(Americas, Asia/Pacific, and Europe)

M.C. Roco1

National Science Foundation


Scientific breakthroughs combined with recent research programs in the United States, Japan, and Europe, and various initiatives in Australia, Canada, China, Korea, Singapore, and Taiwan highlight the international interest in nanoscale science and technology. Definitions of nanotechnology vary somewhat from country to country. Nanotechnology as defined for the projects reviewed in this chapter arises from the exploitation of the novel and improved physical, chemical, mechanical, and biological properties, phenomena, and processes of systems that are intermediate in size between isolated atoms/molecules and bulk materials, where phenomena length and time scales become comparable to those of the structure. It implies the ability to generate and utilize structures, components, and devices with a size range from about 0.1 nm (atomic and molecular scale) to about 100 nm (or larger in some situations) by control at atomic, molecular, and macromolecular levels. Novel properties occur compared to bulk behavior because of the small structure size and short time scale of various processes. Nanotechnology's size range and particularly its new phenomena set it apart from the technologies referred to as microelectromechanical systems (MEMS) in the United States or microsystems technologies (MST) in Europe.

It is estimated that nanotechnology is presently at a level of development similar to that of computer/information technology in the 1950s. As indicated in the preceding chapters and as evidenced by the WTEC panel's research and observations during the course of this study, the development of nanoscale science and technology is expected by most scientists working in the field to have a broad and fundamental effect on many other technologies. This helps to explain the phenomenal levels of R&D activity worldwide. This chapter presents an overview of most of the significant nanotechnology research programs in the world. Where possible, a general picture is given of the funding levels of the programs, based on site interviews and publications.

1 Opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the position of the National Science Foundation.

Published: September 1999; WTEC Hyper-Librarian