During the JTECH visit to Japan in 1988, when only a few ERATO projects were complete and ongoing, it was possible to review the scientific activities in some detail. In 1995, this was not possible, and at most only some general impressions could be obtained, with a few specific details for a small number of projects. ERATO had simply grown too large, in those seven years, for all the past and present projects to be carefully reviewed in one week for technical accomplishments and impact. It is therefore with reservation that members of this panel attempt to make any detailed comments on the ERATO projects in the physical sciences.
Clearly ERATO has supported research that is respected and widely referenced in the worldwide scientific community. In some cases, i.e., for some of the projects, the work appears to be regarded as the most important, or among the most important, in the field. In at least one case, the project can be viewed as having created the field. Without in any way trying to be comprehensive, a few highlights can be mentioned.
One of the first projects (1981-1986), the Hayashi Ultra-Fine Particle project, has had both commercial and scientific success. This project was quite extensively reviewed in the 1988 JTECH report, which makes interesting reading in hindsight. Film Deposition Systems, using the methods pursued in the project, have been developed and sold. As with most ERATO projects, there is an interesting story about the effect of the project on the careers of the participants. In this case, Dr. Sumio Iijima joined the project from a position at Arizona State University, a center of activity in electron microscopy. Under the ERATO project, he developed a high-vacuum and high-resolution electron microscope, which allowed him to image for the first time the growth and restructuring of small gold particles. In 1987, Iijima joined NEC, where he continued both microscopy research and the development of the microscopes. In 1991, he discovered carbon nanotubes, a discovery of major scientific importance. While this discovery was not made under ERATO funding, Iijima has stated that he owes his career in Japan to the opportunity to do fundamental research in the Hayashi ERATO project. He also illustrated a difficulty in the early projects, which has been addressed since, in that he was not able to take his custom microscope from the project to NEC. This loss of equipment was one outcome of fixed-term funding, in that his work was disrupted at the end of the project. 6
It has been argued that the Goto Quantum Magneto Flux Logic Project (1986-1991) did not result in technology that was widely adopted, which is true. But for an ERATO project, this is surely the wrong judgment. The project did successfully explore the limits of an alternative high-speed digital device technology. After the formal end of the project, work continued at Hitachi, where a 36 GHz circuit was demonstrated. Using the same technology, HP and Conductus in the United States built a "stop watch" with a timing resolution of 300 femtoseconds. In terms of expanding the envelope of knowledge, the project succeeded. Five books, the proceedings of annual conferences, were published; and 34 Japanese and 14 foreign patents were filed, "one of which has made some money." Most of the superconducting electronics research worldwide is now based on the manipulation of single flux quanta, following either the ideas of the Goto project or those of the work of Likharev and his group in the Soviet Union. The human interest story in this project is that Professor Goto is now working, at least part of his time, on the engineering issues associated with design of low-cost refrigerators. Such refrigerators are a necessity if superconducting circuits are to be widely used.
A project to explore X-ray lithography technology that was anticipated to be needed in ten years or so was the Yoshida Nano-Mechanism project (1985-1990). Dr. Yoshida was the Managing Director of Nikon and is now Executive Vice President. One can only wonder how many similarly placed executives in the United States could be an ERATO project director. The project, which included groups studying analysis and tools such as the scanning tunneling microscope (STM), controlled positioning systems, and processing of multilayers for X-ray optics, resulted in the development of a dual laser interferometer with 1 nanometer resolution. Dr. Yoshida stated that there was no research activity in X-ray techniques at Nikon before the ERATO funding. At the end of the project, a joint seminar with the United Kingdom nanotechnology group was held at Warwick University, United Kingdom, which attracted over one hundred attendees.
Relatively few projects fall outside the areas of the physical sciences or biology. One such example, however, is the ongoing Kawachi Millibioflight project (1992-1997), which could perhaps be called an aeronautical engineering basic research project. From his experience in fluid dynamics, Prof. Kawachi and his team, which includes a research manager from the National Aerospace Laboratory, are studying the mechanisms of flight used by insects. The study appears to be an interesting departure from the more traditional fields of study of the majority of the physical sciences projects, but it is too early to judge its effect on the field.
In most projects, the research followed the initially defined directions reasonably closely. However, the Kimura Metamelt project (1990-1995) began as a study of phenomena occurring in both liquids and solids during the growth from the melt of crystals of optical materials such as lithium niobate. During the first year, with some encouragement from the companies that had sent participants, the project was reoriented towards similar studies of silicon crystal growth. It is interesting to note that research into silicon is a very well-supported field worldwide.
A number of projects illustrate an important aspect of ERATO funding, namely that it has made possible an accelerated program after an initial idea has been conceived or after early observations looked promising. Clearly JRDC has demonstrated agility in identifying and funding such fields at their early stages.
One such example is the Aono Atomcraft project (1989-1994), which developed methods to detect, displace, extract, and deposit single atoms on surfaces using STM techniques. This project had a five-person international advisory board, which included Dr. Rohrer of IBM, Zurich, who with Binnig invented the STM. Before the ERATO funding, Dr. Aono's research at the Institute for Physical and Chemical Research (RIKEN) was limited by equipment and personnel. The project allowed two or three instruments to be built, and two to be purchased, and made possible the participation of theorists and industrial scientists. Aono clearly saw it as a turning point in his research career. He did comment, however, along with some other directors, that the project members were really making great progress in their fifth year, and even greater things could have been done if the project had been longer. In fact, following the end of the Atomcraft project, a high-technology consortium between JRDC and industry has continued some of the work for two years, and STA will be funding an Atomic Scale Sciengineering group at RIKEN from 1995 to 1999. Another example of ERATO quickly expanding work around an early discovery is the Tonomura Electron Wavefront project (1989-1994). Dr. Tonomura, at Hitachi Laboratories, had for some years attempted to observe interference between electron beams. Not until the development of the field emission tip as the electron source were the beams sufficiently coherent for such experiments to be possible. ERATO funding allowed his group to grow in an area that even the most basic of the Hitachi labs regarded as risky. The work, which includes the observation by electron holography of vortices in \erconductors, is now internationally renowned. The end of the project was marked by a joint conference at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory.
A number of ERATO projects have strong international linkages or have led to such collaborations. After the end of the Sakaki Quantum Wave project (1988-1993), which was at the forefront of research into dimensionally confined structures made by the growth of III-V semiconductor samples on nonplanar substrates, an International Joint Research Program (IJRP) was funded by JRDC to extend from 1994 to 1999. Under this program, entitled Quantum Transition, similar work on III-V quantum structures is being carried out at both the University of Tokyo and the University of California, Santa Barbara.
The Yamamoto Quantum Fluctuation project (1993-1998) was international in scope from the beginning of ERATO funding in that groups are located at Stanford University, where Professor Yamamoto has taken an appointment, and at the NTT Basic Research Laboratory, where he holds a joint position and visits every two months or so.