Nanotechnology today is an emerging set of tools, techniques and unique applications involving the structure and composition of materials on a nanoscale. IBM is one of the true pioneers in nanotechnology. Among IBM's many nanotechnology milestones, its scientists have invented the scanning tunneling microscope (STM) capable of imaging individual atoms, they have positioned atoms one-by-one for the first time, and incorporated sub-nanometer material layers into commercially mass-produced hard disk drive recording heads and magnetic disk coatings. IBM's current nanotechnology research aims to devise new atomic- and moleculear-scale structures and methods for enhancing information technologies, as well as discover and understand their scientific foundations. In particular, carbon nanotubes and scanning probes derived from the atomic force microscope and the STM show particular promise in enabling dramatically improved circuits and data storage devices.
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from "Nanotechnology: A Revolution in the Making"
by Dr. Thomas Theis, Director of Physical Sciences at IBM Research
When it comes to matter, size matters. The properties of materials that we notice - color, hardness, conductivity, and so on -- all depend on the nature and structure of the constituent atoms and molecules. With increasing ability to design and build on an atomic and molecular scale -- a reasonable definition of "nanotechnology" -- we are becoming better and better at developing materials with entirely new properties. Those materials, in turn, become the building blocks for more complex systems and entirely new products.
But when an emerging technology is the subject of as much hype as nanotech, it's easy to tune out and stop listening. That would be a big mistake. There are solid reasons to expect significant long-term developments in what the National Science Foundation estimates to be a trillion-dollar plus industry over the next 10 to 15 years.
Why nanotech? With it, today's supercomputer could become tomorrow's wristwatch personal assistant. Buildings and machines could signal when they need maintenance, and perhaps repair themselves. Our clothing could monitor our health and alert us to environmental hazards. All of these wonders, and many more, are scientifically possible. The difficulty comes in figuring out how and when these things will happen.
How small is "nano"?
Technically, a nanometer is 1 billionth of a meter. Alternatively, Thomas Kenny of Stanford University describes it as...
...almost as wide as a DNA molecule and 10 times the diameter of a hydrogen atom. It's about how much your fingernails grow each second and how far the San Andreas fault slips in half a second. It's the thickness of a drop of water spread over a square meter. It's one-tenth the thickness of the metal film on your tinted sunglasses or your potato chip bag. The smallest lithographic feature on a Pentium computer chip is about 100 nanometers.
from: School of Engineering to host nanotechnology symposium July 19, 2001
Stanford University News Service
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