Another interesting nanotechnology book recently appeared, The Visioneers, by W. Patrick McCray, 2013, 323 pages, $29.95 hardback at Barnes & Noble (“How a group of elite scientists pursued space colonies, nanotechnologies, and a limitless future”). One focus in this book is on the history of nanotechnology up to around 2004, including the role of Eric Drexler and Richard Smalley and their famous debate. The origin of the NNI is briefly covered. The multiple strands of nanotechnology are explored, ranging from futuristic concepts to advanced materials science for making products now. Tensions between different nanotech philosophies and groups are explored. Good read, although it would have been interesting if more content had been provided for after 2004. Also, nanotechnology is only one of two conveyed stories of visioneering.
Also, 3D printing seems to be the rage these days in the technical and general media. The USPTO will hold a special session on 3D printing on January 23,2013. The 3D printing company ExOne is announcing an IPO attempt. In 3D printing, thin layers are built on one another. Nanotechnology connects in the materials used for 3D printing, as well as the notion of making thinner and thinner layers. Where is nanotechnology going? It is impacting personalized medicine and energy.
Clearly, one visioneering answer also now arising is in 3D printing.
This week, press reports show Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) received a large, jury damage award ($1.17B) in a patent infringement lawsuit. This significant development is part of the on-going important policy dialog about university patenting, as noted in the attached press report link. Apparently, the patents arose out of the CMU Data Storage Systems Center (DSSC) (see US Patent Nos. 6,201,839 and 6,438,180; noise detection technology for computer hard drives). The damages might rise or fall with additional legal proceedings.
While the patents in the suit were not nanotechnology patents, the DSSC has a large nanotechnology aspect to its efforts. Also, university patenting is an important part of the nanotechnology innovation “ecosystem.”
Carbon nanotubes continue to demonstrate amazing versatility. For example, IBM recently announced 9 nm transistors that outperform silicon. Nanocomp makes larger carbon nanotube structures and show, on their web page, 32 foot sheets. The web page, www.nano.gov, is doing a better job in 2012 compared to 2011 in conveying updates in the nanotech world, including the IBM development of the 9 nm CNT transistor.
The carbon nanotubes are a central theme in the nanotech patent literature. For example, among the 11,256 US 977 class nanotech patent publications, 37.1% of them mention carbon nanotube or nanotubes.
It would be good, many would argue, if the United States could develop a coherent, dependable policy to to commit to develop carbon nanotube technology, and similar nanotech wonders. The benefits will range from 9 nm to 32 foot technologies. Defense will be a leading driver to push the envelope on new materials leading to new products. Private sector venture capital priorities will rise and fall, which is fine, but US policy can promote a more stable, dependable effort to drive the future.
I was impressed recently by all of the truly exciting innovations and science policy issues which are now reported in the media so fast that it has become difficult to keep up. Recall the saying: so many books; so little time!
For example, nanotech, cleantech, and printed electronics were all featured in the last Economist Technology Quarterly (March 12, 2011). First, use of nanopores for rapid DNA sequencing was highlighted (pages 13-14). In addition, flexible electronic circuits also were noted (pages 15-16). Finally, Vinod Khosla’s controversial ideas re cleantech were explored (pages 22-23).
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Media reports show Plastic Logic is to receive up to $700 million in a deal with Rusnano.
The money will help finance construction of a plastic electronics fabrication plant in Zelenograd, outside Moscow.
Think global: The international intrigue demonstrates the span of possibilities for those who think globally in their business planning. This also further demonstrates connections between nanotech and printed electronics.
We have previously noted the needed connections between nanotechnology and printed electronics. And we also previously addressed the needed connections between nanotechnology and cleantech. Not surprisingly, an important component for cleantech is printed electronics, completing this "triangle" of connections.
Illustrating these connectivities, for example, a nanomaterial can be printed as part of fabricating a printed electronic feature of a solar cell. A need exists to see where these three circles of technology commercialization overlap, and formulate useful governmental policies and legal regimes for how all three can be simultaneously and consistently promoted. In particular, a need exists to review how venture capital can continue to flow to these sectors. Of course, job creation should also be a theme. Additional important themes include making technology transfer easier (e.g., university licensing) and monitoring tech transfer issues with Asian and European companies.
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