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Highlights from Nanotech 2003 Conference

By Pamela Bailey
Posted on February 27, 2003

NanoApex's reporter covers some highlights from the nanotech2003 conference that was held in the San Fransisco area in late February, 2003.

San Francisco, February 27, 2003. Researchers from all disciplines, businessmen and women and venture capitalists from across the globe have been gathered in San Francisco for the last five days to attend the Nanotech2003 conference, sponsored by the Nano Science & Technology institute. The conference featured four tracks, NanoTechnology, MicroTechnology, BioTechnology and NanoBusiness.

This highly technical conference was not for the novice. There were representatives from research laboratories across the world, including government and academia, as well as industry. Prestigious government labs such as Sandia National Laboratory, Los Alamos National Laboratory, NASA, and DARPA had a presence at the conference, as did some of the larger corporations, including industry giants such as Motorola [profile], HP [profile], Chevron, Texas Instruments, Agilent [profile] and others. Presentations were given on diverse subjects ranging from drug design and molecular medicine and microfluidics to molecular electronics and semiconductors and everything "nano" in between. There were literally hundreds of posters on every possible aspect of nanotechnology research. It is fair to say that nanotechnology research is escalating at an exponential rate and that we will be seeing the results of all of this research sooner, rather than later.

When asked what the “killer apps” for nanotechnology would be in the next five years or so, Albert Pisano, of the University of California at Berkeley, indicated nanocommunications, specifically RFID tags, (which can be used for tracking and securing goods in the supply chain, reducing theft, improving on-shelf availability, and implementing real-time manufacturing), bioassays and bioweapons detection, and for retrofitting (distributing sensors throughout already built infrastructure to detect things on high tension wires, underground, in insulation, etc.).

Sandreep Malhotra, Ph.D., from Ardesta, a venture capital and incubation firm, said that the driving forces for the commercialization of nanotech included miniaturization, semiconductor manufacturing, magnetic storage, MEMS (which is already a multi-billion dollar industry), the sequencing of the human genome and molecular diagnostics. He then went on to describe how trends are moving towards nanosystems—nanoscale elements in a micro or macro system. Dr. Malhotra predicts that nanotech will be as pervasive as the semiconductor industry. He foresees the convergence of the physics, chemical, and biological fields to design novel systems based on unique nanoscale properties. Such systems would include sensing, analysis, communications, control and power. He believes that nanotools, manufacturing technology, and software all have tremendous potential in the next three years, as do drug delivery and high throughput diagnostics.

Dr. Malhotra sees inorganic nano-materials (Nanophase [profile], Altair [profile]), carbon nanotubes (CN [profile], Hyperion [profile]), and nano-material-related opportunities (NanoGram [profile], Nanosys [profile]), nanotools, manufacturing technology and software (NanoInk [profile]), life sciences (Nanofluidics [profile], Nanosphere [profile], C-Sixty [profile]), and nanoelectronics, engineering and computing (Nantero [profile], Neophotonics [profile]) as the investment opportunity spectrum at the present time.

Right now, one of the biggest technical hurdles to be overcome for nanotech commercialization is the fabrication of bulk materials and components and integration of those materials and components into nanosystems that can solve real-world problems. While there is still a lot of talk about top-down vs. bottom-up, we can be sure that we will see a lot of research in the next few years on self-assembly of nanomaterials and components.

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