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The future of nanotechnology

Visions of self-replicating nanomachines that could devour the Earth in a "grey goo" are probably wide of the mark, but "radical nanotechnology" could still deliver great benefits to society. The question is how best to achieve this goal, as Richard Jones explains.

Quantum change for nanotubes

A metallic carbon nanotube can be made into a semiconductor and vice versa when a magnetic field is combined with a little quantum mechanics. Jing Kong, Leo Kouwenhoven and Cees Dekker explain.

Prince Charles airs his nano-views

The UK's Prince Charles has spoken out again on nanotechnology. Writing in The Independent on Sunday newspaper, Charles detailed his concerns that society won't pay proper attention to the risks the technology may bring.

Optical litho: there are no fundamental limits

Illuminating silicon wafers with a pattern of light has long been the process of choice for making microelectronics, but there are fears that it will not be able to meet future demands. Steven Brueck, a supporter of the technology, argues why it is here to stay.

Low-loss nanowires create a wealth of applications

Optical sensors, integrated circuits and photonic devices are just some of the applications set to benefit from nanowires made out of glass. Jacqueline Hewett speaks to the researchers pioneering the development of these ultra-fine fibres.

2003: nanotechnology in the firing line

2003 was the year when nanotechnology collided with the real world. It was a painful collision, bringing prophecies of doom, fears of hidden dangers and calls for a moratorium on nanoscience. But the appearance of an ethical dimension to nanotechnology may serve the useful purpose of forcing other emerging technologies to confront questions about public understanding and perceptions about social responsibility. And, for nanoscience in particular, it may help to sharpen views about what the field comprises and where it is headed. Philip Ball looks at what we have learnt from the year that “nano” hit the headlines, in a feature based on a talk he gave at the International Conference on Nanomaterials and Nanomanufacturing held at The Royal Society, London, UK, on 15-16 December 2003.

Ball-bearings for the 21st century

Quantum dots will be to this century what ball-bearings were to the last - the unseen enablers of a new era of human invention. So says Paul O’Brien, head of chemistry at Manchester University in the UK and founder of a company called Nanoco that manufactures these nanometre-sized lumps of semiconductor. Edwin Cartlidge finds out more.

UK working group scrutinizes nanotechnology

Back in June, the UK government commissioned an investigation into the implications of nanotechnology. Ann Dowling, chair of the working group carrying out the study, gives more details.

Nanotechnology policy under the microscope

Last month saw more than 70 delegates gather in the north-west of England to discuss the exploitation of micro- and nanotechnology. Liz Kalaugher reports.

Biological quantum dots go live

Nanocrystals have overcome their fear of water to image living embryonic cells. Laurent A Bentolila and Shimon Weiss give the details.

Diatomists shell out on nanotechnology

It's unlikely that many nanotechnologists are familiar with diatoms - a group of single-celled shelled algae - but that could change following a world-first conference on diatom nanotechnology that's set to take place in the US in October. Liz Kalaugher spoke to conference organizer Richard Gordon of the University of Manitoba, Canada, to find out more.

Nanoscience enables revolutionary molecular electric circuits

As traditional silicon circuitry continues to shrink towards a point where it can no longer function, researchers are searching for alternative methods to develop smaller, faster, and smarter computer chips. Yong Chen explains his research group's recent work to create the memory circuits of the future.

Microelectronics goes nanomechanical

In order to make nanoelectronic structures, researchers must manipulate both the architecture and the electronic properties of very small volumes of matter. This can be achieved mechanically using atomic force microscopy or chemically through self-assembly. Now, a new type of device in which electron transport is manipulated by both electrical and mechanical means has been built. Mats Jonson and Robert Shekhter report.

Femtosecond pulses generate microstructures

Femtosecond lasers can now create 3D structures as small as human cells and beat the diffraction limit to generate sub-wavelength microstructures. Phillip Hill finds out more about the latest developments at Laser Zentrum Hannover.

Infineon forges ahead with nanotube applications

In June 2002, German semiconductor giant Infineon announced that it had developed a procedure for growing carbon nanotubes on silicon wafers that was compatible with standard microelectronics techniques. Liz Kalaugher spoke to Infineon's Wolfgang Hoenlein and Franz Kreupl to get an update.

Nanotechnology for an agile optical network

The volume of data transported across communications networks continues to grow, forcing service providers to design, build, and add capacity to their systems. Optical networks are essential to meet these future communications needs. Ted Sargent discusses the role nanoscale science can play in creating the necessary technologies and components.