Driven by a federal executive order with an inspiring budget, the
visionary challenge put forth by Richard Feynman in his well known
1959 presentation Plenty of Room at the Bottom is now on its way to
becoming reality. Feynmans prediction of an age of nanoscience
served as a lightening rod for innovative thinking about what
might be, and set the pace for the evolution of nanotechnology.
Today, the National Nanotechnology Initiative (NNI) is pushing the
pervasive application of nanoscience to technological advancements
in health improvement, information technology, agricultural advancement,
materials and energy conservation, and environmental sustainability.
Nanoscience is the study of materials manipulation at the molecular
scaleon the order of a few hundred angstromsless than
one-thousandth the width of a human hair. The extraordinary feature
of nanoscience is that it allows for the tailoring and combining of
the physical, biological, and engineering properties of matter at
a common level of control.
Critical to progress in nanosciences have been the stunning new achievements
in fabrication, processing and tool development in the last several
decades, driven in large part by the microelectronics revolution.
These developments today allow for molecular-level tailoring of materials
not heretofore explorable except through naturally occurring atomic
The NNI, with a mission to promote basic and applied research and
educational initiatives in nanoscience and technology, budgeted $422
million in 2001 and $604 million in 2002 across several federal agencies.
The Presidents budget request for 2003 is $710 million. With
NNI funding, nanoscience knowledge generation and engineering concepts
are emerging across a broad spectrum of science and engineering disciplines.
Examples include information technology, nanoelectromechanical components,
interactive and smart textiles, medical sensors and probes, and super-efficient
engines. It comes as no surprise that one of the new application areas
included in the Presidents 2003 request is chemical-biological-radioactive-explosive
detection and protection.
NC States faculty and equipment resources in nanotechnology
stack up against those of the top universities in the country. Increased
federal support for nanotechnology research at NC State is producing
interdisciplinary results cutting across engineering, physics, chemistry
and biologyall strengths on our campus. The NNI presents a tremendous
opportunity for NC Statewhere multi- and interdisciplinary university-industry
partnerships are the coin of the realm to be a leader in the
emerging field of nanoscience and technology, now termed the
next industrial revolution.
Dr. Iafrate served 24 years in the U.S. Army Electronics Technology
and Device Laboratory and eight years as the director of the U.S.
Army Research Office. He recently served on a National Academy of
Science team to review the progress of the National Nanotechnology