The National Science Foundation and other agencies of the U.S. government have asked the World Technology Evaluation Center (WTEC) to perform an assessment of status and trends in nanoparticle and nanostructure technology and applications R&D around the world in comparison to the United States. The purposes of this study are to provide the scientific and engineering community with a critical view of the field and identify the most promising areas for research and industrial development; to stimulate the development of an interdisciplinary and international community of nanoparticles/nanostructures researchers; and to identify opportunities for international collaboration in the field.

Sponsors of the study include the Engineering, Math and Physical Sciences, and Biological Sciences Directorates of the National Science Foundation, the Air Force Office of Scientific Research, the Office of Naval Research, the National Institute of Standards and Technology, the Department of Commerce (Asia/Pacific Technology Program), the National Institutes of Health, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, and the Department of Energy of the U.S. government.

The first phase of the WTEC study is a review of the status of U.S. R&D in related nanotechnology fields, which was accomplished by holding the May 8-9 workshop. This proceedings document is the report of that workshop.


Nanoparticle synthesis, processing, and device manufacturing are part of an emerging field referred to as nanotechnology. R&D in this field emphasizes scientific discoveries in the generation of nanoparticles with controlled characteristics; research on their processing into microstructured bulk materials with engineered properties and technological functions; and introduction of new device concepts and manufacturing methods. New properties are due to size reduction to the point where critical length scales of physical phenomena become comparable to or larger than the size of the structure. Applications take advantage of high surface area and confinement effects, which lead to nanostructures with different properties than conventional materials, and which create opportunities for innovative principles of operation for devices and instruments. Synthesis and processing of nanoparticles/nanostructures will require new aerosol, colloid, thermal, plasma, or combustion approaches, and device manufacturing is at the intersection of a broad spectrum of disciplines. R&D in this field is also stimulating understanding of the physics of new phenomena and processes at nanoscales (1-100 nm), furthering the development of new modeling and experimental tools, and generating new device principles and manufacturing methods.

Industry recognizes the extraordinary potential the nanotechnology field offers in the form of bulk, composite, or coating materials to optoelectronic engineering, magnetic recording, ceramics and special metals engineering, bioengineering, and micromanufacturing (building from small to large, unlike microelectromechanical systems). Nanostructured materials or nanoprocessed devices have a broad range of applications, from pharmaceuticals, bioengineering, pigments, and electronics to optical and magnetic devices or structures and coatings with special properties. Large-scale nanotechnology programs, institutes, and research networks have been initiated recently on a wide range of topics in Europe, Japan, China, and other countries.

The importance of nanotechnology was underscored a few years ago with the announcement by Japan's Ministry of International Trade and Industry of two 10-year nanotechnology programs (Science 1991, 1303): the Atom Technology Project for $185 million, and the Quantum Functional Devices Project for $40 million. Japan's Science and Technology Agency also funds several research institutes on nanoparticles, nanostructures, and related technologies. It is believed that Japanese companies and research institutions are focused in particular on the processing and manufacturing aspects of nanotechnology, including advanced diagnostics instrumentation and applications in microelectronics.


The sponsors determined that the scope of study should include the topics and issues described below.

Technologies to be Covered

The primary objectives will be to document the research and technological levels of other countries in the following areas:

There is a special focus on nanoparticle processing and manufacturing into new devices and applications. Biological applications are being explicitly addressed. Other issues covered include diagnostics techniques, scale-up, and miniaturization.

Since nanostructured materials are generally metastable with respect to their larger-structured counterparts, this study is also surveying the stability of particle assembly and other nanostructures under the effects of thermal, magnetic, optical, and chemical factors, along with methods to stabilize them.

Education, Infrastructure, and Other Issues

The study is evaluating university and industrial research, education, and technological development, and their interactions. The WTEC panel seeks to establish linkages between centers of excellence abroad and U.S. organizations, and is developing a World Wide Web-based international information center on this topic in the United States ( Other areas of focus include the following:


Based on the above objectives, the following panel of U.S. experts in the relevant fields were recruited to carry out the study:

Richard Siegel (panel chair), Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
Evelyn Hu (panel co-chair), University of California, Santa Barbara
Donald Cox, Exxon Corporation
Herb Goronkin, Motorola Corporation
Lynn Jelinski, Cornell University
Carl Koch, North Carolina State University
John Mendel, Eastman Kodak Corporation
David Shaw, State University of New York, Buffalo


The sponsors and the panelists agreed on an outline of the study, as detailed below.

Nano materials can be classified into the following categories:

  1. clusters with aspect ratios between 1 and infinity

  2. multilayers

  3. ultrafine grained overlayers

  4. nanophase materials

The overall focus of this study is on the building blocks, their assembly in controlled ways to make materials with new properties, and the assembly of these materials into useful "things" (devices, etc.). This hierarchy of (a) atomically engineered building blocks, (b) assembly and materials fabrication, and (c) applications is the basis for organizing this study. What this study aims to give is a "broad-brush, stand-back" view of the world of nanostructures and their applications, both now and in the future, with respect to both short-term and "blue-sky" applications.

Based on this approach, an organizational chart was drawn for the study, as shown in Fig. 2.1. The draft report outline based on this structure calls for a separate chapter for each of the applications boxes at the bottom of this structure, each to be written by one panelist. These will be preceded by a broad "synthesis and manufacturing" chapter to be written by Evelyn Hu and David Shaw (representing the top box in the figure). Thus, the report outline is as follows:

Executive Summary (Richard Siegel)
Introduction and Methodology, Benchmark (Richard Siegel)
Nanoparticles/Nanolayers -- Synthesis/Manufacturing of Nanostructures (Evelyn Hu, David Shaw)
Dispersions and Coatings (John Mendel)
High-Surface-Area Materials (Don Cox)
Functional Nanostructures and Nanodevices (Herb Goronkin)
Consolidated Materials and Parts (Carl Koch)
Biological Approaches and Applications (Lynn Jelinski)
Appendices: biographies, site reports, glossary, etc.

Fig. 2.1. Organizational chart of the WTEC study.

Prof. Jelinski also will work with all of the other chapter authors to assure that biological issues, approaches, and applications are adequately covered throughout the report.

The above outline was also followed in organizing the presentations for the May 8-9, 1997 U.S. review workshop.

[Previous Section][Top of Report][Send Your Comments][WTEC Welcome Page][Next Section]

Published: January 1998; WTEC Hyper-Librarian