial prices. This capability unlocks a large number of new applications. The Company has created a fully automated, highly scalable process to supply these advanced materials in mass quantity. The Company has also created an extensive intellectual property portfolio around its process capabilities and end-use commercial applications.


The danger of new means of mass destruction emerging from the development of nanotechnology is, by definition, as yet neither present nor clear. By the time it is, it may be too late to either eliminate or control. While there is no realistic possibility of early arms control negotiations to tackle the threat, the international community should at least take cognisance of the issue - in all its aspects, to use the appropriate diplomatic term for far-reaching, open-ended and open-minded deliberation. link

Nanotechnology will offer both new opportunities for UK defence and also new threats to the UK and its allies. The main initial impact will be in the information system areas involving new sensors, information processing and communications. However, as nanotechnology develops, defence specific applications are likely to become more extensive.

A whole range of military equipment including clothing, armour, weapons, personal communications will, thanks to low cost but powerful sensing and processing, be able to optimise their characteristics, operation and performance to meet changing conditions automatically. link (PDF)

Nanotechnology is not only getting big in industry, but the military is investing time and money into the field. That is why the Army just initiated the Institute for Soldier Nanotechnologies (ISN)—a $50 million and 150-person initiative that will serve as the Army's center of expertise in the application of nanotechnology. link

If we need a message for the military - and by extension, the supporting defense industry - let's start with something along these lines: "It's a dangerous world, but you already knew that. Dramatically new opportunities will open up, and amazing new force multipliers will be developed in the next ten to fifty years, many of them associated with nanotechnology. Do not ignore it. But do not pursue it blindly. Pursue it doggedly, with foresight, with wisdom, with failsafes, and respect for our past. Pursue it with one eye on the dangerous future of warfare; and one eye on the past of Western tradition which has kept the military from dominating our government thus far and emphasized layers and layers of failsafes around the most dangerous weapon systems." link

The prospect of revolutionary advances in military capabilities will stimulate competition to develop and apply the new technologies toward war preparations, as falling behind would imply an intolerable security risk. Indeed, it is plausible that a nation which gained a sufficient lead in molecular nanotechnology would at some point be in a position to simply disarm any potential competitors. —Mark Avrum Gubrud in a paper titled "Nanotechnology and International Security" presented at the Fifth Foresight Conference on Molecular Nanotechnology.

With funding from the U.S. government, Sandia National Laboratories, the Los Alamos National Laboratory, and the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory are researching how to manipulate the flow of energy within and between molecules, a field known as nanoenergentics, which enables building more lethal weapons such as "cave-buster bombs" that have several times the detonation force of conventional bombs such as the "daisy cutter" or MOAB (mother of all bombs). link

How might nanotechnology contribute to U.S. military power at these different levels of conflict? In peacetime or crisis, nanocomputers may allow more capable surveillance of potential aggressors. The flood of data from worldwide sensors could be culled more efficiently to look for truly threatening activities. In low-intensity warfare, intelligent sensors and barrier systems could isolate or channel guerrilla movements depending on the local terrain. In conventional theater war, nanotechnology may lead to small, cheap, highly lethal anti-tank weapons. Such weapons could allow relatively small numbers of infantry to defeat assaults by large armored forces. —Scott Pace link

India's new President A. P. J. Abdul Kalam (who is, literally, a rocket scientist) has called for India to develop nanotechnology — including nanobots — because it will revolutionize warfare. Kalam is an "eminent nuclear and missile scientist." Previously he had called for nanotech to be developed for cheaper space access and for health and food. But in a July 2004 speech to scientists at the Weapons and Electronic Systems Engineering Establishment (WESEE), a naval research and development outfit, President Kalam asserted that "this would revolutionize the total concepts of future warfare" and reportedly "asked the country's scientists to make a breakthrough." According to an Indian news article, he is seeking "super strong, smart and intelligent structures in the field of material science and this in turn could lead new production of nano robots with new types of explosives and sensors for air, land and space systems." link

The expected innovations and improvements from the application of nanotechnology to aspects of national security derive from the small size, light weight, immense strength, and other unique properties nanostructures bring to materials. Military applications of nanotechnology include lighter, higher-performance weapons, as well as protective uniforms and armor. Additional products, such as smart mines, water filtration systems, and fast-acting medical devices, are being developed to aid the military in combat situations. Another impact of nanotechnology on the military is the possibility of human-performance enhancers. Products, such as artificial blood cells and receptor enhancers, may be utilized to prevent overheating, increase alertness, and reduce fatigue and reaction time in soldiers. Additionally, nanotechnology's application to automation and robotics are expected to produce equipment and vehicles that minimize the exposure of soldiers and others on the front lines. Even existing products are predicted to benefit from reengineering using nano-constructed materials that are lighter-weight, stronger, and bacteria-resistant. link

Surely we are smart enough to ensure that nanotechnology will be introduced to the world rapidly enough and broadly enough so that it will serve all mankind and not be diverted into destructive applications with enormous leverage. Surely our society, which has introduced more advances in technology and greater change in the lives of people in the last four decades than in all of previously recorded history, has the entrepreneurial skill to bring this technology to fruition before the competitions I described earlier take us back again to the Dark Ages. And surely we have international and national governing bodies that will create the environment necessary for this technology to flourish without undo interference while inhibiting the opportunities for mischief. Or do we?

Somewhere in the back of my mind I still have this picture of five smart guys from Somalia or some other nondeveloped nation who see the opportunity to change the world. To turn the world upside down. Military applications of molecular manufacturing have even greater potential than nuclear weapons to radically change the balance of power. —Admiral Davis E. Jeremiah Nanotechnology and Global Security


"Military" News: May 01, 2006 - June 31, 2006

Nanotechnology Creates Super-Strong Fibers for Bullet-Proof Vests
HKUST June 28, 2006 Researchers at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST) have developed a new technology that can greatly enhance the ballistic-proof strength of ultra high molecular weight polyethylene (UHMWPE) fiber by adding carbon nanotubes to pristine high-strength fiber. "The technology we have developed can effectively align nanotubes along the length of polymer fibers so the tensile strength of nanocomposite fiber becomes up to eight times stronger than steel."

USGN Completes MAPSANDS Demonstration
marketwire June 27, 2006 US Global Nanospace, Inc. (OTCBB: USGA) ("USGN") today announced that following its recently completed MAPSANDS™ capabilities live demonstration in the Middle East it has received, and is responding in writing to, an oral request by a security division of a Dubai based company for a proposal to formulate the technical requirements and provide an assessment of viability for a MAPSANDS system.

Owlstone Nanotech Awarded SBIR Grant from U.S. Air Force
businesswire June 27, 2006 The United States Department of Defense (DoD), through the Air Force, has granted Owlstone Nanotech, Inc. a $99,793 Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Phase I award for the development of an advanced contaminant detection system for monitoring the air inside aircraft cockpits.

$4.79 Million Nanotechnology Contract Awarded to MU Researcher
University of Missouri-Columbia June 27, 2006 The U.S. Army, seeking to benefit from emerging advances in nanotechnology, has turned to a University of Missouri-Columbia professor to develop miniature devices that will help improve military capabilities and generate alternative sources of energy.

Shubhra Gangopadhyay, an electrical and computer engineering professor in MU's College of Engineering, has received a $4.79 million contract to build small devices to enhance the performance of Army weapons systems. The three-year agreement is based on military need and calls for the development of numerous devices that will be used to power warheads, rockets, missiles and guns. The devices resemble electric circuits.

Brain cells have been arranged using nanotubes
advanced nanotechnology June 23, 2006 A team led by Yael Hanein of Tel Aviv University in Israel used 100-micrometre-wide bundles of nanotubes to coax rat neurons into forming regular patterns on a sheet of quartz.

MSU to work on hardened EMP chip June 22, 2006 Missouri State University's Center for Applied Science and Engineering has started a $10.95 million project sponsored by the Office of Naval Research to create carbon-based memory chips that could withstand the devastating effects of electromagnetic pulse, or EMP, weapons.

Record-low gate voltage for nanotube field emitters
EETimes June 21, 2006 Scientists at the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory in Arlington, Va., said they have fabricated arrays of high-current carbon nanotube field emitters with a record-low gate voltage of just 60 volts for emissions of up to 1.2 amps per square centimeter.

SEMI NanoForum(TM) 2006 Scheduled for 10/31- 11/02
prnewswire June 14, 2006 SEMI today announced details for the third annual SEMI NanoForum, scheduled for October 31-November 2, 2006 at the Marriott in San Jose, California. Pre-conference events, including SEMI Nano University (Nano U) and the SEMI/IEEE Nano Standards Workshop will be held October 31, with the executive conference November 1-2.

Sales Climb for Owlstone Nanotech's Chemical Detection Technology June 14, 2006 Owlstone Nanotech, Inc., a pioneer in the commercialization of nanotechnology-based chemical detection products, today announced that it has received four new purchase orders for Owlstone Tourist(TM) components and accessories.

Joannopoulos to lead ISN
MIT June 14, 2006 John Joannopoulos, the Francis Wright Davis Professor of Physics, has been appointed director of the Institute for Soldier Nanotechnologies (ISN) effective Saturday, July 1.

JMAR Selected by U.S. Army for Phase II SBIR Grant
businesswire June 13, 2006 JMAR Technologies, Inc. (NASDAQ: JMAR), a leading innovator in the development of laser-based technology and x-ray processes for imaging, analysis and fabrication at the nanoscale, announced that the Company has been competitively selected for the award of a Phase II SBIR grant by the U.S. Army to conduct research leading to the development of a compact, double pulse laser system capable of real-time spectrochemical hazard analysis in the field.

Novel Use of Polymer Nanofibers June 12, 2006 Researchers functionalized a polymer nanofiber membrane to capture chemical warfare agents. The nanofibers in the membrane act as a substrate on which the nerve agents get physically adsorbed followed by chemical decomposition.

Sensors Expo 2006: Nanotechnology sensor display May 30, 2006 Nanotechnology products are among new offerings that will be introduced and displayed at next week's Sensors Expo 2006. Included are demonstrations of several nanotech-enabled sensors from Applied Nanotech Inc. (ANI).

Researchers working with Navy to improve ship performance May 29, 2006 If you want faster ships, you have to lighten the load. That's the idea behind a multimillion dollar research project involving the University at Albany's College of Nanoscale Science and Engineering, a local company and the U.S. Navy. Researchers hope to develop cryogenically cooled electronics that will greatly reduce the size of the power generators needed aboard the Navy's warships.

nGimat Announces Issued Patent
nGimat May 26, 2006 

Nano World: Invisibility Through Nano May 25, 2006 Charles Q. Choi: Invisibility cloaks that bend light might develop using nanotechnology, experts tell UPI's Nano World. "There are probably quite a number of useful things you could do with stealth for the military," said researcher John Pendry, a physicist at Imperial College London.

Synthetic biology and nanotech
nanodot May 25, 2006 Christine Peterson: Yesterday at the IFTF meeting (pdf) “Beyond the Horizon: Science and Technology in Ten, Twenty and Fifty Years” we heard from a leading synthetic biologist. In addition to describing this fascinating and potentially powerful new technology, he made a plea that it not be “re-militarized” (as biology was formerly, he said) and that we needed to organize society so that people take responsibility for this new democratized biology, but that he didn’t know how to do this and offered it as a challenge to the audience.

Virginia Tech materials researchers to improve military armor
eurekalert May 24, 2006 Virginia Tech has been selected by the Army Research Laboratory to establish a Materials Center of Excellence. The center will develop polymer-based materials to protect personnel and equipment against weapons attack. The center will also offer graduate student and postdoctoral scholar mentorship and undergraduate research programs. The ARL award provides $500,000 per year, potentially renewable for nine years, totaling approximately $4 million, Long said. "It is a prestigious award for Virginia Tech. These funds will have a tremendous impact on advancing nanotechnology research on campus.

Nanotech and Space Exploration Catch FiRE May 18, 2006 Josh Wolfe, partner in nano VC firm Lux Capital hosted CEOs from two of his investments, Nanosys' Larry Bock and Kereos' Robert Beardsley. The two companies are a study in contrasts. Nanosys focuses on inorganic nano structures, using silicon and gallium arsenide, among other materials, to make solar cells, flexible displays, and medical devices. Kereos combines biotech with nanotech to create targeted drugs and personalized medicine to target cancer and other diseases.

Nanobattery and Magnetometer Pass High Stress Test
businesswire May 17, 2006 mPhase Technologies (OTCBB: XDSL) today reported that the microscopic structure designs of its prototype battery and magnetometer demonstrated extreme resiliency to shock and acceleration, surviving a test which subjected them to high acceleration at a G-Force of 12,000.

Is Big Brother a cockroach? May 16, 2006 Next time you wander into the kitchen in the middle of the night and find a cockroach scuttling along the bench, look closely. It might be spying on you.

Technocratical Arrogance
Responsible Nanotechnology May 10, 2006 Mike Treder: When nanotechnology hits the mainstream (and it's not there yet), how easy will it be for large-scale projects to win public approval?

NDSU professor highlights Fargo nanotechnology before Congress May 05, 2006 Dr. Phil Boudjouk, vice president of research at the school, said the university has helped the state's economic development by partnering with commercial interests.

Sense to Demonstrate Explosives Detection Device
businesswire May 05, 2006 In the Web-based video, Dore Perler, CEO of Sense Holdings, Inc., will demonstrate the use of the Company's first-generation explosives detection unit. The functional demonstrator unit will be shown detecting concealed explosive materials, including TNT and PETN.

Next generation of robots May 04, 2006 Nanotechnology researchers at the University of Texas at Dallas (UTD) have made chemically powered artificial muscles that are up to 100 times stronger than natural muscles. Intriguingly, the fuel-powered muscles can be easily downsized to the micro and nano-scales, and arrays of such micro-muscles could be used in 'smart skins’ that improve the performance of marine and aerospace vehicles.

Sensatex Launches Patented SmartShirt System
prnewswire May 02, 2006 Sensatex, the premier developer of integrated smart textile systems, today announced the Beta launch of its SmartShirt System(TM). Now ready for Beta testing, the SmartShirt System makes it possible to remotely monitor a wearer's movement, heart rate, and respiration rate in real-time through a patented nanotechnology conductive fiber grid that is seamlessly knit into the material of the fully washable shirt.

Nano way to march forward May 02, 2006 "Nanotechnology can turn our troops into soldiers of future – with military equipment that can better protect them against enemies and make them more alert when operating in biological-, chemical- and nuclear-contaminated environments," says Deputy Prime Minister and Defence Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak.

“I believe nanotechnology can dramatically improve warfare technology in the next few decades.

Nanotechnology In Global Security And Economics May 02, 2006 As with biotechnology, there is a global race to develop nanotechnology, the science of the very small. Nanotech is estimated to be a $1-trillion industry within five to 10 years, compared to biotechs current worldwide revenue of $55 billion. Given national security concerns, including terrorism, and a still-jittery domestic and global economy, its no wonder that policymakers are worried about competitive disadvantages, economically and militarily, if their nations lag behind.

Cooper's funding requests May 01, 2006 The following is the list of special budget requests submitted by Rep. Jim Cooper, D-Nashville. Advanced Carbon Nanotechnology Program at Vanderbilt University, $6 million: Would complete a four-year $14.5 million research project aimed at developing new chemical and biological weapon sensors, armor for soldiers and vehicles, and battery technologies.

Nanotubes act as 'thermal velcro'
Purdue University May 01, 2006 

"Homeland Security" News: May 01, 2006 - June 31, 2006

Brain cells have been arranged using nanotubes
advanced nanotechnology June 23, 2006 A team led by Yael Hanein of Tel Aviv University in Israel used 100-micrometre-wide bundles of nanotubes to coax rat neurons into forming regular patterns on a sheet of quartz.

JMAR Retains Agile Equity to Identify BioSentry Partners
businesswire June 20, 2006 JMAR Technologies, Inc. (NASDAQ:JMAR) announced today it has retained Agile Equity, a New York-based investment bank, to evaluate potential partners for its technology product known as BioSentry(TM), a continuous, real-time warning system for detecting and classifying harmful microorganisms in water.

Sales Climb for Owlstone Nanotech's Chemical Detection Technology June 14, 2006 Owlstone Nanotech, Inc., a pioneer in the commercialization of nanotechnology-based chemical detection products, today announced that it has received four new purchase orders for Owlstone Tourist(TM) components and accessories.

Security, Tech Emergence & Nanotechnology Event
Northern Virginia Technology Council June 12, 2006 Since 9/11 there has been a surge in new video surveillance technologies coming to market. These advances, especially in video analytics, will change forever the way governments and businesses use video as a security tool for live and forensic purposes. Currently, security video has been mostly used after an event occurred. Today, that has changed. Through the use of modern Intelligent Video Surveillance and Analysis, digital video data is transformed into actionable information that can be acted upon immediately and automatically via wired or wireless transmissions and the World Wide Web. The NVTC Security, IT&Telecommunications and Nanotechnology committees are jointly hosting a panel of these 'new breed’ video surveillance experts to report on and discuss the merits, value and impact of this rapid technological transformation.

Date: June 14, 2006

Novel Use of Polymer Nanofibers June 12, 2006 Researchers functionalized a polymer nanofiber membrane to capture chemical warfare agents. The nanofibers in the membrane act as a substrate on which the nerve agents get physically adsorbed followed by chemical decomposition.

Researchers Use Nanoscale Zinc Oxide Structures to Detect Anthrax
newswiretoday June 06, 2006 In their recent work ("Ultrasensitive DNA sequence detection using nanoscale ZnO sensor arrays"), published in the May 26, 2006 online edition of Nanotechnology, Professor Jong-in Hahm from the Department of Chemical Engineering at Penn State, together with first author Nitin Kumar, and co-author Adam Dorfman, explore both covalent and non-covalent linking schemes in order to couple probe DNA strands to the zinc oxide nanostructures.

JMAR Successfully Completes Water-Monitoring Test Program
businesswire June 01, 2006 JMAR Technologies, Inc. (NASDAQ: JMAR), a leading developer of advanced laser technology, has successfully completed its 60-day water-monitoring test program with the City of Anaheim. The test program was instituted to demonstrate the value of the BioSentry(TM) System as part of the City's Homeland Security Initiative.

Sensors Expo 2006: Nanotechnology sensor display May 30, 2006 Nanotechnology products are among new offerings that will be introduced and displayed at next week's Sensors Expo 2006. Included are demonstrations of several nanotech-enabled sensors from Applied Nanotech Inc. (ANI).

nGimat Announces Issued Patent
nGimat May 26, 2006 

Sense Holdings and Interrelated Technologies Execute Agreement
businesswire May 11, 2006 Sense Holdings, Inc. (OTCBB:SEHO) (FWB:OUP), a developer of next-generation biometric and explosive detection security technologies for government and commercial security markets, today announced that the company has executed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with Interrelated Technologies, Inc. (ITI) of Charleston, SC, to develop advanced homeland security solutions and products.

Sense to Demonstrate Explosives Detection Device
businesswire May 05, 2006 In the Web-based video, Dore Perler, CEO of Sense Holdings, Inc., will demonstrate the use of the Company's first-generation explosives detection unit. The functional demonstrator unit will be shown detecting concealed explosive materials, including TNT and PETN.

Sensatex Launches Patented SmartShirt System
prnewswire May 02, 2006 Sensatex, the premier developer of integrated smart textile systems, today announced the Beta launch of its SmartShirt System(TM). Now ready for Beta testing, the SmartShirt System makes it possible to remotely monitor a wearer's movement, heart rate, and respiration rate in real-time through a patented nanotechnology conductive fiber grid that is seamlessly knit into the material of the fully washable shirt.

From Our Molecular Future: How Nanotechnology, Robotics, Genetics, and Artificial Intelligence Will Transform Our World, by Douglas Mulhall:

  • What happens to the monetary system when everyone is able to satisfy his own basic material needs at very low cost?
  • How would we use cash when digital manufacturing makes it impossible to differentiate a counterfeit bill or coin from the real thing?
  • What happens to fiscal policy when digital information, moving at light speed, is the major commodity?
  • How fast will monetary cycles move compared to, say, the ten- or twenty-year cycles of the late twentieth century, when products and patents go out of date in a matter of months instead of years?
  • What happens when we don't have to worry about trade or social services for our basic needs, because most of what we need is provided locally with digital manufacturing, and the biggest trade is in information?
  • How do we control the excesses of the ultrarich, the overabundance of the molecular assembler economy, and the challenge to intellectual property laws created by intelligent, inventive machines?
  • What happens if half of all jobs are made redundant every decade?
  • What happens to the War on Drugs when there's no import, export, or transport of contraband because drugs can be manufactured in a desktop machine using pirated software downloaded from the Internet?
  • What happens to democratic controls when individuals can get as rich as small governments in a year or so?
  • What's the relevance of insurance if many things are replaceable at very low capital cost, but liabilities from software are potentially unlimited?
  • How should organized labor react when molecular assemblers and intelligent robots eliminate most manufacturing jobs?
  • What is the nature of work going to be?
  • What happens to land prices when an individual can build a tropical farm under a bubble in North Dakota, and get there from New York in an hour?
  • What happens when everyone can go everywhere, whenever they want, and work from wherever they want?

Return to Top

Useful Links

Center for Responsible Nanotechnology

Responsible Nanotechnology Blog

Disarmament Diplomacy

Small Security: Nanotechnology and Future Defense

U.S. Naval Research Lab Nanoscience and Technology

Foresight Nanotech Institute

MIT's Institute for Soldier Nanotechnologies (ISN)

Nanotechnology Now - Preparing for Nanotechnology (a master list of resources)

Infamous Quotes:

"This 'telephone' has too many shortcomings to be seriously considered as a means of communication. The device is inherently of no value to us." Western Union internal memo, 1876
"Heavier-than-air flying machines are impossible." - Physicist and mathematician Lord Kelvin, President of the British Royal Society, 1895
"Everything that can be invented has been invented." - Charles H. Duell, Director of U.S. Patent Office, 1899
"There is no likelihood man can ever tap the power of the atom." - Robert Milikan, Nobel Laureate in Physics, 1923
"Theoretically, television may be feasible, but I consider it an impossibility-a development which we should waste little time dreaming about." - Lee de Forest, inventor of the cathode ray tube, 1926
"I think there is a world market for maybe five computers." IBM's Thomas Watson, 1943
"Landing and moving around on the moon offer so many serious problems for human beings that it may take science another 200 years to lick them." - Science Digest, August 1948
"Computers in the future may weigh no more than 1.5 tons." Popular Mechanics, 1949
"There is no reason anyone would want a computer in their home." Ken Olsen, Digital Equipment Corp, 1977

And the lesson is? It's a tough game to call.

Need advice? Check out NanoStrategies

© Copyright 1999-2006 7thWave, Inc. All rights reserved. More information on copyright, and disclaimers regarding the content of this newsletter can be found here