This year is the ten year anniversary for a leading nanotechnology conference, the Nanotechnology for Defense Conference (NT4D). The call for abstracts indicates a February 18, 2012 initial deadline. The conference will be held August 6-10 in Summerlin, Nevada.
Defense is one of the fundamental and perhaps the most stable pillar for nanotechnology commercialization, along with other pillars such as bio nanotechnology and energy. The history of the Department of Defense’s (DoD) interest in nanotechnology is noted in the Foreward of Ratner and Ratner’s book, Nanotechnology and Homeland Security, 2004 (written by James Murday, Office of Naval Research). The DoD interest in nanotechnology can be “clearly identified as early as the late 1970′s when its Ultrasubmicron Electronics Research (USER) program.” The DoD had a long history for research in the miniaturization of electronics. Early efforts focused on 2 nm structures and led to superlattice technologies. Programs in the 1980′s sought to exploit new tools like STM and AFM. In the 1990′s, DARPA initiated an ULTRA program for ultra fast, ultra dense electronics program. In addition, the Office of Naval Research began a program in nanostructured coatings. By 1997, the importance of nanotechnology to the DOD led to its designation as a “strategic research area.” When the NNI was created in 2001, the DoD wan an “enthusiastic supporter.”
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These are busy times for those following innovation law and policy including nanotech and cleantech. Manufacturing and patents are central themes.
First, I was in Pittsburgh Friday when President Obama visited Carnegie Mellon University and announced the Advanced Manufacturing Partnership (AMP) (text attached below). AMP flows from the attached "Report to the President on Ensuring American Leadership in Advanced Manufacturing," June 2011, President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST) (also attached below).
In addition, on Thursday, the House finally passed a bill on patent reform, following the Senate’s passage earlier in the year.
The PCAST Report featured several angles on nanotechnology. The Report discussed areas where promising, useful technologies face potential market failure, which suggests government should play a stronger role in promoting the technology through, for example, public-private partnerships. Several specific examples were discussed including nano-scale carbon materials, nanotechnology enabled medical diagnostics, flexible electronics, and next-generation optoelectronics. The Report also comments on the criticality of nanoelectronics. The PCAST Report noted only briefly the role of patents, noting China has a strong patent initiative.
Furthermore, another new initiative from the Obama Administration is the Materials Genome Initiative (also attached). The gist is to use computational and combinatorial methods to speed up materials commercialization.
What will be next? One new development linked to all of this is that the Pennsylvania Nanomaterials Commercialization Center, with offices in Pittsburgh, has announced a new round of funding focusing on energy applications (Idea Submission deadline, July 20, 2011, http://www.pananocenter.org/) Pittsburgh is also a center for the western Pennsylvanian Marcellus Shale commercialization push. While innovation is a national issue, Pittsburgh certainly is a leading point of focus in current innovation and econonmic issues. This explains the President’s visit.
The NNI Web site has now posted the slides from the NNI at Ten event held in Washington DC, December 8-10. Hopefully, the impact of this excellent event will be directly seen in 2011. It would be good, for example, if the federal government continues to leverage the event throughout the year to push nanotechnology commercialization progress, including applications in cleantech, nano biotechnology, electronics, among others. The fruits of the spending on nanotechnology research – the investment value – should be brought to the public’s attention. Supplementing this, the quiet, implicit developments in nanotech will continue over the next decade.
For those of us who are watchers of the activities at the SCOTUS, the oral arguments of In re Bilski took place at the high court on November 9, 2009. To provide first-hand insight, Foley featured a same-day webinar that adressed the appeal concerning the parameters of determining patent eligibility in a case that will impact all technology areas — from electronics, financial services, and insurance, to life sciences industries. With the final decision not due until mid-2010, this hearing provided the first critical insight into whether the Supreme Court will significantly narrow or expand the scope of the patent eligibility under 35 U.S.C. § 101.
Carbon nanotubes are commonly known for their potential applications in electronic devices. But as fertilizers?
It appears that thanks to a team led by Dr. Khodakovskaya and Dr. Biris, these tiny cylinders of carbon atoms might have found their way into being valuable in agriculture as well. For detail, see an article from a recent issue of The Economist.