Chapter 2: A Quick-Start Guide: 10 Things You Should Know About Nanoinnovation – NanoInnovation: What Every Manager Needs to Know

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A Quick-Start Guide: 10 Things You Should Know About Nanoinnovation

Micro-this, micro-that—how much difference can there be between one kind of tiny thing and another? The answer, of course, is “almost everything.”

K. Eric Drexler, Radical Abundance: How a Revolution in Nanotechnology Will Change Civilization

In Chapter 1, I challenged you to “name something nano.” In this chapter I challenge you to “learn something nano.” This quick-start chapter is designed to help you understand the core essentials of nanoinnovation – including the core principles, properties, scale, industry metrics, jargon, history, and critical issues that you as a manager need to know. This will help prepare you by giving you a grounding in some of the “nano essentials” before drilling down to explore the science and technology that is generating specific products and applications.

Let's start by looking at some of the questions and issues that differentiate nanoinnovation from nanotechnology.

In the field of innovation, everyone talks about getting “out of the box” (Figure 2.1) Nanoinnovation not only gets you out of the box but it also disassembles the box into atoms and molecules. So let's extend this metaphor. Imagine a box. Inside this box is something we call nanotechnology. In the box, the technology is restricted by boundaries. Some of these boundaries are physical, some are mental. Others are contextual. Some involve financial or technical constraints, or various types of resource limitations. Once we take nano out of the box, we enter a realm of endless possibilities, far beyond our real or imagined boundaries – a magical place where materials are one atom thick, computers are digestible, cell phones can be twisted like a pretzel (and bounce back to their original shape), and where DNA molecules can be used to construct a box!

Figure 2.1 Nanoinnovation moves nanotechnology “out of the box” – forcing us to explore questions and issues that managers need to know, to innovate at the nanoscale.

But before we explore these possibilities, let's go over some basics – 10 things you should know about nanoinnovation before you open the box.

2.1 10 Things You Should Know about Nanoinnovation

As a manager, you should know how nanotechnology is defined, the properties that make nanotechnologies unique, where we are in the evolution of nanotech, the size and scope of the “industry” – and whether it actually is an industry or something else. You should be familiar with some notable nanoinnovations, including products that use nanotechnology. And most important, you need to have a sense of what's looming on the near horizon. Here are 10 things you should know – starting with a key definition.

2.1.1 What is Nanoinnovation?

In the business world, an invention is the first occurrence of an idea for a new product or process, while an innovation is the first attempt to carry it into practice [1]. If we accept this distinction, we can create a working definition of nanoinnovation.

It's important to understand the relationship between an invention, the resulting innovation, and commercialization. For the purpose of this book, an invention is a new, previously undiscovered design, method, process, algorithm, composition of matter/material, or device, including new and useful improvements and applications. An innovation is the first attempt to carry the invention into practice, and commercialization is an attempt to extract value. For business purposes, commercialization may also be considered to be the adoption of the innovation by one or more lead markets. The link between an innovation and the value proposition is critical. Many nanotechnology projects and ventures have crashed and burned because they created something new, but failed to create value.

The innovation process is influenced by influence factors that can enable or impede the process. These factors include funding issues, availability of resources, market forces, public sentiment, media attention, government regulation, safety concerns, and so on. These forces create a “push–pull” dynamic that makes the innovation process especially complex, as shown in Figure 2.2, which applies not only to nanotechnology but also to any area of technological innovation.

Figure 2.2 A conceptual framework for nanoinnovation (Copyright 2014, Michael Tomczyk).

A Nanoinnovation Example: Untangling DNA

Dr. Han Cao, the founder and chief scientific officer of BioNano Genomics (formerly BioNanomatrix), is both an inventor and an innovator. As a research scientist at Princeton University, he observed that individual DNA molecules tend to form into tangled “balls” when isolated. This phenomenon makes it difficult to analyze individual strands of DNA, which is essential to analyzing individual molecules, or groups of molecules. Dr. Cao and his team invented a way to untangle and guide individual DNA molecules into an array of nanochannels on a semiconductor chip. This is an impressive achievement considering that a DNA molecule typically has a width of 2 nm and can be over a meter long. Dr. Cao's invention was granted US Patent No. 7,670,770 in March 2010. The innovation – how the invention is implemented – includes a novel method for analyzing strands of DNA on a nanofluidic chip. The value of this innovation lies in the possibility to develop genomic tests for individual diseases that could cost as little as $100. BioNano Genomics – founded in 2003 by Dr. Cao – is commercializing this innovation in their NanoAnalyzer® system. This level of science is complex, impressive, and game changing. It is a good example of the relationship between the original nanoscale invention, the nanoinnovation, and the commercial application.

2.1.2 Five Categories of Nanoinnovation

It is important for managers to understand what kinds of nanoinnovations we can expect to come from science and technology. There are at least five categories where nanoinnovation is likely to impact industries, markets, and our everyday lives. These include (i) new products, (ii) new methods of production, (iii) new sources of supply, (iv) exploitation of new markets, and (v) new ways to organize business [2].

These categories were originally developed by Harvard economist Joseph Schumpeter (1883–1950) to describe innovation in general. Schumpeter is best known for his iconic description of the innovation process as “gales of creative destruction.” If we apply these categories to nanoinnovation, we can find strong examples in each:

  1. New Products. In March, 2011, the Emerging Nanotechnologies Project of the Woodrow Wilson Institute/Pew Charitable Trust listed over 1300 consumer products and product lines that use nanotechnology, estimated to exceed 1800 by 2012,1) which extrapolates to over 2000 by 2014 – and these only include products that are reported. The actual number is much higher. Nanomaterials and nanoparticles are used in such familiar items as baseball bats and golf clubs, car tires and engines, clothing, cosmetics, filtration systems, health and fitness products, and LCD screens and virtually any product that uses semiconductors. The most common materials include nanoparticles of silver, carbon, titanium, silicon/silica, zinc and gold. Nano-silver is the most common and widely used commercialized nanomaterial.
  2. New Methods of Production. Nanotechnology is exerting a major impact on manufacturing in many industries. Nanocatalysts are orders of magnitude more effective than traditional catalysts, which is extremely significant considering that the global market for nanocatalysts is projected to reach $6 billion by 2015. In many industries, carbon nanotubes are being used to manufacture everything from semiconductors and computers to body armor – based on new ways of combining and incorporating composite materials.
  3. New Sources of Supply. One of the most important benefits coming out of nanotech research is the potential to replace increasingly rare and expensive elements such as gallium and indium with more abundantly available materials such as carbon nanomaterials and metal/plastic composites. Analysts predict we're running out of rare earth elements that are critical to the production of such vital high-tech products as mobile phones, solar panels, lithium ion batteries, semiconductors, optical technologies, consumer electronic displays, seawater desalination, fuel cells, medical devices, and synthetic fuels. China, which produces more than 90% of the world's rare earth metals, has imposed a tax on rare earth minerals and restrictions on exports. A report by the European Union [3] issued a “supply risk” warning that more than 14 critical minerals and metals will become increasingly scarce. These rare earth metals include antimony, beryllium, cobalt, fluorspar, gallium, germanium, graphite, indium, magnesium, niobium, platinum group metals (PGM), tantalum, tungsten, and a dozen other materials such as yttrium and lanthanum. Many of these could be unavailable as early as 2020. This is a genuine, looming crisis that nanoinnovation is helping to alleviate by finding new ways to replace rare earth metals with nanosized versions of “earth abundant” materials such as silicon and carbon. Jim Tour at Rice University has suggested that conductive nanoribbons could replace indium tin oxide, an expensive material used in flat-panel displays, touch panels, electronic ink, and solar cells. In 2009, Dmitry Kosynkin, a postdoctoral research associate on Dr. Tour's research team, discovered a method for chemically unzipping carbon nanotubes into flat nanoribbons [4]. The IBM solar panel shown in Figure 2.3 is another example of a nanoinnovation solution to the rare earth metals dilemma. The IBM cell uses copper, tin, zinc, sulfur, and selenium – all “earth abundant” materials – to perform functions that are currently provided by costly rare earth elements such as indium, gallium, and cadmium. According to IBM, previous attempts to create solar cells from similar materials did not exceed 6.7% in energy efficiency, which makes the new cell's 9.6% efficiency level a significant leap forward [5]. According to Dr. David Mitzi who leads the research team, the ultimate goal is to develop a solar technology that uses earth abundant materials, compares favorably on a cost per watt basis with conventional electricity generation, and supports the deployment of large systems at the terawatt level.
  4. New Markets. Visit any consumer electronics store and you can find new markets being created by nanoinnovation. The National Nanotechnology Initiative (NNI) says that almost all high-performance electronic devices manufactured in the past decade use some nanomaterials.2) Nano-enabled products are changing the form factors of smartphones, tablet PCs, music players, eBooks, and more. The touchscreen on Apple's iPhone is coated with nanoparticles of indium tin oxide. To give you an idea of the size of this market, Apple has reported that more than half a billion iPhones, iPods, and iPads have been sold.
  5. New Ways to Organize a Business. Most emerging technologies are accompanied by innovations in business strategy and marketing. Here's one example: nanoinnovations are creating longer-life, fast-charging batteries used in electric cars such as the much-publicized electric cars pioneered by Tesla Motors. At some point, the “business” of fueling automobiles will shift from gas stations to charging stations and possibly to home garages, parking lots, and electric power outlets on parking meters. In this scenario, electric utilities – not petrochemical companies – will become the new business partners of the world's auto companies – a major business shift.

Figure 2.3 This cross section of a thin-film solar cell offers a nanoscale view of an “earth abundant” solution for solar energy. In 2010, an IBM team led by Dr. David Mitzi announced that they had developed a solar cell that uses abundantly available materials in the energy conversion layer to achieve a record energy conversion level of 9.6% – which was 40% higher than energy levels previously achieved with these materials. This was a major advance toward the creation of less costly, more efficient solar cells using commonly available materials (image created by IBM Zurich).

These are only some of the intriguing issues and prospects for nanoinnovation. Many of these innovations will literally change the future.

An even more exciting development would be the development of a computer that uses carbon nanotubes instead of the array of rare earth materials currently used in semiconductors and other components – which would convey new properties as well as continuing Moore's law using earth abundant materials. There is evidence that this innovation is looming on the horizon. In September 2013, a team of Stanford engineers led by Max Shulaker announced that they have built a computer using carbon nanotubes [6]. This was definitely not an overnight innovation. Stanford faculty and students have been working on this challenge for more than 20 years! This proof-of-concept computer performed 20 different instructions from the commercial MIPS instruction set such as counting, integer sorting, and basic problem solving. This development is a significant step forward for computer technology, and a critical indicator of how nanoinnovation is influencing the design of future computers.

2.1.3 Learning the Jargon of Nanoinnovation

The field of nanoinnovation has given rise to a “swarm” of nano-neologisms – words that begin with the prefix “nano” – and continues to produce some very clever and colorful catchwords and phrases. The jargon of nano can be quirky, fun, and highly descriptive, starting with the core concepts of molecular assembly and molecular manufacturing, and extending to such interesting terms as nanobots, nanoswarms, nanoribbons, molecular torches, DNA origami, and gray goo.

The jargon of nanoinnovation has not only stimulated the public imagination but has also entered the public dialog in a very big way. In December 2007, a Google search for the word “nanotechnology” returned 11.9 million hits, which increased to 14.9 million hits in March 2011 and reached 26.6 million hits in April 2012. In the same 3.5 years, the search results for the abbreviated form “nano” surged from 83.8 million hits in 2007 to a whopping 129 million hits in 2011 and 299 million hits in 2012. By 2013 there were many new terms with “nano” prefixes that expanded the entire search category to more specific nano terms, which actually shrank the number of hits by distributing them among many narrow categories (Figure 2.4).

Figure 2.4 A nanoswarm of nano-neologisms. This word cloud includes just a few of the hundreds of nano-neologisms that have entered human language from the realm of nanotechnology. From the nanoimages of President Barack Obama (Nanobama) to a nanoart teddy bear, these terms are becoming a part of modern jargon. The prefix “nano” has been attached to everything from archaeology to zeolites. The term “nano” is used to describe a small car (Tata Motors calls their small car the “Nano”) and anything else that is small, compact, and innovative and yet powerful.

If you go to any online dictionary and type a basic term like “nanotechnology,” you'll discover more than half a dozen different definitions that tell you that nanotechnology is

  • the science of manipulating materials on an atomic or molecular scale (Merriam-Webster);
  • the science of building devices such as electronic circuits from single atoms and molecules (www.answers.com);
  • a branch of engineering that deals with things smaller than 100 nm (WordNet);
  • the study of controlling matter on an atomic and molecular scale (Wikipedia);
  • the science and technology of creating nanoparticles and manufacturing machines in the range of 0.1–100 nm (Wiktionary);
  • involving structures, devices, and systems having novel properties and functions due to the arrangement of their atoms on the 1–100 nm scale (Foresight Institute).

So which is it? Science? Engineering? Molecular manufacturing? Most definitions include the same elements: (a) scale (typically 1–100 nm or less), (b) exploitation of size-dependent properties that are unique at this scale, (c) manipulation (including engineering and manufacturing) of nanoscale structures/materials/processes, (d) creation of nanoscale-enabled devices, and (e) at the extreme end of the spectrum, some definitions include the prospects for molecular manufacturing, self-organizing nanomaterials, and nanobots.

How Organizations Define Nanotechnology

Let's take a quick look at how some credible organizations in the United States and Europe define nanotechnology. This is important because these definitions can determine who qualifies for project funding, inclusion in government initiatives, research parameters, conference topics, and, in general, the allocation of resources.

The NNI is the pace-setting US program established in 2001 to coordinate nanotech R&D across 25 Federal agencies and 8 functional areas.3) The NNI defines nanotechnology as “the understanding and control of matter at dimensions between approximately 1 and 100 nanometers, where unique phenomena enable novel applications. Encompassing nanoscale science, engineering, and technology, nanotechnology involves imaging, measuring, modeling, and manipulating matter at this length scale.”

Mike Roco, who led the development of the NNI, notes that nanotechnology involves the control of nanoscale structures and processes. “It is not accidental,” he explains. “These are things we can control, which is the real power of nanotechnology.”

One of the longest and most comprehensive definitions comes from the National Science Foundation that takes 176 words to define nanotechnology: “Research and technology development at the atomic, molecular or macromolecular levels, in the length scale of approximately 1–100 nanometer range, to provide a fundamental understanding of phenomena and materials at the nanoscale and to create and use structures, devices and systems that have novel properties and functions because of their small and/or intermediate size. The novel and differentiating properties and functions are developed at a critical length scale of matter typically under 100 nm. Nanotechnology research and development includes manipulation under control of the nanoscale structures and their integration into larger material components, systems and architectures. Within these larger scale assemblies, the control and construction of their structures and components remains at the nanometer scale. In some particular cases, the critical length scale for novel properties and phenomena may be under 1 nm (e.g., manipulation of atoms at ∼0.1 nm) or be larger than 100 nm (e.g., nanoparticle reinforced polymers have the unique feature at ∼ 200–300 nm as a function of the local bridges or bonds between the nano particles and the polymer).”4)

The definition used by the European Patent Office (EPO) reflects the view that nanotechnology is a bridging technology. The EPO does not set a lower limit of 1 nm: “The term nanotechnology covers entities with a geometrical size of at least one functional component below 100 nanometers in one or more dimensions susceptible of making physical, chemical or biological effects available which are intrinsic to that size. It covers equipment and methods for controlled analysis, manipulation, processing, fabrication or measurement with precision below 100 nanometers.”5)

2.1.4 How Small Is Nanoscale?

Nanoscale and nanometer are the core metrics of nanoinnovation. Decision-makers in government, industry, and academia use these nanoscale metrics to define and award nanotechnology research grants, to identify and regulate nanomaterials used in products, to determine quality control standards in semiconductors and filtering systems, study the safety of nanoparticles, determine labeling requirements for consumer products, frame marketing strategies, make investments, and much more. That's why it's important to understand the metrics of nanoinnovation, starting with the distinction between nanometer and nanoscale.

A nanometer is one-billionth of a meter (1/1 000 000 000) or (10−9), typically abbreviated “nm.” This compares to a micrometer (or micron) that is one-millionth of a meter, and a millimeter that is one-thousandth of a meter. There are smaller measurements than a nanometer. A picometer is one-trillionth of a meter (10−10), and an ångström is equivalent to one-tenth of a nanometer (10−12).

The nanoscale is typically defined as a range extending from 1 to 100 nm, although some definitions count everything under 100 nm as nanoscale, and some organizations use the phrase “on the order of” 100 nm or less. This is a somewhat arbitrary standard, since the upper limit of 100 nm is not cast in stone. The unique properties associated with nanoscale materials can also occur at larger sizes.

It is difficult to wrap our minds around something as small as a billionth of a meter. You can't see individual nanoparticles with the naked eye, or even with a conventional microscope because nanoscale objects are actually smaller than light waves used in most optical imaging systems (visible light corresponds to a wavelength from about 400 to 700 nm). Imagine particles that are smaller than light waves! Nanostructures are so small, they need to be measured by instruments that sense and image beams of electrons instead of beams of light.

We can find nanoscale examples created in Nature, and by human engineers. A DNA molecule is ∼2.5 nm wide and up to 1 m long. The smallest virus (parvovirus) is 25 nm across. A typical protein is about 10 nm long. Your fingernails grow about 1 nm in 1 s.6)

Manmade examples include a variety of carbon nanostructures that include carbon nanotubes 1 nm in diameter, quantum dots that are clusters of (typically 5–20) atoms, and carbon fullerenes. Fullerenes are formed from carbon atoms arranged in a pattern that resembles the pattern in geodesic domes. Fullerenes can be spheres (buckyballs), ellipsoids, or cylinders. Carbon nanotubes, the best-known nanoscale structures made by humans, are a type of fullerene. Buckminster fullerenes were named in honor of architect Buckminster Fuller, who designed the geodesic dome. Variations on these structures include “carbon onions,” which are spherical shells made of concentric layers of graphene.

Some nanoscale issues are subject to interpretation and this can be confusing. For example, should nanoscale as a metric include structures below 1 nm, or stop at 1 nm? Is the upper range 100 nm? What about 101 or 102 nm, or 200 nm? Experts are still debating these issues. While scientists do not favor fuzzy definitions, it is probably most accurate to say that the nanoscale is “approximately” or “on the order of” 1–100 nm.

If we say that the nanoscale includes everything under 1 nm, we're essentially including everything, because all atoms are less than 1 nm. Atoms – the basic units of matter – range in diameter from one-tenth of a nanometer to more than half a nanometer. An atom of gold is about one-third of a nanometer. The smallest atoms (measured by its radius) are helium and hydrogen atoms, at around one-tenth of a nanometer, while cesium, one of the largest, is about seven-tenths of a nanometer. Most atoms are fairly close in diameter because, as the mass of the atom increases, the increased positive charge pulls the electrons closer to the nucleus, so the radius doesn't vary much.7)

How nanoscale is specified can present special challenges for nanoinnovators. For example, academic researchers who are working with nanoinnovations in the range of 200–500 nm are often forced to find creative ways to include a 100 nm dimension to their project, to meet the arbitrary definition of nanoscale. A few researchers interviewed for this book reported having projects at the 200–500 nm scale excluded from nanotechnology funding by agencies that adhere strictly to the 1–100 nm definition.

2.1.5 What Are the Unique (Quantum) Properties of Nanotechnology?

In nanoinnovation, it's not the scale that counts, but rather the unique properties at this scale that provide the true value. When we move from the macroscale to the nanoscale, nanoinnovators gain access to an entirely new set of optical, electrical, physical, and chemical properties called “quantum effects” that derive from the interaction of matter and energy at the nanoscale. While these properties are most prevalent from 1 to 100 nm, they can also exist at the subnanoscale (<1 nm) or at larger scales up to 500 nm or more. These properties, which are still being discovered and tested, are an innovator's dream. Suddenly, the alchemist's toolkit contains real magic and the tricks coming out of the nanoscale “magician's hat” are truly amazing.

Using the tools of nanotechnology, scientists are learning that the properties we always assumed were more or less constant for a given substance such as gold or carbon can exhibit radically different properties and characteristics at the nanoscale. Many of these quantum effects involve the availability, movement, or spinning of electrons and the use of light as a force. Some of these effects are tunable, which means their conductivity or reactivity can be tuned along a gradient of temperature, force, light, or other parameters.

Chemistry courses were not teaching modern nanotechnology when most of us were in high school or college, so let's take a look at some of the unique properties that are driving the current wave of nanoinnovation. Here is a partial list of properties that provide opportunities for innovation at the nanoscale, with some brief notes for each:

  • Chemical Effects
    • – Chemical reactivity and reaction rates (while gold is normally considered an inert metal, gold nanoparticles under 5 nm are catalytically reactive)
    • – Increased surface area (the surface-to-volume ratio of nanoparticles is significantly greater than one large particle of the same size that is extremely important for catalysts)
    • – Super atoms (clusters of atoms called “super atoms” can mimic the properties of an entirely different element, for example, a cluster of 13 aluminum atoms can behave like a single iodine atom [7])
  • Electrical Effects
    • – Electrical conductivity (materials that are electrical insulators at bulk scale exhibit conductive properties at the nanoscale; for example, electric current can pass nondestructively through liquid glass electrodes that may have applications for labs-on-a-chip [8])
  • Optical Effects
    • – Transparency (nanoparticles of zinc oxide or titanium dioxide are used to make sunscreens and cosmetic creams transparent because the small particles let visible light through, while blocking harmful ultraviolet lightin contrast, large particles of zinc oxide appear white and scatter light making the cream opaque)
    • – Color shift (e.g., nanosized gold appears red or purple in color)
    • – Tunable photoluminescence and electroluminescence (photoactive quantum dots can be tuned to change color)
    • – Photoactivity (photoactive nanomaterials can control transmittance of heat and light in solar cells and windows; photoactive nanomaterials include metal oxides such as nanoscale titanium dioxide [9]); photocatalytic nanomaterials are used in water purification, and in appliances and medical environments to kill antibiotic-resistant bacteria)
  • Physical Effects
    • – Hardness (superhard nanocomposite materials have been synthesized from non-carbon materials that are nearly as hard as a diamond [10])
    • – Boiling point (nanofluids boil at a higher boiling point; nanomaterials can reduce the energy needed to boil liquids)
    • – Increased strength (carbon in graphite form is soft and malleable, but at the nanoscale can be stronger than steel)
    • – Metamaterials (artificially engineered nanomaterials exhibit properties not found in Nature; for example, metamaterials with a negative refractive index have the ability to “bend light,” which is being researched to develop invisibility cloaks and new types of optics)
    • – Ductility and malleability8) (materials such as silica are brittle in bulk form, but can become ductile at the nanoscale)
    • – Porosity (aerogels are high-porosity solids where up to 95% of the volume consists of nanoscale pores)
  • Temperature Variations
    • Nanoparticles tend to have a lower melting point than in their bulk size; a 4 nm gold particle melts at 850 °C (1562° F.) compared with bulk gold that melts at 1064 °C (1947.2° F).

Together, these properties are often characterized as – or have their roots in – the quantum effects that occur when atoms and molecules interact. To illustrate this concept, consider that large objects are influenced by gravitational and magnetic forces that we're all familiar with. However, at the nanoscale, electromagnetic forces and the movement of electrons become a dominant factor. The mobility of electrons determines whether a material is conductive or not. Scientists use the movement of electrons to create nanoscale images of atoms and molecules that are actually smaller than light waves and cannot be imaged using optical microscopes.

Another property that is being exploited by nanoinnovators involves the tendency of electrons to “spin” – which has opened the entire field of spintronics. Real-world applications include using spinning electrons to create quantum computers.

Some of the most exciting and radical innovations come from combining two or more nanoscale properties to produce an entirely new capability or effect. Teams of scientists at the US Department of Energy's Brookhaven National Laboratory and Los Alamos National Laboratory have fabricated thin transparent films capable of absorbing light and generating an electrical charge, which they achieved by blending a semiconducting polymer with carbon fullerenes [11].

2.1.6 The Metrics of Nanoinnovation

In a very short time, nanotechnology has generated a legion of statistics. It's easy to find the numbers on Web sites, in market research reports, press releases, government documents, and academic papers. However, to a nanoinnovator, it's not just the numbers that count, it's what they represent. Many of these numbers are called “industry” metrics that begs the question: Is nanotechnology really an industry?

Is Nanotechnology an Industry?

Government agencies, market analysts, and the media routinely talk about nanotechnology as an industry. However, most of the nano-insiders interviewed for this book agree that nanotechnology is not an industry – but acts like one. This can be confusing. For example, there are no SIC or NAIC industrial classifications for nanotechnology. A nanocircuit might be grouped in SIC Code 3674, Semiconductors and Related Devices, but doesn't have an industrial code of its own. Likewise, standards for nanomaterials are still being developed by industry organizations such as IEEE, IEC, and ISO.9) A separate patent classification for nanotechnology inventions was not established until 2004.

Does this mean nanotech is not an industry? Is this an early-stage industry? Or is it a set of enabling technologies that act like an industry?

Technically, an industry is a group of companies that operate in the same segment of the economy or share a similar business type. By this definition, we should be able to find clusters of companies that are entirely focused on nanotechnology – and we can. More than 2000 companies worldwide are involved in nanotechnology. There are companies that manufacture carbon nanotubes in a variety of form factors as well as quantum dots, fullerenes, and metal oxides. More than a dozen companies make nanoscale instruments such as atomic force microscopes (ATMs), imaging systems, probes, and fabrication equipment. There is a constant stream of nanoventures emerging from universities and government programs, and many corporations have nanotechnology divisions.

Whether you consider nanotechnology to be an industry or not, the same metrics used to evaluate any industry can be used to analyze nanotechnology. Many of these metrics are regularly updated on Web sites such as Nanowerk, AZoNano, the NNI, and Lux Research. Let's take a look at some key metrics that were current during the writing of this book.

Nanotech Companies

In 2010, Nanowerk listed more than 2100 companies from 48 countries involved in nanotechnology research, manufacturing, and applications.10) By 2013, the number of nanotechnology companies had grown to almost 5000 firms in the United States alone, which is more than half of all nanotechnology companies in the world. There are almost 1000 nanotech companies in Germany and more than 600 firms in Japan.

More than 110 companies that manufacture carbon nanotubes are listed in Appendix B. This list was compiled by Hai-Yong Kang, Ph.D., for a report entitled: “A Review of the Emerging Nanotechnology Industry: Materials, Fabrications, and Applications” [12]. (Author's note: Kang's report also includes company lists for quantum dots and metal oxides, and the core document includes some very interesting examples of emerging nanotechnologies.)

Nanotech Revenues and the Value Chain

As early as 2001, the National Science Foundation predicted that the nanotechnology market would reach $1 trillion by 2015 and other sources (Cientifica et al.) have projected a multitrillion dollar nanotechnology market. Nanotechnology revenues grew from approximately $380 billion in 2010 to approximately $2.4 trillion in 2015 according to Lux Research (Figure 2.5). The Lux Research forecast was based on a nanotechnology value chain created by Lux that breaks the nanotechnology sector into nanomaterials, nanointermediaries, and nano-enabled products. This is one of several ways that this “industry” can be defined. These projections provide a basis for calculating year-to-year metrics that reveal important growth and sector trends.

Figure 2.5 This chart by Lux Research shows nanotechnology revenue growth through 2015 – including a downward adjustment that reflects the impact of the economic downturn that began in 2008.

These kinds of projections should be read with a critical eye, since they can be misleading. For example, “nano-enabled products” can include such things as automobiles, video displays, paintings and coatings, semiconductors, drugs, and so on – which can inflate the revenue totals if the value of the entire product is counted, since in many of these products, the quantity of nanomaterials may be a few grams, or a fraction of a gram. Therefore, as awesome as most nanotechnology revenue projections may sound, they need to be considered in context.

Global Investment in Nanotechnology R&D

One way to quantify nanoinnovation is to calculate public and private R&D funding – recognizing that R&D inputs don't always translate directly into commercial outputs. Cientifica estimates that global government investment in nanotechnology is $10 billion a year, with cumulative government funding reaching $100 billion by 2014. When corporate research and venture funding are included, the cumulative total spent on nanotechnology R&D is expected to reach $250 billion by the end of 2015 [13].

More than a dozen countries have invested significant government funds in nanotechnology, and exploited nanoinnovation to achieve institutional and commercial benefits. By most metrics, the leading countries involved in nanoinnovation include the United States; Germany, the United Kingdom, and France in Europe; China, Japan, South Korea, India, and Taiwan in Asia; Brazil and Mexico in Latin America; Israel and Iran in the Middle East; and Russia. Most of these countries have benefited from investing substantial public funds in nanotechnology initiatives.

In the United States, government agencies, corporations, and venture capitalists invested more than $18 billion in nanotechnology research from 2001 to 2014. Until 2010, most of the research in the United States was paid for with government funds (2010 was the first year that corporate R&D investments exceeded government funding).11)

In Europe, public funding for nanotechnology research was provided under the Sixth and Seventh Framework Programmes (FP6 and FP7). Under FP7, the European Union invested approximately €3.6 billion for nanotechnology research from 2007 to 2013. The next science technology plan of the European Union, called Horizon 2020, does not break out nanotechnology investments as a separate category, but does include a special billion-euro initiative to commercialize graphene.

While the NNI in the United States receives a great deal of publicity in the media, there are significant initiatives underway in many parts of the world. A good example is the Russian Corporation of Nanotechnologies – better known as Rusnano () – which was established by the Russian Federation to create a Russian nanotech industry by 2015. In 2008–2009, more than 60 projects were approved for funding by Rusnano. Investments, which include both direct investment and cofunding with partners, are projected to exceed US$8 billion.12)

Large ongoing investments by firms such as IBM, Intel, BASF, and Lockheed-Martin in the United States; Fraunhofer, Bayer, and Siemens in Europe; Hitachi, Samsung, and Mitsubishi in Asia – to name a few – drive corporate R&D in nanotechnology. Many of these activities involve industrial secrets and embedded technologies that improve manufacturing processes, make products less expensive, more durable, and lightweight.

In the venture capital sector, nanotechnology took a hit when the Internet and biotech bubbles burst in 1999–2000. The VC sector started to recover in the early to mid-2000s, then saw declines in equity investments after the economic downturn that began in 2008. Lux Research reported that venture capital for nanotechnology dropped as much as 43% in 2009. Venture Capital investments fell from over $1.4 billion to $792 billion, and the average deal size fell by 41% to $8.6 million across 92 deals. These statistics are based on interviews by Lux analysts with 1000 nanotechnology startups and corporate participants, and 15 leading venture capital firms that are investing in nanotechnology [14].

Nano-enabled healthcare investments have accounted for more than half of these investments, followed by energy-related ventures. Jurron Bradley, former senior analyst and lead author of the Lux report, explained that VCs understand that nano-enabled healthcare solutions require long lead times for clinical trials and regulatory approvals; however, these risks are offset by the fact that healthcare is a high-margin, premium-based sector.

To invest in nanotechnology research, VCs need patience and staying power, since the translation of research from laboratory to market has been relatively slow in this sector – although the long-term rewards and potential for commercial breakthroughs are high.

“To invest in nanotech you have to have a passion about it,” says Peter Balbus, a business strategist whose experience ranges from CNT yarns and fabrics to medical sensors and nanoparticles. “This isn't just a business decision. It has to be something where you have a belief. It's a matter of faith. Those who get into the industry early on, even if the initial investments don't pan out as originally hoped, have gained experience as the industry evolved and became better defined because they often discovered or created new trajectories. Ironically, in nanotechnology you may have to take greater risks early on and experience some failure in order to figure out how to achieve success later on. This is a real conundrum.”

Another challenge facing nanoventures involves persuading their customers – who are often large corporations and manufacturers – to adopt their solutions. “If the nanotechnology solution involves an industrial product or process, getting the industry to migrate from a current technology to another solution takes time and effort, even if the new product has a lot of economic or performance improvement benefits,” Peter observed.

How Many Products Use Nanotechnology?

Another way to measure nanoinnovation is simply to count the number of products. As previously noted, the Emerging Nanotechnologies Project of the Woodrow Wilson Institute/Pew Charitable Trusts maintains an online inventory of products and product lines that incorporate nanotechnology (http://www.nanotechproject.org/inventories). Consumer products that incorporate nanotechnology grew 521% from 212 products in 2006 to 1317 products in 2011, exceeding 2000 products in 2013. Note that these are primarily consumer products and do not include many industrial or biomedical products, and only included products in the Woodrow Wilson project that does not include all nanotech products.

Nanotechnology Patents

Patent filings can be a treasure trove of information to nanoinnovators, although some of these treasures may be buried and may require some sleuthing to uncover. During the 1990s and early 2000s, nanotechnology inventions were not classified as “nano.” Also, many inventions do not mention nanoscale or refer to nanotechnology, which makes it difficult to classify these inventions, especially in the field of biosciences and medicine. As a result, many nanoinnovations have been underreported or excluded from patent totals.

In October 2004, the US Patent Office (USPTO) established a nanotechnology cross-reference – Class 977 – that has been expanded to 263 subclasses. An early effort by the Patent Office to classify nanoinnovations produced a list of more than 6000 nanotechnology patents, although the classification process is still in progress. Only a few hundreds of these patents included “nano” in the title, illustrating how difficult it is to categorize nanotech patents.

In 2005, the EPO established a tagging system that assigns a “Y01N” tag to nanotechnology patents covering six main groups: Y01N2-Nanobiotechnology, Y01N4-Nanotechnology for information processing, storage, and transmission, Y01N6-Nanotechnology for materials and surface science, Y01N8-Nanotechnology for interacting, sensing, and actuating, Y01N10-Nano optics, and Y01N12-Nanomagnetics.

In 2012, the USPTO issued a record 4000 patents, identified as nanotechnology patents under Class 977 compared with 780 in 2010. In 2012, more than half the nano patents (54%) came from the United States, followed by South Korea (7.8%), Japan (7.1%), Germany (6.2%), and China (4.9%) [15]. In the past few years, the United States, Japan, South Korea, Germany, Taiwan, and China have accounted for most nanotech patents, with the East Asian countries coming on strong. These countries also lead in publications, government funding, and corporate investment. In general, about one-third of nanotech patents originate in East Asia, and recent years have seen a steady increase in patents from Russia and India. In the United States, the states accounting for the most nanotechnology patents were California, New York, Massachusetts, Texas, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Illinois.

Some notable examples of US patents include an IBM patent for a self-healing nanomaterial – which includes a self-repair feature provided by encapsulated nanoparticles (U.S. Patent 7,799,849). Another example is Nantero's patent for a high-purity nanotube fabric (U.S. Patent 7,675,766). Nantero, which is profiled in this book, has one of the largest nanotechnology patent portfolios. Other interesting examples include a patent for graphene platelets from Nanotek Instruments Inc. (U.S. Patent 7,790,285); a method for growing uniform diameter nanowires from the Lieber Research Group at Harvard University (U.S. Patent 7,666,708); and a nanostructured silicon lithium battery by Nexeon Ltd. (U.S. Patent 7,683,359). Nexeon had previously announced a world record capacity rechargeable battery based on this technology [16]. In 2010, 230 U.S. patent applications mentioned graphene, more than double the graphene claims submitted in 2009 [17]. Several thousand patents refer to novel methods for purifying DNA.

At this early stage in the development of nanoinnovation, these patent records – which are publicly available – are the best places to scan for research trends. Patent records can also help identify emerging nanotechnologies that may be available for license or purchase, entrepreneurial ventures to invest in, and corporate or university partners who may want to form alliances.

Research Papers

The nanotechnology field has produced a flood of academic papers, which includes research in the field, as well as redundant material as each country's scholars produce papers in their own language. More than 60 countries fund research in nanotechnology, although studies have shown that only 15 countries produce 90% of the research papers.

As part of a project funded by the National Science Foundation, University of Manchester business professor Philip Shapira and USPTO Patent Examiner Jue Wang used data mining techniques to analyze more than 91 000 nanotech-related papers published worldwide in the 1-year period from August 2008 to July 2009 [18]. They found that the top four countries generating nanotech papers (by author affiliation) were the United States (23%), China (22%), Germany (8%), and Japan (8%). About 3% of the papers reported cofunding from the US National Science Foundation and the Chinese National Natural Science Foundation. This sounds like a relatively small number, but actually signals significant and ongoing nanotechnology collaboration between the United States and China. Shapira and Jue suggest that national agencies involved with nanotechnology can improve their outcomes by fostering more international partnerships between domestic researchers and their colleagues overseas. This will be especially important in the coming decade as smaller national budgets and new emerging technologies are expected to reduce the funds available to the global nanotech community.

2.1.7 The Need to Become Nanodextrous

Nanodextrous is a word I coined a few years ago to describe how companies need to develop new capabilities at the nanoscale at the same time they continue to work at the current macroscale. Nanodextrous comes from “ambidextrous,” which means being able to do something equally well with both hands. Nanodextrous means being able to work equally well at the nanoscale and at the macroscale (Figure 2.6).

Figure 2.6 Nanodexterity.

The greatest nanodextrous challenge involves turning nanomaterials into sizes and dimensions that can be used in human scale products. On one hand, we know how to create a carbon material called graphene that is one atom thick, transparent, and superstrong. On the other hand, if we wanted to include graphene in the wings of a space shuttle, we would need to produce sheets that are several meters in length. The need to manufacture large quantities of uniform, defect-free graphene and other materials has posed a serious technical hurdle. While some nanoinnovators see this as a challenge, most see this as an opportunity.

Whether you work in government or business or research/academia, you will need to pursue a nanodextrous approach if you want to cultivate nanoscale capabilities and integrate nanomaterials into your macroscale products and processes. This will involve new strategies and new forms of organizations that are able to work in both worlds. In the decades to come, it will be the nanodextrous organizations that will hit the home runs and score the winning goals in the field of nanoinnovation.

2.1.8 Where Are We Now in the Evolution of Nanoinnovation?

The course of nanotechnology has been moving through five overlapping phases that can be characterized as follows: (1) Nanoscience: a period of basic research and discovery (1960–1980), (2) Nanocore: development of “core” tools and materials (1981–2000), (3) Nano-Commerce: a decade of commercial development (2001–2011), (4) Nano-Breakthroughs: a decade of radical/transformative innovation (2012–2022), and (5) Nano-Future: horizon innovations (2023–2050 and beyond). These dates are somewhat arbitrary, but are grounded in seminal events and discoveries (Figure 2.7).

Figure 2.7 The evolution of nanoinnovation. Nanoinnovation has moved from the first discoveries and basic research to a core set of tools and materials, which in turn enabled the first commercial applications. The next wave will produce the first breakthroughs that are truly disruptive, followed by several important “far horizon” innovations that will be implemented in the next few decades – if we can negotiate several technical hurdles.

Phase 1: Nanoscience (1960–1990)

The field of modern nanotechnology arguably began with Richard Feynman's scientific call to arms on December 29, 1959. Scientists began a serious push to delve into the secrets of molecular interaction and the behavior of atomic clusters. Many of today's nanoscience pioneers were still in school – and beginning to cultivate the ideas and paths of investigation that led them to great discoveries. Companies like IBM and Intel – now famed for their cultures of innovation – were focusing their creativity and resources on the bottom of the scientific pyramid.

Phase 2: Nanocore (1981–2000)

The “tools and materials” phase began in earnest with the development of the scanning tunneling microscope (STM) in 1981, which earned the Nobel Prize in Physics for its inventors (Gerd Binnig and Heinrich Rohrer at IBM Zürich) in 1986 and allowed scientists to finally visualize, image, and manipulate what was previously based mostly on theory. The discovery of new allotropes of carbon included the discovery of fullerenes in 1985 and carbon nanotubes in 1991. During the Nanocore phase, most major industries and government agencies compiled nanotechnology road maps describing the possibilities and objectives of nanotechnology.

Phase 3: Nano-Commerce (2001–2011)

The launch of the NNI in 2000 and the first NNI research funding in 2001 provide another benchmark – the beginning of nano-commerce. NNI funding jump started a global surge in nanotechnology research and fostered the first wave of commercial nanoinnovation. In its first decade (2001–2011), the NNI invested more than $14 billion in nanotechnology R&D.

During this period, organizations such as the IEEE and IEC began compiling technical definitions and industrial standards. The European Union established the first nano-ingredient labeling requirement. Large corporations such as Lockheed-Martin formed nanosystem divisions. Pharmaceutical firms and biotechs started the first wave of bionano start-ups. Most of the world's leading science and engineering universities established nanoscience centers. Venture capital investments in nanoinnovation exceeded $1 billion a year.

Many nanomaterials such as carbon nanotubes and quantum dots became readily available. In 2011, Mitsui announced that it was producing 30 metric tons of carbon nanotubes each year. Carbon nanotubes are integrated into Mitsui's chemical products that focus on nanoporous membranes and carbon nanotubes. Other companies are producing industrial quantities of nanoscale metal oxides and nanocatalysts – anchoring the first decade of nano-commerce. Other nanotube suppliers include CNano Technology, Nanocyl, Showa Denko, and Arkema.

Until 2013, Bayer in Europe operated a plant and laboratory with a capacity of 260 metric tons per year for the development of carbon nanotube products and processes. However, in May 2013, Bayer announced that it was exiting industrial production of carbon nanotubes primarily due to overcapacity of carbon nanotubes in the market, a steep drop in the price of nanotubes (from approximately $700/kg in 2006 to $50/kg in 2013), and fewer uses in Bayer products. While Bayer's exit from carbon nanotube production came as a surprise, the drop in nanotube prices also suggests that carbon nanotubes have become commoditized like many materials, and this may be the first sign of an industry shakeout.

Phase 4: Nano-Breakthroughs (2012–2022)

We are already seeing the first radical nanoinnovations that mark the “breakthrough” decade that began in 2012. Radical innovations can be defined as novel developments that transform markets, consumer behaviors, and patterns of consumption. During this phase, we should expect major improvements in manufacturing processes that will provide the first commercial-scale quantities of graphene and other materials that were previously produced only in laboratories. These breakthrough innovations range from stretchable electronics to nano-enabled cancer therapies. Quite a large number of game-changing innovations have already been reported by researchers and are currently struggling to move from laboratories to markets, a process that typically takes about a decade. Many of these examples are featured in this book.

This Nano-Breakthrough phase also includes a wave of new nanosensors as scientists and engineers refine their capabilities to sense and detect almost any measurable parameter. There are many clues to the future of sensors, such as Google's prototype of a “Project Tango” smartphone that can make over 250 000 3D measurements every second of a surrounding space and update its position in real time to create an indoor 3D map – providing an unprecedented ability to develop novel applications based on space, proximity, and motion. This device could allow users to see and navigate in the dark, help firefighters find their way through smoke-filled buildings, and help vision-impaired users navigate unfamiliar places.

Phase 5: Nano-Future (2023–2050)

The period from 2023 to 2050 is a somewhat arbitrary timeframe designed to encompass the phase that is currently beyond our ability to reliably predict the outcomes. This is the “far horizon” phase of nanoinnovation, when many futurists and technology leaders expect to see nanoinnovations that are true game changers. In this phase, we should expect entirely new computing architectures (quantum computing, biological computers), energy generation and storage, and new form factors for electronic devices. These advances could provide the first implementations of molecular manufacturing and self-assembly, including nanobots and artificial blood cells, as well as commercial applications for plasmonics, spintronics, and light-bending metamaterials. It will be common to manipulate genes to treat and cure diseases. This is an era when entirely new paradigms for energy, healthcare, communication, and transportation will come into use – as science fiction migrates to science reality.

“Nano” Is to Technology What “E” Is to Commerce

To gain a sense of how nanotechnology and nanoinnovation may evolve, we can draw insights from what happened with other emerging technologies in the past. Such analogies offer important clues to what might happen in the future.

For example, in some ways, nanotechnology is analogous to electronic commerce. In the late 1990s, e-Commerce was considered a new kind of commerce. But e-Commerce was not really new – electronic mail order, telecom call centers, and electronic banking were all in place before e-Commerce became a popular term (actually, o-commerce or online commerce was probably a better term than e-Commerce). e-Commerce required special skills and capabilities and tools to participate. You needed access to a server, Web site, and web design software. However, in only half a decade, e-Commerce became so accessible and ubiquitous that “electronic” commerce was simply absorbed into commerce. Today, anyone can easily and affordably put a Web site online and process online transactions. Anything can be ordered online and delivered in a few days. Amazon has even boasted that they can predict which products buyers will purchase and put them into the supply chain before the buyer completes the sale – with future deliveries made by flying drones!

Nanotechnology is merging into technology the way e-Commerce merged into commerce. Nanotechnology is also following in the footsteps of another analogous example – the microrevolution. In the 1970s and 1980s, the world was talking about “micro” the way we talk about “nano” today. Micro refers to one-millionth of a meter and was a hot buzzword when the first generation of microcomputers appeared in the mid-1970s. The microelectronics revolution gave us microprocessors, microcomputers, microfibers, microwave ovens, and other “micro” technologies that are commonplace today. The term “micro” has blended into the landscape and now micro refers to anything that is “small” or “tightly focused” as in “micromanaging.” Today, we don't hear much about microscale technologies or microcomputers, although the term micro has retained its cachet as symbol of everything that is small, friendly, and innovative.

Nano is following a similar course. Nano is already embedded in our jargon, although nano is not as generic as micro, at least not yet. Many companies have called their products “nano” to leverage the image of small and friendly. Notable examples include the two-cylinder, $2500 vehicle called the Nano, introduced in 2009 by Tata Motors, India's largest car company. Apple's Nano, the postage stamp size version of the iPod, used nanotechnology in its chips and circuits. Silver Nano, a trademark of Samsung, is used to describe silver ion technology used in Samsung appliances.

Nano has quickly become ubiquitous and normalized. Many technology companies have nanoscale groups in their R&D and quality control centers. Nanomaterials such as graphene are being commercialized. Nanoimaging and fabrication services are readily available and affordable. The best universities have scanning tunneling microscopes and nanoscience curricula.

Of course, it is still possible that a major safety issue or nano-related tragedy could delay the march of nanotechnology into the future. Assuming we can avoid these pitfalls (which exist with every new technology), the word “nano” should remain as friendly as “micro” and continue to be associated with improvements and innovations at the scale of atoms and molecules. This image will strengthen as more nanoinnovations achieve commercial success. On balance, the evolution of nano will continue to generate exciting and novel solutions to many of society's problems.

2.1.9 A Short History of Modern – and Ancient – Nanoinnovation

Looking ahead to the future is fun. However, we also need to be cognizant of the history of nanoinnovation. The history of nano is actually two histories – modern and ancient. Following are some of the key milestones in the modern history of nanoinnovation, with some concise notes on each.

NANOINNOVATION MILESTONES: 1959–2013
1959 Richard Feynman's Lecture at Caltech: “There's Plenty of Room at the Bottom.” This lecture set the scientific community on a course of investigation and discovery that will continue for decades to come (a more detailed assessment of why this is true is included at the end of this list).
1965 The Nobel Prize in Physics awarded to Richard Feynman, Julian Schwinger, and Sin-Itiro Tomonaga for their work on quantum electrodynamics.
1974 Norio Taniguchi (University of Tokyo) coined the term “nanotechnology” to describe semiconductor processes – he defined the term as “the processing of separation, consolidation, and deformation of materials by one atom or one molecule” [19].
1978 U.S. Patent 4,107,288 is issued to the Pharmaceutical Society of Victoria (Australia) for technology related to processes for making nanoparticles – later designated a Class 977 patent – making it the oldest nanotechnology patent.
1981 The first scientific paper on nanotechnology is presented –“Molecular Engineering: An Approach to the Development of General Capabilities for Molecular Manipulation” by Eric Drexler, in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
1981 Invention of the scanning tunneling microscope by Gerd Binnig and Heinrich Rohrer, who developed the historic device at IBM's research laboratory in Zurich, Switzerland.
1985 Discovery of the carbon fullerene by British chemist Harry Kroto, who collaborated with US chemists Richard Smalley and Robert Curl who were studying clusters of atoms. Together they discovered the allotrope of carbon comprised of 60 carbon atoms arranged in 20 hexagons to form a sphere that resembles a soccer ball. The full name of the molecule is buckminsterfullerene, named after architect Buckminster Fuller because the arrangement resembled the hexagons in the geodesic dome designed by Fuller.
1986 The first book on nanotechnology is published – Engines of Creation: The Coming Era of Nanotechnology by K. Eric Drexler. Drexler's book includes the first use of the term nanotechnology to describe engineering at the nanoscale. Dr. Drexler is credited with introducing and launching the field of nanotechnology as we now know it.
1986 The Foresight Institute is established by Eric Drexler and Christine Peterson, with a mission “to ensure the beneficial implementation of nanotechnology.”
1986 Gerd Binnig, Calvin Quate, and Christoph Gerber invent the atomic force microscope (AFM), a very high resolution type of scanning probe microscope.
1986 The Nobel Prize for Physics is awarded (50%) to Ernst Ruska for his design of the first electron microscope and (50%) to Gerd Binnig and Heinrich Rohrer for their design of the scanning tunneling microscope.
1987 Howard G. Tennent of Hyperion Catalysis is issued a U.S. patent for graphitic, hollow core “fibrils” (later known as carbon nanotubes).
1989 First manipulation of atoms – an IBM team led by Don Eigler spells “IBM” using 35 xenon atoms.
1991 Carbon nanotubes are discovered in the soot of an arc discharge by Sumio Iijima at NEC.
1991 First Ph.D. in molecular nanotechnology – awarded to K. Eric Drexler at MIT.
1991 The first “atomic switch” is built by the IBM research team led by Don Eigler.
1992 Publication of the first nanotechnology textbook – Nanosystems: Molecular Machinery, Manufacturing, and Computation by Eric Drexler (based on his doctoral thesis).
1993 First synthesis of single-walled carbon nanotubes – simultaneously reported by Sumio Iijima and Toshinari Ichihashi at NEC, and by Donald Bethune at IBM's Almaden Research Center.
1996 The Nobel Prize in Chemistry is awarded for the discovery of carbon fullerenes (60 carbon atoms arranged in a ball) – fullerenes are formed when vaporized carbon condenses in an atmosphere of inert gas) – awarded to Robert F. Curl, Harold W. Kroto, and Richard E. Smalley.
1997 The first nanotechnology company is founded (Zyvex, founded by James Von Ehr, the computer pioneer who previously founded Altsys and helped build Macromedia).
2000 The US National Nanotechnology Initiative is established by the Clinton administration.
2000 The first transistor gates under 100 nm are used in semiconductor chips.
2002 The novel Prey by Michael Crichton is published, describing how a runaway research project creates bee-like swarms of self-aware nanodevices that threaten to destroy humanity.
2003 The Drexler–Smalley debate shines a public spotlight on the feasibility of molecular manufacturing, self-assembly at the nanoscale, nanodevices, nanobots, and threats from runaway nanosystems called “gray goo.”
2004 First FDA approval and commercial launch of nanoparticulate (nanosized) drugs (developed by Wyeth, Merck, and Abbott using technology developed by Elan Drug Delivery). These drugs include Aprepitant (Emend®) by Merck; Sirolimus (Rapamune®) by Wyeth; and TriCor® by Abbott–resulting in better performance characteristics and bioavailability.
2004 The US Patent Office establishes Class 977 as a new class for nanotechnology patents.
2008 The first Kavli Prize in Nanoscience is awarded by the Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters (which also awards the Nobel Prize) – the $1 million prize is shared by Louis Brus (Columbia University) for his discovery of quantum dots, and Sumio Iijima (Meijo University) for his discovery of carbon nanotubes.
2009 The European Union announces that cosmetics manufacturers will be required to list nanoparticles contained in cosmetics products marketed in the European Union – using the designation (nano) after each ingredient on the label.
2009 Intel becomes the first semiconductor manufacturer to demonstrate 22 nm circuits; the 22 nm chip fits more than 2.9 billion transistors into an area of the size of a fingernail (by comparison, Intel's 4004 microprocessor introduced in 1971 was based on a 10 000 nm process).
2010 The Kavli Prize in Nanoscience is awarded to Donald Eigler (IBM) and Nadrian Seeman (New York University) for their development of “unprecedented methods to control matter at the nanoscale” (Eigler was the first person to pick up an atom and precisely move it to another location; Seeman invented structural DNA nanotechnology).
2010 The Nobel Prize in Physics is awarded to Andre Geim and Konstantin Novoselov (University of Manchester) for their development of graphene (which at the time was thought to be impossible). Both began their careers in physics in Russia.
2011 Intel begins production of 22 nm circuits.
2012 First commercial gene therapy (Glybera) approved by the European Union.
2013 Stanford University team builds first carbon nanotube computer.
2013 The European Community's nano labeling law goes into effect, applicable to all cosmetics that use nanomaterials.
2014 US federal investment in nanoscale research equals $1.7 billion ($20 billion since 2001).
2015 Use of 14 nm transistor chips called FinFETs in Apple iPhones and other devices.
2015 Announcement of the winners of the $10 million XPrize medical tricorder contest.
The Roots of Modern Nanoinnovation

The modern history of nanoinnovation is important because the world is still striving to fulfill the vision of the scientific pioneers who opened the floodgates to the nanoworld. It is important for us to pay homage to the pioneers who made nanoinnovation possible. As managers in science, business, government, and academia, we are all fulfilling the legacy they created, which we now call nanoinnovation. Some of the pioneers who have led us to our current advanced level of nanoinnovation include Richard Feynman, K. Eric Drexler, Richard Smalley, and Mihail “Mike” Roco. Their contributions are summarized here.

Plenty of Room at the Bottom

The era of modern nanotechnology began on December 29, 1959 with a lecture at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) by Richard Feynman who presented his historic vision of a process to manipulate individual atoms and molecules, including some of the unique properties that would prevail at this scale.

Most people do not realize the impact of Richard Feynman (1918–1988), who single-handedly set in motion a chain of investigations and scientific discoveries that laid the foundation for nanoinnovation – more than two decades before the term nanotechnology was coined. Undoubtedly, Richard Feynman is the scientific father of nanotechnology. His 1959 lecture was a call to arms that launched the nanotech revolution.

Dr. Feynman's lecture was entitled “There's Plenty of Room at the Bottom” and subtitled “An Invitation to Enter a New Field of Physics.” This scientific call to arms set the nanoscale wheels in motion by challenging scientists to find ways to “arrange the atoms the way we want” by tackling “the problem of manipulating and controlling things on a small scale.”

It is remarkable to look back at his comments and see how truly prescient and visionary he was. During his lecture, Dr. Feynman offered several examples of “possibilities” for ultrasmall manipulation. In many ways, this lecture was the first nanotechnology road map.

He discussed placing all the books in the world (which in 1959 totaled about 24 million) on the head of a pin and predicted that by 1970, the Caltech library of 120 000 volumes could be stored on one library card. Dr. Feynman argued that reading this ultraminiaturized information would require at least a 100× improvement in the electron microscopes that were state of the art at the time. He also noted that better microscopes were also needed to solve some of the fundamental problems of biology such as sequencing DNA and RNA. He recognized that the existing room-sized mainframe computers were too large and asked, “Why can't we make them very small?” He then went on to describe how increased pattern matching could provide computerized face recognition.

He told his audience: “In the great future – we can arrange the atoms the way we want” – which is exactly what nanoinnovators are doing today with nanoprobes and optical tweezers.

He cited an idea by Albert Hibbs to create mechanical surgeons that could be swallowed. In this book, I include the story of Proteus Digital Health and their Raisin™ System that includes sensors called “ingestible event markers” that measure the body's response to medications, combined with wearable sensors that communicate medical results. This and other intelligent medical products are direct descendants of the “swallowable surgeons” envisioned by Albert Hibbs and Richard Feynman.

Dr. Feynman described several of the challenges that would need to be overcome to innovate at the molecular and atomic scale. He explained how quantum forces would be more important at the molecular scale than gravity. He described the difficulty of creating billions of structures or devices that would require billions of tiny lathes in billions of tiny factories, to achieve what we now call high-throughput production. He admitted that there are many ways to achieve this, and suggested that one approach might be to make a set of devices that would make smaller devices, which in turn would make smaller devices, until molecular scale devices are achieved.

He chided his audience with this intriguing prediction: “In the year 2000, when they look back at this age, they will wonder why it was not until the year 1960 that anybody began seriously to move in this direction.”

He did not stop with this provocative challenge, but was willing to put his money where his mouth was. Dr. Feynman ended his lecture by personally offering a $1000 prize to the first person who could take the information on the page of a book and reduce it 1/25 000 times smaller in a way that could be read by an electron microscope. He offered a second $1000 prize to whoever could make an operating electric motor that is only 1/64 of a cubic inch. This challenge was not surprising, coming from a man who played the bongo drums for fun (you can see him playing on YouTube videos) and whose autobiography is playfully titled “Surely, You're Joking, Mr. Feynman” [20].

Four weeks after issuing this challenge, Caltech graduate William McLellan won the first prize by using (reportedly) a microscope, a watch-maker's lathe, and a toothpick, to create a motor that was 1/64th of a cubic inch. The motor had 13 parts, weighted 250 µg, and rotated at 2000 rpm. The second Feynman prize wasn't claimed until 1985, when a Stanford University graduate student named Tom Newman (working with his colleague Ken Polasko) used electron beam lithography to transcribe the first page of A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens in a 6 × 6 µm area, on the head of a pin.

In 1965, Dr. Feynman shared the Nobel Prize for Physics (with Sin-Itiro Tomonaga and Julian Schwinger) “for their fundamental work in quantum electrodynamics, with deep-ploughing consequences for the physics of elementary particles.”13) Dr. Feynman is credited with pioneering the field of quantum computing. Most people don't know that he worked on the atomic bomb. He was also on the panel that investigated the causes of the space shuttle Challenger disaster. He died in 1988 after a long battle with stomach cancer, and despite his health, gave his last lecture 2 weeks before he died. Today, all of us are now engaged in an inexorable march to fulfill the vision espoused by Richard Feynman.

Dr. Feynman's challenge to the scientific community was a true “call to arms” that set in motion an era of scientific investigation that extended from the day of his lecture to the present. In 2000 – the year Dr. Feynman predicted we will “someday look back on” – the United States launched the NNI, a multiagency to fund nanotechnology research and commercialization.

The National Nanotechnology Initiative

In 2001, the NNI set the standard for government–industry research programs worldwide, by establishing a multiagency research consortium that jump-started research by government and corporate partners. The NNI defined the goals for nanotechnology, set an ambitious research agenda for US scientists and corporate partners, led the establishment of new ventures, enlisted the involvement of leading scientists from many fields, promoted education at all levels, produced road maps and publications, and supported high-risk, high-return activities that would not have been otherwise possible. Today, the NNI spends more than $1.7 billion annually to support nanoscale science and engineering R&D at most US government agencies.

The NNI was conceived and led by Dr. Mihail “Mike” Roco (Figure 2.8) who worked on the initiative for several years before it was implemented in 2000 by President Bill Clinton. Dr. Roco was the founding chair of the National Science and Technology Council's subcommittee on Nanoscale Science, Engineering and Technology.

Figure 2.8 Mihail “Mike” Roco was a key architect of the NNI in the United States, and continues to play a leadership role in the development of nanoinnovation. His vision and leadership have been responsible for funding and promoting nanoinnovation on an extraordinary scale (photo by Michael Tomczyk).

He recalls how the NNI was developed as a concept in the mid-1990s: “In November 1996, I organized a small group of researchers and experts including Stan Williams (Hewlett Packard), Paul Alivisatos (University of California, Berkeley) and Jim Murday (Naval Research Laboratory). We studied the issues and needs and developed a vision for nanotechnology, despite low expectation of additional funding at that time. More than 150 experts were enlisted to help develop scientific and benchmarking studies and research directions, including milestones for U.S. government investment. Materials were distributed to more than 30,000 organization to rally support.” In 1999 at a meeting of the White House's Office of Science and Technology Policy, Dr. Roco formally proposed the NNI with an initial budget of half a billion dollars for fiscal year 2001. “I was given 10 minutes to make the case,” he recalls. “Fortunately, nanotechnology captured the imagination of the committee and the discussion stretched to two hours.” The first NNI budget was $489 million. “Looking back, it looks like we were off and running but in reality, the work was just beginning.”

“When we launched the NNI, six government agencies made nanotechnology an important priority. Over time, this expanded to 26 U.S. agencies, which shows the breadth of nanotechnology. The impact has been profound.”

As a nanoinnovation champion, Dr. Roco has had a profound personal effect on the establishment and funding of government programs. As the key architect of the NNI, Dr. Roco has been called the “godfather” of nanotechnology in the United States In 2007, Dr. Roco was awarded the National Materials Advancement Award from the Federation of Materials Society, which described him “as the individual most responsible for support and investment in nanotechnology by government, industry and academia worldwide.” Dr. Roco is credited with 13 patents, over 200 articles, and has written or contributed to 20 books. He coauthored (with Hsinchun Chen) the first rigorous assessments of nanotechnology research, publications, and patents [21]. His most recent book, coauthored with Chad Mirkin and Mark Hersam, is entitled Nanotechnology Research Directions for Societal Needs in 2020: Retrospective and Outlook (Springer, 2011).

Today he serves as Senior Advisor for Nanotechnology at the National Science Foundation, where he continues to guide the advancement of nanoinnovation.

The Vision of Molecular Manufacturing

The most controversial pioneer in the field of nanoinnovation is K. Eric Drexler, a visionary and futurist who is credited with several notable firsts. He wrote the first nanotechnology book, the first papers and books on molecular manufacturing, and the first nanotechnology textbook. He earned the first Ph.D. in molecular nanotechnology and established the first organization dedicated to advancing nanotechnology.

Eric Drexler began formulating his ideas about the future of nanotechnology as an undergraduate at MIT, where he went on to earn a Ph.D. in molecular nanotechnology, a field he created and has promoted tirelessly throughout his career. Dr. Drexler is credited with popularizing nanotechnology in the United States, which led to the creation of the NNI. His best-selling 1986 book, Engines of Creation: The Coming Era of Nanotechnology, presented the first detailed conception of molecular manufacturing and self-assembly of nanodevices. It was also the first book to use the term “nanotechnology” to refer to one-billionth of a meter.

Drexler was also the first public personality to recognize the potential dangers of nanotechnology. He described the possible risks, which range from criminal and military uses to dehumanizing effects. Most famously, he reasoned that if nanodevices could in fact be engineered to self-assemble and replicate themselves, they could also potentially spiral out of control and turn life on Earth to “gray goo” – turning engines of creation into engines of destruction. This meant that nanoscale self-assembly had to have built-in controls.

His use of the term nanotechnology, combined with his many “firsts” and his seminal work in developing the concept of molecular manufacturing, has earned Dr. Drexler an indisputable place in the history of nanoinnovation. If Richard Feynman is credited with inspiring the field of nanotechnology, then Eric Drexler earns the credit for introducing and popularizing nanotechnology.

Regrettably, Drexler's legacy was somewhat tarnished by a series of public exchanges in the media and scientific journals during 2003–04, called the Drexler–Smalley debates. In a series of exchanges and public letters, Eric Drexler and Richard Smalley argued the feasibility of Drexler's concept of molecular manufacturing and self-assembly of nanodevices.

Richard Smalley was a well-respected nanotechnology pioneer whose discoveries included the discovery of the carbon allotrope that he and his team called the “buckminsterfullerene” nicknamed “buckyballs” – a spherical arrangement of 60 carbon atoms arranged in atomic hexagons that resemble the geodesic domes created by famed architect Buckminster Fuller. Smalley and his colleagues were awarded the 1996 Nobel Prize for Chemistry for the discovery of fullerenes. Dr. Smalley was also the founder and leader of the first nanotechnology research program at Rice University, an early champion of the use of nanotechnology to develop alternative energy solutions, and cofounder of one of the first nanoventures (Carbon Nanotechnologies, Inc.).

An early supporter of Drexler's work, Smalley came to believe that quantum forces and properties would make molecular assembly (as envisioned by Drexler) infeasible. He believed that concepts like “gray goo” could scare children, alarm the public, and influence government funding for the NNI. He maintained that synthesis and replication would be achieved through chemical and biological processes – not molecular assembly as described by Drexler.

Drexler knew that molecular manufacturing and the development of nanofactories would take decades to achieve, and he wanted to get started immediately. He pushed for inclusion of molecular manufacturing and self-assembly in the first NNI research budgets. Smalley maintained that Drexler's approach was technically impossible and argued that the NNI should focus on nanomaterials (including, of course, fullerenes).

As a Nobel Prize recipient and atomic scientist, Smalley was accorded more credence than Drexler. In the long run, it is possible that losing the first battle may have helped win the war. As a result of the debate, combined with some political lobbying, molecular assembly was eliminated from the first NNI budgets and a pall was cast over molecular manufacturing.

As a footnote to this historical episode: Richard Smalley died in 2005 at the age of 62. Eric Drexler continues his work to promote the development of high-throughput atomically precise manufacturing, which he now refers to as productive nanosystems [22]

It can be argued that the Drexler–Smalley debates were in many ways healthy for the development of nanoinnovation. As a result of this debate, public fears were calmed and politicians were able to embrace and support nanotechnology – secure in the belief that if molecular manufacturing was not possible, nanobots would not spin out of control and destroy civilization. Scientists did not stop their research. Actually, the argument that Drexler's concept of molecular manufacturing is not feasible was like throwing down a gauntlet to the scientific community. It took a few years for the dust to settle, but eventually the NNI, DARPA, several research agencies in Europe, and large corporations started funding molecular manufacturing and self-assembly research.

Despite the technical difficulties involved, a dedicated group of innovators have picked up the flag and have been working to fulfill Drexler's vision, which in recent years has gained increased acceptance as research groups began to make progress in atomically precise manufacturing of nanoscale structures. In the business community, commercial work on molecular manufacturing is being aggressively pursued by several companies. In May 2010, Zyvex founder Jim Von Ehr said he hopes to have a nanotechnology system that can create block-like objects by 2015, and rudimentary molecular manufacturing by 2020.14)

The concept is also supported by a loyal following of technology champions and futurists, including Ray Kurzweil, the Foresight Institute and Battelle Corporation. Foresight and Battelle collaborated on a road map for the development of molecular manufacturing. It is likely that Dr. Drexler's vision of molecular manufacturing will be achieved in some form in the future, but no one knows whether this will occur in 5 or 50 years.

Nano Is Not New – Ancient Nanoinnovations

Nanotechnology seems like a totally modern concept. Actually, nanotechnology has an ancient history that dates back hundreds, even thousands, of years!

A surprising number of ancient mysteries are being solved today by nanoarchaeologists, scientists who study the ancient history of nanotechnology. In recent years, nanoarchaeologists have learned that nanoscale properties played an important role in a wide range of remarkable innovations, from hair dyes used in the time of the Pharaohs to weapons used in the Crusades. Many of these discoveries offer ideas that modern nanoinnovators are using to develop new products and processes.

Ancient Hair Dye

Ancient Egyptians, Greeks, and Romans were darkening their hair using dyes that created nanocrystals, as long as 4000 years ago. French researchers from the Center for Research and Restoration of the Museums of France have discovered that ancient lead–lime dyes used to darken human hair by forming nanocrystals of lead sulfide known as galena, a black pigment known to ancient Egyptians and used by Greeks and Romans in the time of Julius Caesar. Their findings are based on analysis of samples that are 2000 years old. The diameter of the nanocrystals averaged <5 nm, which allowed the crystals to penetrate the keratin microfibers of human hair [23]. This is an ancient example of what modern scientists call synthetic nanoscale biomineralization. Ironically, today the cosmetics industry is one of the largest users of nanotechnology.

The Damascus Sword

Another mystery involves the famed Damascus Sword used by ancient Islamic and Hindu warriors – a steel weapon so durable, it provided a military advantage to Islamic warriors during the Crusades, more than 1000 years ago. Damascus swords possessed legendary strength and an ability to retain a razor sharp edge. The blades were characterized by a wavy pattern known as “damask.” Saladin himself might have used one of these remarkable sabers. Unfortunately, by the eighteenth century, the secret of the ultrahard steel was lost.

Thanks to modern nanoarchaeologists, we know that the steel in these swords came from high-carbon iron ore steel mined in southern India. The ore was smelted into high-carbon steel cakes, called wootz, and forged into sword blades. During the smelting process, the ore formed carbon nanotubes and cementite nanowires, which made the Damascus Sword one of the first documented uses of carbon nanotubes in a commercial product [24].

The Lycurgus Cup

If you visit Room 41 of the British Museum in London, you can view the Lycurgus Cup (Figure 2.9), one of the world's most famous examples of ancient nanoinnovation. The cup, which is depicted on the next page, is a rare example of a Roman cage cup, created in the fourth century. The raised images on the cup depict the mythical King Lycurgus from Homer's Iliad, being strangled by vines after attacking Dionysus and Ambrosia. The Lycurgus Cup is a deep olive green, but when light shines through the glass, it turns to a translucent red. The stunning effect comes from the suspension of nanoparticles of colloidal gold (and silver) suspended in the glass, which appear red at the nanoscale [25].

Figure 2.9 The 400 A.D. Lycurgus Cup turns appears to transform from green to red when held up to the light, as a result of nanoparticles of colloidal gold embedded in the glass. The cup is on display in Room 41 at the British Museum in London (used with permission. Copyright The Trustees of the British Museum. All rights reserved).

Maya Blue

The turquoise blue pigment known as Maya Blue was used to decorate Mayan buildings, sculptures, murals, and pottery 500–1200 years ago. The striking blue pigment has retained its vivid color for centuries, despite humid conditions and corrosive elements [26]. The pigment is created by heating organic indigo pigment with palygorskite, a type of moist fibrous clay found in the Yucatan region of Mexico. This is a bit of an oversimplification but essentially, when the materials are heated, the moisture evaporates, allowing the indigo to fill the nanochannels in the clay, which are sealed when the clay cools.

These examples are not merely historical artifacts. Some of these discoveries explain technological mysteries that have eluded scientists for millennia. Nanoarchaeologists are revealing ancient uses of nanoscale properties that are still applicable today. They attest to the core principles of nanoinnovation – namely, that it's the implementation that provides value, even if the hows and whys of a specific innovation are not completely known.

2.1.10 Critical Issues for Nanoinnovation

As part of the research for this book, more than 150 nano-insiders were asked what they thought managers should know about nanoinnovation. Their responses suggest that first and foremost, managers need an understanding of the critical issues that will impact the strategic decisions of the people and organizations that are driving nanoinnovation. Here are a few insights in the experts' own words:

  • In general, managers need to know how to separate the hype from the reality of nanotech – and to recognize that hype still largely dominates most public discourse. – Peter Balbus, CEO and Managing Director, Pragmaxis
  • Nanoinnovation is not just about size, but how size influences the way materials, forces, and processes can be controlled and exploited at the nanoscale – for example, magnetism, friction, and the responses of the immune system. – Peter Binks, CEO, The General Sir Monash Foundation; former CEO, Nanotechnology Victoria Ltd.
  • Nanotechnology is going to enable devices that are needed and envisioned, but previously were not realized due to technical limitations, material availability, and so on. Managers should also understand that nanoinnovation is evolutionary and not revolutionary – these changes will not happen overnight. – Mark Banash, Ph.D., VP Engineering, NanoComp
  • Many nanotechnology developments are at least 15 years away – however, companies that discount these as too far away risk losing control and participation in nanoinnovations that will impact their industries. – Jaideep Raje, Analyst, Lux Research
  • Many products use nanomaterials today, but are not categorized as nano – in the future, managers will find that some of their existing products contain nanostructures or nanomaterials and are subject to new health and safety standards. – Fred Klaessig, Manager, Pennsylvania Bio Nano Systems
  • Nanotechnology is not just about going smaller – it's about the ability to build more complex materials and devices. – Charles Brumlik, Managing Partner, NanoBiz LLC; Consulting Principal, RES Partners
  • Nanotechnology will be a pervasive technology provider that will impact most parts of the economy, including low tech as well as high tech. For example, concrete was used by the Romans 2000 years ago and has not changed much in two millennia, but nanotechnology is changing concrete and improving it. – Patrick Ennis, Global Head of Technology, Intellectual Ventures; former Managing Director, ARCH Venture Partners
  • Nanotechnology will solve problems at the “bottom of the pyramid” in India, China, and other regions of the world and these solutions will in turn help lower costs in healthcare and other sectors in the industrialized world. – Dr. Anita Goel, Physicist, Harvard-MIT; Chairman/CEO, Nanobiosym
  • The success of nanoinnovation depends to a large extent on the availability of managers and team members who understand both business and technology. The rapid growth of nanotechnology worldwide is straining the pool of available talent. It will take time to train and cultivate enough resources to meet the demand for talent and leadership. – Michael Terlaak, CEO/Executive Director and Founder, Nanotechnology Research Foundation, VP-Business Development, NEXUSNanoTech

These are only a few examples of the types of insights managers need to know in order to understand, help develop, promote, and benefit from the innovations that are expected to emerge from nanotechnology research projects and commercial ventures. From this foundation, let's look next at the “science of nanoinnovation” and find out what nanoscientists are working on now, and how their discoveries will transform industries, markets, and societies.

Notes

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