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Rocky Rawstern - Editor Nanotechnology Now -
By Rocky Rawstern
Editor Nanotechnology Now
June 20th, 2003

Prompted by the ever-increasing pace of innovation, investments, new product developments, and the slowly evolving debate over the ethics of nanotechnology, we have created a space dedicated to the idea that "This Could Change Everything!"

This issue will focus on nanotube innovations which could prove enabling and/or disruptive, follow with a bit about nanotech funding, some words on ethics, and finally, thoughts on living in interesting times.

Nanotube Transistors Make Memory

If this discovery proves to be both feasible and inexpensive to implement, then the way that memory is created -- as well as the amount of it that can be stuffed into increasingly limited space -- takes on a whole new dimension. At potentially 200 gigabits (that's 200 Billion-with-a-capitol-"B" bits) per square inch (consider the surface area of your watch face), we'll be seeing significant improvements and enhancements to what we today consider the smallest "consumer" spaces, like your PDA, cell phone, laptop and digital camera, and then on down to products dreamt of but as yet unrealized.


Nanotube computer memory shows promise

And the same news on non-volatile computer memory comes from Nantero. Although they say "20 times as strong as steel," the figure most often quoted is "100 times stronger than steel" (at about one-sixth the weight). But given the predicted densities - "a trillion bits worth of data storage on a chip the size of a postage stamp" - strength is not the issue here.


Nanotube yarn toughs it out over spider silk

Carbon nanotube fibres, four times tougher than spider silk, 17 times tougher than Kevlar, with a tensile strength of 1.8 GPa (1.8 Billion Pascals), which exhibit twice the stiffness and strength, and 20 times the toughness of a steel wire with the same weight and length. (Notes: "tensile strength" equals the load at which, when tested under laboratory conditions, something can be expected to break. It takes just a couple gigapascals to convert graphite to diamond. One gigapascal equals approximately 145,038 pounds per square inch.) This stuff is STRONG! And they're making it in 100 meter lengths, using a process that is "amenable to upscaling," which I believe is a cautious way of saying that commercial quantities are possible. I can hear the VC's scuttling about now, looking for that extra bit of cash that they've squirreled away for a rainy day. Well, I see storm clouds gathering just over the horizon! And did I mention that they've made supercapacitors out of them too? Hmmmm. let's see ... what can we build with these strength and electrical characteristics?

Great coverage by Liz Kalaugher, editor of, another fine source of information on nanotechnology.

For other possible applications, see UTD Scientists Spin Nanotubes with Record Strength and Toughness

And on the "legislative" and "investment" fronts, we have this significant news to report:

Perhaps taking into consideration the prediction by The National Science Foundation for a $1 trillion global nanotechnology market by 2015, both the House and the Senate have passed their own bipartisan versions of bills that increase funding to nanotech research and development programs. We don't necessarily agree that the global market for nanotech will be $1T - it could be higher or lower, depending on what you classify as "nanotechnology," and by the actual impact of the ever-increasing number of potentially disruptive technologies - a great many of which are prudently forecast to see fruition within the next dozen years.

Senate Committee Approves Nanotech R&D Bill (S. 189)
On June 19, 2003, the U.S. Senate Commerce Committee approved more than $2 billion over three years for nanotechnology research and development programs. "The 21st Century Nanotechnology Research and Development Act," Co-sponsored by Ron Wyden (D.-Ore.) and George Allen (R.-Va.).

Which, when considered along with the recently passed House bill, raises the bar on the international funding game (not to mention puts more dollars into research efforts, and the economy).

House passes Nanotechnology Research and Development Act
On May 7th, and by a vote of 405 to 19, the full House passed Science Committee legislation -- The "Nanotechnology Research and Development Act of 2002" (HR 766). $2.36 billion over three years for nanotechnology research and development programs. Co-sponsors Sherwood Boehlert (R.-N.Y.), chairman of the Science Committee, and Mike Honda (D.-Calif.)

Of note: both bills had bipartisan support.

And with Korea recently (May 7, 2003) commiting to invest $2B in nanotech ....

Korea ups the nanotech investment ante
Nine Korean government agencies join together to launch $2 billion "2003 NanoTechnology Development Program".

All of these changes serve to emphasize the need for immediate action focused towards the development of a set of ethics to apply to advanced technologies. This set of ethics needs to cover all advanced technologies, including but not limited to nanoscale technologies.

For more information on how you can expand your horizons on ethics considerations, see our Ethics of Nanotechnology page, and those at CRN.

As we take these first halting steps into the nanoworld, developing a set of ethics is an exceedingly critical step, helping to insure a prosperous and safe passage into our collective future.

We highly encourage each and every one of you reading this newsletter to get involved in the developement of these ethics. You can participate simply by passing along this webpage to your friends and business associates. You can participate by letting your informed voice be heard on some of the many forums. You can participate by writing papers, articles, and opinion pieces. You can participate by continuing your education, or going back to school. You can participate by helping us design a website that better servers your needs - send us feedback. Read a book. Share your knowledge. Go to an event. Write a letter to the editor. Sign up for newsletters, such as Trends in Nanotechnology Weekly from CMP Científica, edited by Paul Holister, and The Harrow Technology Report, by Jeffrey R. Harrow (both of which provide outstanding coverage of the nanospace). Or sign up as a Senior Associate at the Foresight Institute, and become part of "a community working to guide powerful emerging technologies to improve the human condition and the environment." where they "...try to maximize and spread the benefits of coming technologies while minimizing their downsides."

"May you live in interesting times!" has been - at various times - attributed to the Chinese, the Scottish, and a sci-fi writer. In one incarnation, it is supposedly used as a curse; in other, a blessing. Regardless of its pedigree, I choose to say yes! we do live in interesting times, and that ain't all bad! In fact, it "trends towards goodness," helping more and more of us live better and better lives. Further, where there remains hunger, oppression, ignorance, fear, poverty, torture, and tyranny, we can reasonably predict that - with proper stewardship - the unselfish distribution of advanced technology will go a long way towards righting those wrongs, and contributing to a world of peace and plenty. May you live in interesting times!

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