Nanotechnology *
Author: William E. Halal
Latest Update: Jun 17th, 2011
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The “nanosphere” consists of objects measured in one billionth of a meter, and it is now undergoing a revolution as research increasingly yields control over this tiny world. Beyond simply being smaller, objects behave differently at the nano level, introducing bold new possibilities. Electricity flows more easily, and materials change properties. The possibility of creating more powerful computers, medical treatments, and virtually any type of extraordinary item from scratch has the entire world excited, with billions being devoted to research that produces breakthroughs daily. The technology is so powerful that scientists envision cell phones could hold terabytes of data, enough to store and download movies. The President of NanoBusiness Alliance claimed “Nanotech research is breaking out all over the planet.”

Selected Adoption & Forecast Data
Entering Mainstream About 2015 to Create $700 Demand
 The global market for nanotechnology products was estimated at $9.4 billion in 2005, over $10.5 billion in 2006, growing to about $25.2 billion by 2011 and $750 billion by 2015 ( 5/31/2007).
The field is expected to produce 40% of all data storage devices by 2011. Fujitsu Siemens Corporation estimates that nanotubes may be used to form more powerful processor chips about 2015 (

Event Being Forecast:

Nanotechnology is used in manufacturing 30% of products

Forecast Data Analysis
    Mean Std Dev N (# Experts)
Most Likely Year 2021 5 73
Market Size (1-10) 5.8 2.1
Confidence (%) 66 12.7

In addition, 1 expert predicted that this event would never occur; mean confidence: 65%; std. dev.: 0.

Frequency Distributions
 Most Likely Year Market Size (1-10) Confidence (%)

PROS: Trends Driving this Event CONS: Obstacles Opposing this Event
• Scientists have built 3D molecular structures for the first time using the natural biological process of self-assembly. (Gizmag, 11/25/2010)
•  Engineers at Oregon State U. have invented a fabrication method that increases the production rate of nanoparticles by 500 times, while also reducing harmful byproducts. (Gizmag, 11/3/2010)
• The U.S. National Nanotechnology Initiative (NNI) includes 25 Federal agencies working on a range of research and policy issues. (
• 2100 companies from 48 countries are involved in nanotech research and manufacturing, and this number is growing quickly (7/1/2010, More than 3000 nanotech patents have been filed since 1996, and more than 1000 products use nanotech.
•  China’s central government is helping to promote the International Nanotech Innovation Park, an aggressive effort to accelerate the growth of the nation’s nanotechnology industry (, 9/25/2008).
•  Researchers at University of California, Berkeley have invented a new route to nano self-assembly. Although DNA has been used to induce self-assembly of nanoparticles with a high degree of precision, it is impractical for large-scale fabrication (,10/22/2009 ). 
•  Individual atoms/molecules have been controlled using a Scanning Tunnel Microscope (STM) at Nanoscale & Quantum Phenomena Institute, Ohio University (, 09/03/2008)
•  Taiwan acquired nanotechnology production plants worth over NT $300 billion (US $9.68 billion) in a six-year program to foster commercial use  (Nanowerk News,  March 3, 2008).
•  The Russian government is allocating 200 billion rubles ($7.7 billion) to develop nanotechnology until 2015 (Nanowerk News, June 21, 2007). 
• Samsung and Motorola are selling super sharp flat screen displays using nanotech to project high-fidelity images at a fraction the power of LCD screens (BusinessWeek).
•  Researchers at UC Berkeley have grown nanolasers directly onto silicon,  which can pave the way for numerous on-chip nanophotonic devices such as lasers, photodetectors, modulators, and solar cells. (, 2/7/2011) 
•  Scientists have implemented metal lines less than five nanometers wide. This is expected to have a big impact in creating contacts between nanoscale devices. (, 1/3/2011)
• Rice University is working on a $1 million grant by NASA to grow nanotubes into electrical wires that will carry power 10 times better than copper at 1/6th the weight. This could radically transform energy transmission. (Wired)
• Nanoparticle layers of gold and cadmium sulphide produce tiny local currents and light when squeezed together, making a material that is as sensitive to touch as human fingertips. Itl could be used to allow surgeons to sense textures remotely and robots to sense details. (NewScientist 6/8/06)
• Capacitors made with nanotechnology outperform batteries. Rather than store energy chemically, capacitors store energy as a charge between plates, and carbon nanotubes can increase the area of the plates enormously. Nanotech capacitors can hold more energy than batteries, they recharge in seconds, and they last indefinitely. (Discover 6/06)
Electrodes of lithium-ion batteries are being made with nanotubes to increase surface area, also increasing energy storage several-fold. The batteries are unlikely to catch fire, and they are also much hardier than conventional lithium-ion batteries. One company predicts that they will last longer than the lifetime of a car. (TechnologyReview 5/08)
A nanosensor weighing only a couple of grams traveled into space aboard the Naval Academy's Midstar-1 satellite, demonstrating the ability to endure the intense temperature, pressure, and vibrations that occur during launch. (, 7/3/2007)
• Carbon nanotube research could lead to bionic sense of touch. Researchers at Oak Ridge National Laboratory are making sensors that include 17000 receptors, equivalent to a human hand. Carbon nanotubes are also incredibly small and conduct electricity, which makes them ideal for mimicking the nervous system. (Gizmag, 4/26/2010)
•  Singapore and Europeans are developing the world's first single molucule chip (ATMOL). The process uses 3 ultra high vacuum machines that build the chip one atom at a time. ( 11/23/2010)  
•  Researchers at Stanford University have built the first nanotube circuits by stamping multiple layers of nanotubes on top of one another. They also developed 3-dimensional chips made of carbon nanotubes, although they think a functioning nano-computer is at least 10 years away. (, 12/17/2009)
• IBM notes that circuits made of nanotubes are 5 times faster than silicon. (TechnologyReview 12/17/09) The company is using nanowires to store 100 bits of information on each wire, offering an alternative to hard drives and memory. The system requires no power to maintain data. (TechnologyReview 10/4/07)
NanoChip Company is building a nano-based alternative to flash memory that will store terabytes of data at lower cost. (TechnologyReview 2/12/08)
• Researchers in Finland have used nanotubes to create computer memories that read/write at 100 nanoseconds, comparable to flash memory. (PhysOrg 1/30/08)
• HP is developing "memristors" -- nano-sized computer devices that can both store data and perform calculations. Memristors are non-volatile, so they replace flash memory with 2-3 times the data density, and they can replace transistors with smaller devices about 3 nanometers large. They also function more like neurons, making better AI possible (, 4/8/2010). 
•  Scientists at Rice University have used lasers and gold nanoparticles to destroy individual cancer cells. "Single-cell targeting is one of the most touted advantages of nanomedicine," said the lead researcher. (Gizmag, 3/1/2010) Also see Cancer Cure for more.
•  A novel material called nanosponge is five times more effective at reducing tumor growth than direct injection. Delivery systems such as these are advantageous as the drug is released directly at the site of the tumor rather than 
•  Hydrated fullerenes, or Fullerene Water Solution, are spherical nanotubes being used as anti-oxidants and anti-bacterial medications. (Walter Derzko 11/2/09) 
• The U.S. National Science Foundation estimates that half of all medical treatments and drugs could be affected by nanotech.  Nobel Prize Laureate Richard Smalley, who discovered nanotubes, thinks, “the ability to detect cancer earlier will almost certainly be due to nanotech.”
•   Four US institutions has developed a 'molecular spider' whose direction and motion can be controlled, and another team at New York University has developed a nanoscale assembly line that can be programmed to 'manufacture' eight different products. "The wildest dream might be to have a swarm of robots that repair torn ligaments," the scientist said. (, 5/12/2010)
SPACE ELEVATOR The unusual strength of carbon nanotubes (100 times steel at 1/6th the weight) has made the old vision of a “space elevator” feasible. The space elevator will orbit 62,000 miles above a fixed spot on the equator, connected to Earth with a thin film of nanotubes 1 meter wide. NASA has set up 2 competitions with prizes to spur private development. The LiftPort Group plans to have a space elevator completed in 2018, and is experimenting with a one-mile high cable tethered from balloons. "It was rock solid," said the President of the Company. (NewScientist 2/15/06) The LaserMotive group ran a climber up 1 kilometer of test cable at 2 K/sec. powered by a laser beam to win the Space Elevator Games competition. ( 11/5/09)
•  A stereo speaker manufacturer is using nanotechnology to make speaker cones that are extremely stiff and very lightweight, allowing the speaker to move perfectly throughout its operating range. (Stereophile 5/08)  The possibilities for lightweight, stiff materials are nearly endless. 
•  Nanomaterials are being used to lower fat, salt, or sugar in food. The nanotech food industry is growing rapidly to reach over $20 billion by 2010, about three times its current size. Cientifica noted that over 150 nanotechnology applications are used in the food industry by companies like Altria, Nestle, Kraft, Heinz and Unilever. (Nanowerk News, September 7, 2006; U.K. House of Lords, Nanotechnologies and Food, 2010)
ENVIRONMENTAL/HEALTH RISKS There are fears that nanotechnology can invade our lives, while its inherent nature is non-detectable. (nanowerk, 12/8/2007) Research shows that carbon nantubes dissolve in water and can damage organisms, such as bacteria. (American Chemical Society 5/9/05) Another study found they cause the same risk for cancer as asbestos. (TechnologyReview 5/22/08) Seven Chinese women suffered lung damage after working in a factory that used nanoparticles in paint (Future Edition 8/30/09). However, other studies show that adding the equivalent of 10 pounds of nanotubes on a human produced no negative effects on microbial communities. (NonoWerk 4/8/08) Revlon, Clarins, Clinique, Max Factor, the Body Shop, L'Oréal and other cosmetic firms use nanotechnology in their cosmetic products but do not label them and do not test for safety. (, 11/24/2009) 

PRODUCTION DELAYS Nantero and ASM Lithography planned to produce nanotube chips in 2005 that would store terabits of data/square centimeter, about a million times the current data densities, but they failed to produce the chips.  One analyst stated, “Nantero is impressive and ingenious. But the delay in introducing commercial products may indicate difficulty in achieving manufacturability.” (IEEE Spectrum, 1/08) Nanotechnology companies across the world are realizing 7-10 years is not enough to take potential research to the market. (Nanowerk News, 12/7/2007)



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Public Comments
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Richard Varey (4/27/2008 2:20:50 PM)
Still has moral questions to be answered, as judged risky by many people, due to unknown consequences.
Rupam Shrivastava (3/10/2010 3:48:54 PM)
Nanotechnology assisted machines are alredy a reality. However, the 'real' sense of nanotechnology - that of nano machines has an uncertain future. Nano machines has a major threat, of what is called grey goo. Before we commercialize nano machines in a big way, we will need to develop technologies to rapidly contain them in case of any leakage. We can live with organic viruses in our bodies and technical viruses in our computers, but not technical viruses in our bodies.
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