Before describing their conference wrap-up, here’s a little information about the Foresight Institute from their Wikipedia entry (Note: Links have been removed),
The Institute was founded in 1986 by K. Eric Drexler [a seminal figure in the US and the international nanotechnology story], no longer with the Institute, along with his then wife Christine Peterson, who now serves on the Board of Directors.
Two sister organizations were formed: the Institute for Molecular Manufacturing and the Center for Constitutional Issues in Technology.
Foresight Institute was founded “to guide emerging technologies to improve the human condition” but focused “its efforts upon nanotechnology, the coming ability to build materials and products with atomic precision, and upon systems that will enhance knowledge exchange and critical discussion.”
The institute has organized an annual conference for several years now and a March 10, 2014 news item on Azonano offers details about the 2014 Foresight Institute Technical Conference, which took place Feb. 7 – 9, 2014,
“Integration” was the theme of the 2014 Foresight Technical Conference, and the invited speakers covered a broad range of scopes. Within the human scope, topics included the integration of nanoscale technologies into social, political, and economic spheres. Within the technical scope, topics included the integration of atomic and molecular parts into nanoscale structures and devices, as well as into existing and projected commercial products. The following comments derive mainly from technical-scope topics.
There were a number of striking examples of integration on the technical level, including this year’s winner of the Feynman Prize for Experimental work, Alex Zettl of UC [University of California] Berkeley. His functional radio system that exploits the oscillations of a single carbon nanotube may have applications in single atom detection as well. Advancing towards quantum computing and devices, Michelle Simmons of University of New South Wales described her fabrication process that uses a combination of atomic placement and tightly localized chemical transfers that position individual atoms in predictable locations leading to, for example, precise alignment of a single row of dopant atoms in a 3D silicon framework.
The Foresight Institute’s 2014 conference wrap-up notice (scroll down) by Stephanie Corchnoy, which originated the news item, offers more detail,
Tapping into both human and technological scopes, a number of talks focused on new laboratory facilities designed to be shared across government, academic, and private enterprises specifically for research on the nanoscale. The goal: to remove an existing bottleneck to innovation posed by lack of access to highly specialized and expensive equipment, such electron microscopes, and/or the expertise to use them. In the true spirit of collaboration, some of the talks were presented by two co-speakers.
Looking toward the near future, metrology was emphasized as a key bottleneck to progress in nanoscale fabrication. Access to equipment is one aspect of the bottleneck that may be addressed by the emergence of shared-access facilities, but the technical bottleneck is a separate problem. A number of speakers discussed advanced etching techniques achieving features in the 6-15 nm size range and noted that technology to adequately image these products is falling behind. This problem was not unforeseen – a metrology shortfall was discussed in the 2006 Nanotechnology Roadmap, which accounted for a convergence of top-down and bottom-up fabrication processes. Adequate metrology will be critically needed for products in this size regime regardless of the particular fabrication process in play.
This brings to mind the familiar question: Who should be listening to calls for action and taking action? Staying within this year’s theme, Congressman Michael Honda, who gave opening remarks at the conference, spoke of the challenge of integrating scientific expertise into policy making. This challenge is not new and holds its complexity even as nanoscale R&D grows globally and strides towards APM accelerate.
In keeping with last year’s conference (focused on Atomic Precision), there was a sense of energy, momentum, and collegiality throughout the weekend that speakers and attendees alike noted as unique.