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Imagine how much control over resultant properties you would have if you were able
to deposit and maneuver individual atoms into predefined arrangements, en route
toward a new material. This is fast becoming a reality, and is the realization of the
ultimate in “bottom-up” materials design. Thus far, one is able to easily fabricate
materials comprised of a small number of atoms, with features on the nanometer
scale (10−9 m) – one-billionth of a meter. To put this into perspective, think of a
material with dimensions approximately 1,000 times smaller than the diameter of a
human hair follicle! As we will see, it is now even possible to push individual atoms
around a surface using specialized techniques.
We are at the crossroads of unprecedented applications that will only be possi-
ble using nanoscale building blocks. More effective devices will be constructed to
remove pollutants from the environment and detect/deactivate chemical and biolog-
ical warfare agents. Integrated circuitry with the capabilities of current workstations
will be the size of a grain of sand and will be able to operate for decades with the
equivalent of a single wristwatch battery. Robotic spacecrafts that weigh only a few
pounds will be sent out to explore the solar system, and widespread space travel will
be possible for the masses. Oh, yes – one that is near to us all – inexpensive alterna-
tive energy sources will power our vehicles, rather than depending on dwindling oil
reserves and the daily fluctuations of (soaring) gas prices![1]
In order to gain rapid progress toward these intriguing goals, the level of govern-
ment and private funding in the nanosciences continues to soar. This has spawned
a number of institutes in recent years, focused on research, development, and com-
mercialization of nanoscale discoveries, as well as public education/outreach. Some
recent examples are[2] :
– National Nanotechnology Initiative (Federal R&D Program, Washington, DC);
– Richard E. Smalley Institute for Nanoscale Science and Technology (Rice Univer-
sity, Houston, TX);
– Institute for Nanotechnology (Northwestern University, Evanston, IL); http://
– Nano Science and Technology Institute (Cambridge, MA);

276 6 Nanomaterials

– National Cancer Institute Alliance for Nanotechnology in Cancer (Bethesda,

– ASME Nanotechnology Institute (New York, NY); http://www.nanotechnology-
– Nanotechnology Institute (Philadelphia, PA);
– Center for Nanoscale Chemical–Electrical–Mechanical Manufacturing Systems
(Urbana, IL);
– Nano/Bio Interface Center (University of Pennsylvania); http://www.nanotech.
– Center on Nanotechnology and Society (Chicago-Kent College of Law, Illinois
Institute of Technology);
– The NanoTechnology Group, Inc. (Nanoscience educational outreach, Wells, TX);
– The Foresight Institute (Palo Alto, CA);
– The Institute for Soldier Nanotechnologies (Massachusetts Institute of Techno-
The first national network focused on the design/fabrication/testing of nanomate-
rials was instituted in 2004 through funding from the National Science Foundation.
The National Nanotechnology Infrastructure Network (NNIN) consists of a con-
glomerate of 13 sites across the country (Figure 6.1) that are focused on all aspects of
nanomaterials. Since “nanotechnology” is such an interdisciplinary field, many more
nanorelated research centers will likely be instituted in the near future. However, as
with all scientific disciplines, a major roadblock toward research progress in the US
is domestic student recruitment. There are a declining number of degrees awarded
in the sciences within recent years (from B.S. to Ph.D. levels) in the US, relative
to other foreign countries (e.g., China, India). This represents an ominous forecast

Figure 6.1. The 13 sites of the National Nanotechnology Infrastructure Network (FY2004-FY2009).
Reproduced from