[House Hearing, 106 Congress]
[From the U.S. Government Printing Office]
NANOTECHNOLOGY: THE STATE OF NANO-SCIENCE AND ITS PROSPECTS FOR THE
SUBCOMMITTEE ON BASIC RESEARCH
COMMITTEE ON SCIENCE
HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
ONE HUNDRED SIXTH CONGRESS
JUNE 22, 1999
Printed for the use of the Committee on Science
U.S. GOVERNMENT PRINTING OFFICE
60-678 CC WASHINGTON : 1999
COMMITTEE ON SCIENCE
F. JAMES SENSENBRENNER, Jr., Wisconsin, Chairman
SHERWOOD L. BOEHLERT, New York GEORGE E. BROWN, Jr., California
LAMAR SMITH, Texas RALPH M. HALL, Texas
CONSTANCE A. MORELLA, Maryland BART GORDON, Tennessee
CURT WELDON, Pennsylvania JERRY F. COSTELLO, Illinois
DANA ROHRABACHER, California JAMES A. BARCIA, Michigan
JOE BARTON, Texas EDDIE BERNICE JOHNSON, Texas
KEN CALVERT, California LYNN C. WOOLSEY, California
NICK SMITH, Michigan LYNN N. RIVERS, Michigan
ROSCOE G. BARTLETT, Maryland ZOE LOFGREN, California
VERNON J. EHLERS, Michigan MICHAEL F. DOYLE, Pennsylvania
DAVE WELDON, Florida SHEILA JACKSON-LEE, Texas
GIL GUTKNECHT, Minnesota DEBBIE STABENOW, Michigan
THOMAS W. EWING, Illinois BOB ETHERIDGE, North Carolina
CHRIS CANNON, Utah NICK LAMPSON, Texas
KEVIN BRADY, Texas JOHN B. LARSON, Connecticut
MERRILL COOK, Utah MARK UDALL, Colorado
GEORGE R. NETHERCUTT, Jr., DAVID WU, Oregon
Washington ANTHONY D. WEINER, New York
FRANK D. LUCAS, Oklahoma MICHAEL E. CAPUANO, Massachusetts
MARK GREEN, Wisconsin BRIAN BAIRD, Washington
STEVEN T. KUYKENDALL, California JOSEPH M. HOEFFEL, Pennsylvania
GARY G. MILLER, California DENNIS MOORE, Kansas
JUDY BIGGERT, Illinois
MARSHALL ``MARK'' SANFORD, South
JACK METCALF, Washington
C O N T E N T S
June 22, 1999:
Opening Statement by Representative Nick Smith, Chairman,
Subcommittee on Basic Research, U.S. House of
Opening Statement by Representative Eddie Bernice Johnson,
Ranking Minority Member, Subcommittee on Basic Research,
U.S. House of Representatives.............................. 2
Eugene Wong, Assistant Director for Engineering, National
Science Foundation: Testimony.............................. 3
Paul McWhorter, Deputy Director, Microsystems Science,
Technology and Components Center, Sandia National
Laboratories: Testimony.................................... 5
Richard Smalley, Professor of Physics and Chemistry, Rice
University: Testimony...................................... 7
Ralph Merkle, Research Scientist, XEROX Palo Alto Research
Center: Testimony.......................................... 9
APPENDIX 1: OPENING STATEMENTS
Written Statement by Representative Nick Smith, Chairman,
Subcommittee on Basic Research, U.S. House of
Written Statement by Representative Eddie Bernice Johnson,
Ranking Minority Member, Subcommittee on Basic Research,
U.S. House of Representatives.............................. 25
Written Statement by Representative Lynn Woolsey,
Subcommittee on Basic Research, U.S. House of
APPENDIX 2: WRITTEN TESTIMONY, BIOGRAPHIES, FINANCIAL DISCLOSURES, AND
ANSWERS TO POST-HEARING QUESTIONS
Eugene Wong, Assistant Director for Engineering, NSF:
Written Testimony............................................ 30
Answers to Post-Hearing Questions............................ 41
Paul McWhorter, Deputy Director, Microsystems Science, Technology
and Components Center, Sandia National Laboratories:
Written Testimony............................................ 47
Letter from Paul McWhorter to the Honorable Nick Smith,
Chairman, Subcommittee on Basic Research, on Improving Peer
Review for Nanoscience..................................... 49
Answers to Post-Hearing Questions............................ 51
Richard Smalley, Professor of Physics and Chemistry, Rice
Written Testimony............................................ 55
Financial Disclosure......................................... 70
Answers to Post-Hearing Questions............................ 71
Ralph Merkle, Research Scientist, XEROX Palo Alto Research
Written Testimony............................................ 78
Financial Disclosure......................................... 92
Answers to Post-Hearing Questions............................ 93
APPENDIX 3: MATERIAL FOR THE RECORD
Neil Gross and Otis Port, ``The Next Wave,'' Business Week,
August 24-31, 1998............................................. 100
The Physics of Materials: How Science Improves Our Lives,
Committee on Condensed-Matter and Materials Physics, National
Council, 1997.................................................. 104
HEARING ON NANOTECHNOLOGY: THE STATE OF NANO-SCIENCE AND ITS PROSPECTS
FOR THE NEXT DECADE
TUESDAY, JUNE 22, 1999
House of Representatives,
Committee on Science,
Subcommittee on Basic Research,
The Subcommittee met, pursuant to notice, at 3:00 p.m., in
Room 2318, Rayburn House Office Building, Hon. Nick Smith
[Chairman of the Subcommittee] presiding.
Chairman Smith [presiding] The Science Subcommittee on
Basic Research will come to order for the purpose of a hearing
on nanotechnology and the state of nanoscience and its
prospects for the future decades.
Today the Subcommittee is meeting to review federal funding
of research into nanotechnology, to discuss the role of the
Federal Government in supporting nanoscience research, and to
discuss the economic implications of the scientific advances
made in the field of nanotechnology.
In Fiscal Year 1999, the Federal Government will spend
approximately $230 million on nanotechnology research. Eighty
percent of the funding comes from the National Science
Foundation, about $90 million; the Department of Defense; the
Department of Energy. The remaining money comes from the
National Institutes of Health, the Department of Commerce, and
NASA. In addition, the private sector has shown interest in the
field of nanotechnology. And the question that this
Subcommittee hopes to answer is how much effort should the
Federal Government be putting into taxpayer funded research in
According to testimony submitted by our panelists,
scientists have already learned a great deal about how to use
nanotechnology. The best example of this is today's
biotechnology industry. But, according to researchers, that is
only the beginning. Nanotechnology holds great promise for
breakthroughs in health, manufacturing, agriculture, energy,
and national security. In fact, some researchers state that
over the next few decades, nanotechnology will impact every
aspect of our society.
Unfortunately, while progress has been made, the United
States does not dominate nanotechnology. A significant amount
of research is currently underway in Europe, especially Japan.
In that context, it seems to me it is appropriate that we
cooperate and keep abreast of the research being done in these
other countries. It is also appropriate for the Subcommittee to
take a good look at the Federal Government's role in funding
nanotechnology research, to discuss what can be done to help
move this research from the lab to the marketplace, and to
discuss where nanotechnology might be in 10, 20, 30 years from
I would like to thank our esteemed panelists very much for
taking time out of your schedule to be here today and would ask
our Ranking Member if she has a statement at this time.
Ms. Johnson. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I'm pleased to join
you today in welcoming our witnesses for this afternoon's
hearing. The ages of civilization are designated by reference
to a prominent material that could be fashioned by the
prevailing state of technology. For example, the Stone Age, the
Bronze Age, and the Iron Age. Now we are at the threshold of an
age in which materials can be fashioned, atom by atom.
The word ``revolutionary'' is too overworked to have much
impact anymore, but nanotechnology, which is the subject of
today's hearing, truly is revolutionary. As expressed in a
recent report from the National Research Council, the ability
to control and manipulate atoms, to observe and simulate
collective phenomenon, to treat complex material systems, and
to span length scales from atoms to our everyday experience
provides opportunities that were not even imagined a decade
ago. Nanotechnology will have enormous consequences for the
information industry, the manufacturing of all kinds of
medicines and health. Indeed, one of our witnesses has written
that it will leave virtually no product untouched.
I congratulate the Chairman for convening this hearing so
that we may learn more about the promise of this research
related to nanotechnology and about the marvels that have been
accomplished thus far. We are, naturally, interested in hearing
the panel's assessment of the vitality of federally supported
research efforts in this field and we are aware that the
planning activities are underway which may lead to research in
this nanotechnology in the Administration's Fiscal Year 2000
The views of the panel on the value, timeliness, and
appropriate focus of such an initiative would be welcome.
Again, I want to thank you, Mr. Chairman, for calling this
hearing and I appreciate the attendance of our witnesses. Maybe
in 10 years, 15 or 20 years, we will say we had that hearing
and look what it brought. Thank you.
Chairman Smith. Thank you, Representative Johnson. At this
time, I would like to introduce our panelists and also, for
your information, your testimony will be live because it is
being webcast on our website.
First is Dr. Eugene Wong. He is the Assistant Director for
Engineering at the National Science Foundation. Paul McWhorter
is the Deputy Director of the Microsystems Science Technology
and Components Center at the Sandia National Laboratories.
Richard Smalley is Professor of Chemistry and Physics at Rice
University and in 1996 was awarded the Nobel Prize in
Chemistry. Ralph Merkle is a research scientist at Xerox Palo
Alto Research Center. In 1998, he and NASA scientist Stephen
Walch were awarded the Feynmann Prize in Nanotechnology.
Esteemed witnesses today. We thank you.
It is our policy to have witnesses take the oath. If you
would rise and raise your right hand.
Do you solemnly swear that the testimony that you are about
to give is the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the
Mr. Wong. Yes.
Mr. McWhorter. Yes.
Mr. Smalley. Yes.
Mr. Merkle. Yes.
Chairman Smith. Let the record indicate that all witnesses
have indicated in the affirmative. And we thank you very much.
And the spoken testimony we try to limit to 5 minutes.
There is a green, yellow, and red light on the little boxes in
front of you. But all testimony that you have presented to the
Committee in writing, without objection, will be entered into
the record of this hearing. And, hearing no objection, it's so
Dr. Wong, if you would begin.
TESTIMONY OF EUGENE WONG, ASSISTANT DIRECTOR, ENGINEERING
DIRECTORATE, NATIONAL SCIENCE FOUNDATION, ARLINGTON, VA;
ACCOMPANIED BY PAUL J. MC WHORTER, DEPUTY DIRECTOR,
MICROSYSTEMS SCIENCE, TECHNOLOGY, AND COMPONENTS CENTER, SANDIA
NATIONAL LABORATORIES, ALBUQUERQUE, NM; RICHARD E. SMALLEY,
PH.D., THE GENE AND NORMAN HACKERMAN PROFESSOR OF CHEMISTRY AND
PROFESSOR OF PHYSICS, RICE UNIVERSITY, HOUSTON, TX; AND RALPH
C. MERKLE, XEROX PALO ALTO RESEARCH CENTER, PALO ALTO, CA
TESTIMONY OF EUGENE WONG
Mr. Wong. Yes. My name is Eugene Wong and I am the
Assistant Director of the National Science Foundation for
Engineering. I am pleased to come before you to testify on the
great opportunities that are presented to us in the area of
nanoscience and technology.
One nanometer is truly a magical point on the scale of
length, for it is at this place where the smallest man-made
things meet the natural atoms and molecules of the living
world. Recent discoveries at this scale are promising to
revolutionize biology, electronics, materials, and other
applications. We are seeing inventions and discoveries that
were unimaginable only a very short time ago. For example, we
now have materials and electronic devices that assemble
themselves and we will see an example of that in a moment and
biological motors extracted from living systems and running on
What is nanoscale? One nanometer is 1-billionth of a meter.
To get an idea of the size, we can compare some familiar
things. The diameter of an atom is about \1/4\ of 1 nanometer.
The diameter of a human hair, on the other hand, is 10,000
nanometers. The protein molecules, which are so important, so
critical to life, are several nanometers in size. Moving to
man-made things. The smallest devices on commercially available
chips are about 200 nanometers, whereas the smallest
experimental device on experimental chips are approximately 10
nanometers in their smallest dimension. Nanoscale refers to
dimensions that vary from a fraction of a nanometer to tens of
Figure one provides a good illustration of the scale.
This is an image of a pyramid of germanium atoms sitting on
top of a silicon base--silicon surface. The pyramid is about 10
nanometers across its base and only 1.5 nanometers in height.
Each round-looking object is a single germanium atom. This
pyramid was made at the Hewlett-Packard Laboratories and was
formed just a few seconds all by itself via a process called
self-assembly. Self-assembly is illustrated in figure two.
Here we have a collection of actual materials that were
formed by self-assembly. They take different shapes and I think
one of the key points about self-assembly is by properly
creating the environment for assembly, these molecules and
atoms actually collect themselves into the requisite shapes, as
in the case of the sphere and as in the case of the pyramid
that we saw on the last--in the last figure.
Over the last 20 years, a series of instruments were
invented that now allows us to see, manipulate, and control
objects in nanoscale. They are the eyes, fingers, and tweezers
of the nanoscale world. With these remarkable tools, a new
world of discovery and invention has been created. This is the
world of nanoscale science and technology.
Not every piece of nanoscale science and technology is new.
Photography, for example, is a relatively old nanotechnology.
Most of molecular biology also works at nanoscale and some of
it is clearly not new. What is new and different is the degree
of understanding we are able to achieve with the new tools and
the precision and control that we are able to exert on the--on
molecules and devices at this scale. Because of the new
techniques, we are witnessing truly an explosion of
revolutionary discoveries in nanoscale.
Why is nanoscale so important? First, I think the small
size itself is of critical importance. Microelectronics through
successively reducing the size of devices and increasing the
density of devices interconnection on chips has brought us the
revolution in information technology we see today. And I think
the systematic reduction to the nanoscale range will be just as
important a development.
Second, with the ability to control and change nanoscale
structures and materials, we can dramatically improve their
properties without ever changing their chemical composition.
And this is a new-found--this is a new dimension.
Third, much of molecular biology works at nanoscale. By
using the techniques of nanoscale science in biology, we gain
two great advantages: a deeper understanding of how nature
works and ways to mimic and improve upon nature. The
applications of nanoscale science and technology will lead to
breakthroughs in a myriad of applications, in information
technology, advanced manufacturing, medical care, the
environment, energy generation, and national security.
While my written testimony contains several examples of
potential applications in these areas, here I will just
highlight a couple of examples. The first commercial nanoscale
products are already in production. The--a magnetic rehab for
disk drives with nanoscale dimensions and based on the giant
magneto-resistance principle is on themarket today and promises
to revolutionize the computer storage market. Prototypes of memory
chips using an advanced version of the same principle have also been
designed and fabricated.
Figure three shows an example of these memory chips. Figure
three shows a design for nanoscale memory chips that will have
1,000 times the memory; 100,000 times in speed--and be 100,000
times in speed; and only \1/10\ the size of existing memory
Nanotechnology can be used to dramatically improve animal
and plant genetics and better control the growing processes in
agriculture. Nanofabrication of detector arrays provides the
potential to do thousands of simultaneous gene experiments with
very small amounts of material.
Figure four shows a chip--figure four, please. Figure four
is the picture of a natural nanochip with 6,400 dots, each
containing a small amount of a different gene in the yeast
genome. With this chip, scientists can discover which genes are
being activated or inhibited during the growing process. The
application of this technology to agriculture has only begun to
The nanochip will allow the genes to be completely
characterized, molecule by molecule, in just a few hours. Only
a short time ago, the same experiment would have taken dozens
of scientists years to complete.
The National Science Foundation has a long history of
support for research in nanoscale science and technology.
Research supported by the Mathematical and Physical Sciences
Directorate has culminated in two Nobel Prizes in the last few
years. One of these went to Dr. Richard Smalley, who is here
today testifying. NSF also funds the National Nanofabrication
Users Network, which provides the primary fabrication
infrastructure for chip-level nanoscale research.
Chairman Smith. I apologize for interrupting, but if you
would sort of conclude in the next 30 seconds or so, we will
have a lot of time for questions.
Mr. Wong. Yes, please. Thank you.
Despite great commercial promise, the field of nanoscale
science and technology cannot advance without strong federal
support because this is a basic research area in its early
stages of development. That is why we are coming before you to
seek your encouragement and your endorsement of this important
Chairman Smith. Mr. McWhorter.
TESTIMONY OF PAUL J. MC WHORTER
Mr. McWhorter. I am Paul McWhorter from Sandia National
Laboratories. I would like to thank the Committee for the
invitation to talk to you about the role of nanotechnology in
the second silicon revolution.
It is really difficult to imagine any field of science or
technology that has had a more profound impact on the last
half-century than microelectronics. The hallmark of the
microelectronics industry has been to each year provide chips
that are smaller, faster, cheaper, and better. This has
revolutionized all aspect of our lives from our most advanced
weapons systems to our toaster ovens.
The global microelectronics industry has vectored ahead
based on a very simple metric: to make transistors smaller. As
transistors become smaller, they become faster. You can pack
more of them on the chip and chips are able to store and
process more information. To date, this has been the silicon
Today we stand on the verge of a second silicon revolution.
The metrics of the second silicon revolution will be different
and more important than simply continuing to pack more
transistors onto a chip. The metrics of the second silicon
revolution will be the incorporation of new structures,
microscopic machines, on the chip alongside the transistors,
creating a whole new generation of computer chip, a chip that
can not only think but sense, act, and communicate as well.
These fully functional machines have feature sizes smaller than
human red blood cells. This new capability will have as
profound of an impact on our lives over the next 30 years as
microelectronics have over the past 30 years.
The second silicon revolution has begun and a variety of
commercial products exist today that contain micromachines. To
fully realize the potential of the second silicon revolution,
however, certain scientific hurdles must be overcome. In the
1800's, realization of high-performance, traditional industrial
machines required the development of a fundamental
understanding of the science of the microdomain. Similarly, to
effectively design, build, and operate machines in the
microdomain, we must have a fundamental understanding of the
materials and surfaces in the nanodomain. Nanotechnology and
nanoscience will be the key elements of fully achieving the
vision of micromachines and microsystems. It will be
nanotechnology that will lead to new functions, better
performance, and higher reliability in micromachines and
I have a very brief two-minute video I would like to show
that just describes the state-of-the-art of microtechnology to
date. If you could roll the video.
Chairman Smith. We would note for the audience that we have
three screens: one in the middle and one in----
Mr. McWhorter. This is a picture of the world's smallest
machine in operation. This is a transmission. For size
comparison, the gear teeth that you are looking at are the size
of a red blood cell. The gear itself is the size of a grain of
pollen. This transmission is used as part of a system to
increase the force that you can get out of the microdevices.
This is a rack and pinion system that we demonstrated.
Again, built at Sandia National Laboratories. This enables us
to get large linear displacements in the microdomain.
All of these devices are built using integrated circuit
fabrication technique and they're batch fabricated tens of
thousands at a time on a six-inch silicon wafer. Bringing these
technologies together, we create this microscopic positionable
mirror with large implications for use in the global
telecommunications infrastructure. You can see it switching an
optical lasar at a very fast rate.
This is a prototype safety mechanism for a nuclear weapon
that has been developed. The purpose of this is to work on
researching ways to continue to increase the safety of the
nation's nuclear weapons. This device operates by it has a 24-
bit code, which means that there is less than a 1 in16 million
chance of a random occurrence causing this device to unlock. You can
see the engine driving the pin structure up and down inside of a maze.
This is the way the decoding function is done. There is an engine and
transmission that is moving this entire platform from the right to the
In order to unlock or arm the weapon, the code has to be
entered correctly. The two gears that you see on the platform
have to come and engage the other gear train in order to pop up
a mirror to arm the weapon. Remember, this entire device is
microscopic in dimension and built thousands at a time.
The code's been entered correctly. The gears here engage.
That completes the gear train and we're able to pop up the
mirror and arm the weapon. This is just an example of the type
of technology that is available today in the microdomain.
Chairman Smith. Now is each gear the size of a red blood
Mr. McWhorter. Each gear is the size of a grain of pollen.
This is just another size demonstration. This is a
microscopic dust mite that we were able to give a ride around
on the outfit gear of the microengine.
The message I would like to leave you with today is that
microtechnology is real. It is here today. But, looking towards
the future, to really realize the full potential of the
microtechnology, we desperately need the type of capability
further described in the term nanoscience. Other people on the
panel will tell you more about the broader, longer term
application of nanotechnology. What I would like to tell you is
there is a need for it today in the area of microsystems and
there would be--in addition to the longer term applications,
there would be short-term impact from this work.
Chairman Smith. Thank you.
TESTIMONY OF RICHARD E. SMALLEY
Mr. Smalley. Mr. Chairman, I appreciate the opportunity
today to present my views on nanotechnology. There is a growing
sense in the scientific and technical community that we are
about to enter a golden new era. We are about to be able to
build things that work on the smallest possible length scales,
atom by atom, with the ultimate level of finesse. These little
nano things and the technology that assembles and manipulates
them, what we call nanotechnology, will, I am certain,
revolutionize our industries and our lives.
Everything we see around us is made of atoms, the tiny
elemental building blocks of matter. From stone to copper to
bronze, iron, steel, and now silicon, the major technological
ages of human kind have been defined by what these atoms can do
in huge aggregates, trillions upon trillions of atoms at a
time, molded, shaped, and refined as macroscopic objects. And
even in our vaunted microelectronics of today, 1999, and our
highest tech silicon computer chip, even the smallest feature
is still a mountain compared to the size of an atom. The
resultant technology of our 20th century is fantastic, but it
pales when compared to what will be possible when we learn to
build things at the ultimate level of finesse, one atom at a
time. And if you think you have seen something now, just wait.
This next century is going to be incredible.
Nature has played the game at this level for billions of
years, building stuff with atomic precision. Every living thing
is made of cells that are chock full of nanomachines. Not quite
as cute as these we just saw, but beautiful in their own way,
each of them going about the business of life, rubbing up
against one another. Each perfect right down to the last atom.
The workings are so exquisite that changing the location or the
identity of just a single atom causes the machine to change,
generally to damage it.
Over the past century, we have learned about the workings
of these biological nanomachines to an incredible level of
detail and the benefits of this knowledge are beginning to be
felt now in medicine. In the coming decades, we will certainly
learn to modify and adapt this machinery to extend both the
quality and the length of life. Biotechnology was the first
nanotechnology and it has certainly a long, long way to go.
Let me give you just one personal example: cancer. As I sit
before you today, I have very little hair on my head. It fell
out a few weeks ago as a result of the chemotherapy that I have
been undergoing to treat a type of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, the
same sort that recently killed King Hussein of Jordan. While I
am very optimistic, this chemotherapy, frankly, is a very blunt
tool. And I am sure most of you have personal awareness of
this. It consists of small molecules which are toxic. They kill
cells in my body and although they are meant to kill only the
cancer cells, they kill hair cells, too, and cause all sorts of
Now, I'm not complaining. Twenty years ago, without even
this crude chemotherapy, I would probably already be dead. But
20 years from now, not that far in the future, I'm confident we
will no longer have to use just this blunt tool. By then,
nanotechnology will have given us specially engineered drugs
which are nanoscale and essentially cancer-seeking missiles, a
molecular technology that specifically targets just the mutant
cancer cells in the human body and leaves everything else
To do this, these drug molecules will have to be big
enough--probably thousands, perhaps tens of thousands of
atoms--so that we can code information into them of where they
should go and what they should kill. They will be examples of
an exquisite--a new exquisite nanotechnology, this time human-
made, a technology of the future. I may not live to see it,
but, with your help, I am confident it will happen and cancer,
at least the type that I have, will be a thing of the past.
Powerful as it is, this bio-side of nanotechnology that
works in water in the water-based world of living things will
not be able to do everything. It cannot make things strong like
steel or conduct electricity with the speed and efficiency of
copper or silicon. For this, other nanotechnologies are being
developed and will be developed in the future. It's what I call
the dry side of nanotech.
My own research these days has focused on carbon nanotubes.
Can we have my first slide? Or do I need to hit my laptop? Is
This is a carbon nanotube. These nanotubes are an outgrowth
of the research that led to the Nobel Prize a few years ago.
These nanotubes are absolutely incredible. They are expected to
produce fibers 100 times stronger than steel, but only \1/6\
the weight. Almost certainly the strongest fibers that will
ever be made out of anything, strong enough, even to build an
elevator to space. In addition, they will conduct electricity
better than copper and transmit heat better than diamond.
Membrane made from the rays of these nanotubes are expected to
have revolutionary impact in the technology of rechargeable
batteries and fuel cells, perhaps giving us all-electric
vehicles within the next 10 to 20 years with the performance
and range of a Corvette at a fraction the cost.
As individual nanoscale molecules, these carbon nanotubes
are unique. Just think of one at a time. Theyhave been shown--
here you see one draped across a few electrodes. They have been shown
to be true molecular wires, to conduct electricity like copper--in
fact, even better--and have already been assembled into the first
molecular transistor ever built; with just a single molecule, a
functional transistor. Several decades from now, we expect to see--we
may be able to see. We don't know yet--but it may be possible that,
within several decades, our current silicon-based microelectronics will
be supplanted by a carbon-based true nanoelectronics of vastly greater
power and scope.
It is amazing what one can do just by putting atoms where
you want them to go.
Recently an Interagency Working Group on Nano Science,
Engineering, and Technology has studied the field of
nanotechnology in detail and made its recommendation to OSTP on
March 10 for a new initiative in this critical area. Quoting
briefly from Mike Roco, chair of this working group:
A national initiative, entitled Nanotechnology in the 21st
Century Leading to a New Industrial Revolution is recommended
as part of the Fiscal Year 2001 budget. The initiative will
support long-term nanotechnology research and development which
will lead to breakthroughs in information technology, advanced
manufacturing, medicine, health, environment and energy, and
national security. The impact of nanotechnology on health,
wealth, and lives of people will be at least the equivalent of
the combined influences of microelectronics, medical imaging,
computer-aided engineering, and man-made polymers developed in
Mr. Chairman, honorable Congressmen, I believe it is in our
nation's best interests to move boldly into this new field.
Chairman Smith. Dr. Smalley, exciting testimony. This is
the most--I want the witnesses to know, this is the most high-
tech Committee room that we have in the United States Congress
and we had a slight malfunction and that's--so our screen for
the members sort of malfunctioned.
Dr. Merkle, please proceed.
TESTIMONY OF RALPH C. MERKLE
Mr. Merkle. Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman. For
centuries, manufacturing methods have gotten more precise, less
expensive, and more flexible. In the next few decades, we will
approach the limits of these trends. The limit of precision is
the ability to get every atom where we want it. The limit of
low-cost is set by the cost of the raw materials and the energy
involved in manufacture. The limit of flexibility is the
ability to arrange atoms in all the patterns permitted by
Most scientists agree we will approach these limits but
differ about how best to proceed, on what nanotechnology will
look like, and then how long it will take to develop. Much of
this disagreement is caused by the simple fact that,
collectively, we have only recently agreed that the goal is
feasible and we have not yet sorted out the issues that this
creates. This process of creating a greater shared
understanding both of the goals of nanotechnology and the
routes for achieving those goals is the most important result
of today's result.
Nanotechnology, or molecular nanotechnology, to refer more
specifically to the goals discussed here, will let us continue
the historical trends in manufacturing right up to the
fundamental limits imposed by physical law. It will let us make
remarkably powerful molecular computers. It will let us make
materials over 50 times lighter than steel or aluminum alloy,
but with the same strength. We will be able to make jets,
rockets, cars, or even chairs that, by today's standards, would
be remarkably light, strong, and inexpensive. Molecular
surgical tools, guided by molecular computers and injected into
the bloodstream, could find and destroy cancer cells or
invading bacteria, unclog arteries, or provide oxygen when the
circulation is impaired.
Nanotechnology will replace our entire manufacturing base
with a new, radically more precise, radically less expensive,
and radically more flexible way of making products. The aim is
not simply to replace today's computer chip-making plants, but
also to replace the assembly lines for cars, televisions,
telephones, books, surgical tools, missiles, bookcases,
airplanes, tractors, and all the rest. The objective is a
pervasive change in manufacturing, a change that will leave
virtually no product untouched. Economic progress and military
readiness in the 21st century will depend fundamentally on
maintaining a competitive position in nanotechnology.
Many researchers think self-replication will be the key to
unlocking nanotechnology's full potential, moving it from a
laboratory curiosity able to expensively make a few small
molecular machines and a relative handful of valuable products
to a robust manufacturing technology able to make myriads of
products for the whole planet. We know self-replication can
inexpensively make complex products with great precision. Cells
are programmed by DNA to replicate and make complex systems,
including giant redwoods, wheat, whales, birds, pumpkins, and
We should likewise be able to develop artificial,
programmable, self-replicating molecular machine systems, also
known as assemblies, able to make a wide range of products from
graphite, diamond, and other non-biological materials. The
first groups to develop assemblers will have a historic window
for economic, military, and environmental impact.
Developing nanotechnology will, I think, be a major
project, just as developing nuclear weapons or lunar rockets
were major projects. We must first focus our efforts on
developing two things: the tools with which to build the first
molecular machines and the blueprints of what we are to build.
This will require the cooperative efforts of researchers across
a wide range of disciplines: scanning probe microscopy,
supramolecular chemistry, protein engineering, self-assembly,
robotics, materials science, computational chemistry, self-
replicating systems, physics, computer science, and more. This
work must focus on fundamentally new approaches and methods;
incremental or revolutionary improvements will not be
Government funding is both appropriate and essential for
several reasons. The benefits will be pervasive across
companies and the economy. Few, if any, companies will have the
resources to pursue this alone. And the development will take
many years to a few decades beyond the planning horizon of most
private organizations. We know it is possible. We know it is
valuable. We should do it.
Chairman Smith. Dr. Merkle, you still had 2 seconds to go
before you finished. [Laughter.]
It would seem to me if there was--first let me introduce my
professional staff assignee, Peter Harsha, who is just coming
to work for the Science Committee, for the Committee members
and for those in the science community that will be working
with this Subcommittee.
It seems to me, listening to the testimony, that, if there
was zero bias among you four gentleman that are offering this
testimony, that the potential for this research in terms of
what it can accomplish for humanity as well as what its
potential is for industry and the economy is every bit as much
or more than the silicon revolution. This Subcommittee will be
looking closely at recommending that we substantially increase
the government effort in terms of taxpayer dollars into this
area of research as well as ways that we might encourage the
private sector and industry, that might eventually benefit from
such research, to have an all-out effort as the United States
tries to maybe make sure that we are a lead nation.
So my first question would be how do you evaluate--can we
justify that kind of effort, number one? And how do you
evaluate the United States position in terms of this research
effort compared to Japan and Europe? And we'll just maybe each
one of you, if you could take about 35, 45 seconds and give me
a quick reaction, starting with you, Dr. Wong, and----
Mr. Wong. Well, first of all, I think the benefits are
obvious and very great and, as several of the panel members
have already said. However great it is, the horizon is too long
for private investment. But, nonetheless, any federal
investment in this area will catalyze private investment. It
will greatly accelerate the pace at which the benefits can be
translated into real applications. I think the United States is
in the forefront of this new science and technology area, but
the other countries, the other developed nations, are not far
behind. It is an area of great focus for all the developed
countries in the world; for European countries as well as
Mr. McWhorter. I think this is an area that the nation must
maintain a leadership role in and in order to maintain and grow
our leadership role in nanotechnology, I think government
investment is critical. What we find in these emerging areas of
technology is that many times commercial companies can be risk-
averse, but when government money can come in and catalyze and
initiate an effort, then the industrial investment will follow.
And so the activities that we are talking about here would be
just critical to catalyzing this continued growth in our
leadership position and in participation from more commercial
Chairman Smith. Dr. Smalley.
Mr. Smalley. Let me just add that nanotechnology of the
sort that has been talked about today is different than the
major scientific technological pushes the country has undergone
in the past, mostly since the Second World War and including
the Manhattan Project, in that nanotechnology is intrinsically
small science and so it is impossible to dominate the field by
a huge program in a national laboratory with major facilities
because it is a place where many small laboratories are active.
In fact, hundreds throughout the world.
So we are particularly--it's particularly possible for
countries that are not as well-funded as the United States to
be major players in this area. It is a small science initiative
that needs to be treated as a big science, big technology, big
impact area. Which makes its funding difficult. I mean, you
can't say we are going to have a $300 million program to do
this one particular thing because there are many particular
things to be done. And so it brings to a focus the age-old
difficulty in funding small science. Nonetheless, it is an area
out of which, to many extents, all blessings will flow in this
Chairman Smith. Dr. Merkle.
Mr. Merkle. Well, I think the benefits of this technology
will indeed be very impressive and I think we need to continue
and expand the base of research which has been pursued
throughout the country to develop a better understanding at the
molecular scale and a better ability to arrange and manipulate
structures at the molecular scale.
Beyond that, I would also suggest that research in
artificial self-replicating systems would be a good thing to
pursue, that this is an area where we have, so far, had
relatively modest amounts of effort, mostly done by individuals
or small groups.
Chairman Smith. Just a follow-up question, Dr. Smalley. So
does this--is it a situation--what is our weakness in terms of
aggressively pursuing this research? Is it the talent of
researchers that are capable of exploring this field? Or is it
simply enough money to pay for enough grants to interest enough
Mr. Smalley. I believe, at the moment, our weakness is the
failure so far to identify nanotechnology for what it is. It is
a tremendously promising new future which needs to have a flag.
Somebody has to go out and put a flag in the ground and say:
Nanotechnology, this is where we are going to go and we are
going to have a serious national initiative in this area.
Chairman Smith. Representative Johnson.
Ms. Johnson. Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman. And thank
you so much for such an outstanding panel of witnesses today. I
note that two of them have a Texas base. One is a University of
Texas graduate and the other one is a researcher at Rice. And I
I was here when we voted down the supercollider that
smashed the atoms and I was very chagrined by that and thought
that was a mistake. And most of us here that were here during
that time thought so. The ones who didn't think so are not here
right now. And hopefully we won't do that again in research,
because we all now realize the value of that kind of basic
Tell me a bit about how--what is our standing--I know you
commented on that earlier--in terms of funding this basic
research? Because it is clear to me that this is really a
government responsibility more than anything else. Private
businesses just don't have the dollars nor do they feel the
keen responsibility to do such basic research, not knowing what
the future might bring. Most of them are directed toward a
certain product when they are researching. And though we know a
bit about the product--you just, Dr. Smalley, you mentioned
some of the possibilities for the future that might come, but
there are other things that might come that we don't know about
And I wonder, did we lose ground when we stopped putting as
much into basic research here several years ago? We are trying
to catch up now. And what are some of thepossibilities, you
think, for the future? And how do we stand with other countries in
funding our basic research?
Mr. Wong. I think the nanoscience and technology represents
an exemplar of how basic research really pays off. I think
basic research in our areas have been one of the best
investments the country has ever made. And I think we have seen
an example of that. I think we have found enough in this sector
to know what the future--how brilliant the future is going to
be, how bright it is going to be.
But I think we need to continue to invest in that area.
There is a timing area. I think the particular thing about
nanotechnology and nanoscience is the timing. The timing is
right for a major advance, I think, in this area because we
have so many, as Dr. Smalley has said, there are just so many
things to be found, so many things to be investigated. This is
truly a wonderful area for national investment.
Mr. McWhorter. I really agree with the comment about
timing, that there's been a lot of research that's been going
on in the area of nanotechnology. I think that research has
shown much promising results to where you can start seeing a
glimmer of the future and a glimmer of what's going to be
possible. I think one of the real opportunities with the
program as you're considering it is that there has been a lot
of research in a lot of different areas and such a program
would have the capability of unifying and providing some vision
and unification to the research that's going on. Because I
think that, you know, the putting a man on the moon was
mentioned earlier, that that was a single-minded goal, but many
people lined up behind. And I think that that's one of the
needs of nanotechnology is to have the big picture goal and the
national initiative to energize the people working in the area.
Mr. Smalley. Concerning our competitive situation vis-a-vis
the rest of the world, as you know, coming out of the Second
World War, the United States was premier in the world in the
research that was done, both from native-born researchers and
from European researchers that came over to get away from
Hitler. And in many extents, we are running off of that
wonderful time. I myself decided to go into science when
Sputnik went up. I was in high school at the time. So that
generation is passing now.
At Rice University, for a quarter of a century, I have
taught some of the very brightest human beings I have ever met.
It's a fantastic university, as you know. It's amazing the
fraction of them that do not go into science. By and large
science is not what American boys and girls do. They go into
other fields and do very well at it.
We've managed to get this far here at the end of the
century, still being pretty much as good as anybody, in many
areas better than most, because of our openness, because of
foreign researchers coming into work in our universities, and
so forth. I don't think we should assume that will continue
forever. European, Japanese, Asian universities have embraced
research in very serious ways and, in many areas, are more than
competitive with anything in the United States. The reason for
foreign nationals to come to this country to do their Ph.D.
dissertations is getting weaker and weaker. And one of these
days it's going to happen that we don't do very good research
in this country because we can't get good American boys and
girls to get into the field.
And that's one of the reason why I emphasize this is a
small science activity. This is where we are most effective. We
can have a huge project like the superconducting supercollider
that can be worldwide premier because of the vast investment
and we can sort of capture it. But this is much more diffuse
and much more sensitive to the overall well-being of American
science and the way it's perceived by youngsters. Many of these
bright students don't go into the field because they see
graduate students not getting jobs because of the decrease in
the funding for basic research. They regard it as--this isn't a
serious enterprise in society.
Ms. Johnson. Thank you.
Mr. Merkle. Well, I would agree with my fellow panelists
that the opportunities in nanotechnology for the next few
decades are absolutely remarkable and that it would be a great
shame if we were to walk away from this. We must pursue this.
It is essential that we pursue this in a timely fashion and, in
fact, we are now seeing the major size of the opportunity.
I think that we do, absolutely, need to pay attention to
the younger generation. One of the things that I see is e-mail
which is sent to me by students; students who send me requests
asking, I want to get into nanotechnology. What should I do? I
want to get into nanotechnology. Where are the programs? I can
point them at Rice. I can point them at a few others. I want to
be able to point them at more programs.
Students are very quick to pick up on new ideas and new
technology and they have picked on this and they are very
excited. We need to provide the support and the follow-through
so that they have somewhere to go so that they can learn what
needs to be learned, so that they can participate in these
programs, and so that we can develop the technology. Thank you.
Ms. Johnson. Thank you very much.
Chairman Smith. My good friend from California,
Ms. Woolsey. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. When I was reviewing
this hearing, I was thinking, well, how are these brilliant
doctors going to be able to talk about nanotechnology so that
laypersons will understand it, so that my constituents will
understand it? So that the taxpayers will think it is a good
idea that they pay taxes and that we actually invest in
microtechnology? You were great. Thank you. Your testimonies
were terrific. Dr. Smalley, you gave me my answer.
So those are the kinds of things I think the public is
going to be asking. I believe that not only the taxpayers, not
only our constituents, but also our students, future students.
Young people that come into your colleges are all ready to
think of new technologies. We need not just boys, but girls to
care about science and technology.
And I think the kinds of questions they are going to be
asking--and I'm going to ask them and then I hope you'll
answer. One, does length of life or quality of life, which, or
is it both, that are going to be affected by nanotechnology? I
also think they're going to want to know, does self-replicating
mean cloning? And, if so, what are the ethics?
And, also, will the benefits of nanotechnology be used in
peaceful applications or are we only looking at it so we can be
bigger and better and competitive with the rest of the world?
Is there a way we can all work together, globally, toimprove
the challenges we have for lack of food, health care around the globe?
Because, first of all, that's what people in my district just north of
the Golden Gate Bridge will be asking me, Marin and Sonoma counties.
And, second of all, that's a good way to get girls interested in
science. They have to see a real, neat, something meaningful.
So my three questions: quality of life, length of life;
self-replicating; and a partnership for a peaceful benefit. So
in whatever order. Dr. Merkle, you look ready.
Mr. Merkle. Well, basically the answer to the question of
will we improve the length or the quality of life, the answer
is both. I think that as we see this technology mature, we will
have a remarkable set of medical capabilities. Disease and ill-
health are caused largely by damage at the molecular and the
cellular level, and today's surgical tools are simply too big
to deal with damage at that level. In the future, we'll have
surgical tools that are molecular, both in their size and their
precision, and they will be able to intervene directly at the
level where the damage occurs and correct it. So I think that
will have a remarkable impact on health care overall and will
lead to a revolution in medicine.
As far as the self-replication, it's very much a non-
biological kind of self-replication. And to give you an
analogy, if you look at cars. Cars provide transportation, but
they are very mechanical in their design style. Horses also
provide transportation and they're very biological. Horses can
survive on sugar lumps, carrots, straw, hay, the whole bit. A
car requires a refined fuel, a single refined fuel, such as
gasoline. And it really can't function without gas, oil
changes, spark plugs, roads to run on. It's an artificial
device. It's a mechanical device.
And in the kind of designs I've thought about for self-
replicating systems, they're very mechanical. They completely
lack the adaptability of living systems. They are very much
machine-oriented. And the thought of them being able to
function outside of a very carefully controlled environment is
similar to a car running wild in the woods.
As far as the broader implications for the environment, I
think that today's manufacturing methods are often too
imprecise to economically avoid pollution. Because
nanotechnology will be a very precise manufacturing technology,
it won't pollute. As nanotechnology replaces existing
manufacturing technologies, pollution from manufacturing plants
will largely disappear.
Nanotechnology will also let us make inexpensive solar
cells and batteries, giving us very low-cost, clean solar
power. This should virtually eliminate the need for coal, oil,
and nuclear fuels.
Ms. Woolsey. Dr. Smalley.
Mr. Smalley. Let me just pick up on this last point that
Dr. Merkle mentioned, the energy problem. Let's suppose that
halfway through this next century, we really do have a problem
with burning fossil fuels. Right now, I believe there's really
one alternative that could really apply to the energy needs of
the entire planet, which, of course, is what you have to do if
you're going to affect things like the CO2
greenhouse effect, if it is a problem. And right now that
alternative is nuclear, nuclear fission, in particular, not
nuclear fusion, fission.
And while I can well imagine, I actually believe that the
United States and Europe, Japan are stable enough societies
that they could actually generate all their power by nuclear
fission and provide the necessary stewardship to make the
planet safe, I find it very hard to believe that the entire
planet can operate as a nuclear power. And it is a very scary
future. It would be very nice to have an alternative to fossil
fuels and an alternative to nuclear fission that would be
capable of providing energy for what will probably be 10
billion to 15 billion people in the middle of this next century
in a way that the planet can sustain.
I believe that it's almost certain that, if that
alternative exists, it has to be solar. But, right now, we do
not have the solar technology that's even laughably close to
being able to handle, for example, 80 percent of all the
world's energy production. And if you don't do 80 percent,
you're not touching the problem. And if you don't provide
energy technology that is economically cheaper than any
alternative, it won't be adopted any way.
Where is that solar technology going to come from? Not just
improving solar cells, but something totally new that on a
cloudy day in New York can take most of the photons that hit
some cheap collector and store it in some useful form of
energy, hydrogen or electric charge someplace. When you think
about the physics that controls that, you are rapidly led to
the conclusion that the physics that makes it possible happens
within a little one nanometer cubic box. That's where the event
occurs that the energy from a photon becomes a stored hydrogen
molecule and electron.
In fact, in photosynthesis, it's about a one nanometer
cubic space where, at the last moment, it becomes stored
energy. I don't know what that solar energy technology is going
to be, but I bet you it's a nanotechnology. That's one of the
reasons why it's so important for us to invest in it now. It's
so broadly disseminated. It involves so many disciplines. It is
small science, thousands of laboratories. Somehow out of that,
our hopes exist that that's where the solar technology comes
out and we have an alternative this next century to either
burning all our fossil fuels and the negative encounter that
would come from that or to a nuclear fission power economy.
Chairman Smith. The gentlelady's time has expired. The
gentleman from Connecticut, Mr. Larson.
Mr. Larson. Thank you, Mr. Smith. And I thank the panelists
as well for this interesting and informative discussion. The
one thing that I come away with is that all of you are
absolutely sure that nanoscience and nanotechnology is the way
of the future. I think someone used the term what we need to do
is plant the flag. One of the things that seems to work here in
Washington is if we're planting the flag we're doing so because
there's an enemy that we're dealing with or a nation at risk.
I believe--and not much has been discussed with respect to
this--that on a number of technological fronts, because of
advancing technology and competing nations that do not lag that
far behind us, that we're in a unique position of seeing this
nation leapfrog with its own technology. Witness the
individual, you know, traveling on bicycle in Burma with a cell
phone, communicating. I'd be interested in your response to the
potential for leapfrogging and where does the scientific
community come in collectively and say, hey, wake up America.
This is a real problem. You're about to be leapfrogged by your
own technology and your own arrogance for not having seen the
opportunity to reinvest in yourself.
Whoever wants to take it.
Mr. Merkle. Okay, well I think the potential for
leapfrogging is very great, obviously, because the basic
requirements for doing research in nanotechnology are
relatively small. It is possible for a relatively small
organization to have a big impact. Now there are some very
interesting questions around that as to whether a small group
can effectively leapfrog a large group. I think they boil down
to understanding where you're going and having a clear and
sharp focus. And I think if a small group had a sharp focus, it
could be very effective. Whether or not such a small group with
such a sharp focus will develop in some foreign country I
really can't say. It's certainly a possibility.
Mr. Larson. You have the opportunity to make the decision
today in this country to invest X number of dollars into
nanotechnology. What would that figure be and where would you
direct its focus?
Mr. Merkle. I think the focus would be directed towards
research which improved our ability to manipulate molecular
structure. That would include scanning, probe microscopy, and
self-assembly. That would be on the experimental end. I think
on the theoretical end, I would focus very clearly on what does
a molecular manufacturing system look like? In other words, we
have been talking about what will we be seeing in 20 years or
30 years, sometime in the next century? What will these
remarkable advances look like?
We have computational capabilities today which will let us
model proposed molecular machines. And we could have very
strong theoretical programs aimed at describing what this
future will look like so we have a better understanding of what
it is and how best to achieve it.
Mr. Larson. So help me here. As a government official, what
does the government do? Put out an RFP to our universities to
say, look, please respond, you know, to this money that we've
set--how would you go about directing that and focusing those
dollars so it gets into the hands of people that are on the
cutting edge of this technology? I mean, please help me here.
Mr. Wong. Yes, I think the National Science Foundation's in
that business. It's our business to fund the most promising
areas of research. And I think we believe in betting on the
people; supporting the infrastructure, the research
infrastructure; the universities; the highest quality peer-
review process. I think these are all important parts of the
infrastructure that we have built up that have made the basic
research such a productive enterprise.
Speaking of leapfrogging, I think there are two points I'd
like to make. One is it's easy to leapfrog in one specific
aspect and that happens all the time. But in terms of an
overall paradigm shift, to be able to really move, in a major
way, in the sector, that requires a basic infrastructure. And I
have a great deal of faith in the robustness of our
Mr. Larson. How much money should the country be investing?
Mr. Wong. The--I guess--I can tell you what we are doing
now. The NSF at the moment is spending $90 million a year in
nanoscale funds for research.
Mr. Larson. Is that enough, Dr. Wong?
Mr. Wong. That's not enough, but I think you are leading me
to a dangerous place, which is to anticipate what the----
Mr. Larson. That's our job. To lead you to dangerous places
so we can make better decisions.
Mr. Wong. Yes. I will try to accommodate you a little bit.
I think the final budget will be issued, that the
Administration is going to work out, over the next few months,
but, clearly, from my own vantage point, I'm eagerly advocating
the cost of this very important research.
Chairman Smith. The gentleman's time has expired. It's at
$230 million governmentwide, including other agencies, in
addition to the $90 million.
I think we'll do a short second round. And, Dr. Merkle, a
question for you. How much can we expect the private sector to
move ahead with research? Some have suggested, until they see
the application within 2 to 5 years, there's not going to be an
interest in the commercial sector to contribute to this kind of
research. Give me--guide us in terms of what Xerox is doing and
what we can expect other private sectors to do.
Mr. Merkle. Well, Xerox, as an example, is happy to have
one or perhaps \1/2\ a researcher working in this area, but
certainly would not pursue any larger effort unless there were
some outside source of funding. So the idea of having a 5- or
10-person group, which is relatively modest as these things go,
focus specifically on molecular and nanotechnology is not
something that would be within the charter of Xerox. Similarly,
I think, many other companies are relatively limited, or if
they are pursuing research, are pursuing research with
relatively near-term goals. So the commercial funding for long-
term development is relatively modest at the corporate level.
If you look at major corporations, they are not pursuing this
as aggressively as they might.
Chairman Smith. The testimony from all of you, though,
seems to imply that the application is in reach in a lot of
areas and, if that is true, it seems like, somehow, there's a
way to harness the contribution, financial contribution, an
effort of the private sector as well. Does anybody have a
reaction? Yes, Mr. McWhorter.
Mr. McWhorter. I think the private sector will invest and
will invest in a very large amount, but the issue with the
private sector is risk. And, you know, the key aspect of what
the investment will be is, you know, when will they see what
the application is and when will they see the risk being
mitigated? And so I think with a program like the NSF program
that's being described, one of the key roles that that does is
it shows the direction and it mitigates the risk so that you
can free up and realize the private sector investment.
Chairman Smith. Dr. Smalley, you have an answer.
Mr. Smalley. Well, there's a huge difference between the
circumstance where you see a product in 2 to 3 years and one
where you imagine one in 10 years. In the current financial
enterprise, you can make a start-up for the first, but you'd be
a fool to make a start-up with the second, unless you're in the
biotech industry in which case you may still be a fool.
We're certainly talking about the 10-year, 20-year time
horizon. And so, at the moment, this is primarily a
responsibility of large organizations in societies like our
Federal Government. I believe that's really the way it ought to
be. I mean, I think that American industry has evolved in a
healthy way and that they are much better about taking care of
the short-term applications where they need to get their
profits. But that devolves upon universities and
federallaboratories much more the core responsibility for taking care
of a longer-distance view.
Chairman Smith. Dr. Wong, how would we manage a multi-
agency nanoscience initiative? Should NSF be a lead agency?
Have you done any thought on this? Has there been any talk
between the agencies that are now working----
Mr. Wong. The NSF has been the coordinator of a major
interagency effort for the last few years. There's a very
active working group going on now chaired by NSF in this area.
We are prepared to play that role. We've had a long history in
it. We are absolutely determined and devoted to this as a major
strategic direction. Since we are the primary funder of basic
sciences and long-lead-time projects, I think we are probably
in a position to do that.
Chairman Smith. How about our effort of being aware of the
research that's being accomplished in other countries? Do we
have the--I notice we have cut way back on our science attaches
even in Japan. Do we have the proper effort to observe and keep
abreast of what's happening in other countries? Whoever can
best answer that.
Mr. Smalley. Well, as an active researcher in the field,
the one thing we do most of the time is worry about what other
people are doing. And so there is a tremendous amount of
scrutiny and, for that matter, collaboration with researchers
in European and Japanese laboratories. So that aspect, I think,
is well in hand.
Now, broader, on the national security level, looking at
programs we may not be aware of through the published
literature and at conferences and so forth, this I'm not
equipped to comment on but it is, perhaps, something that needs
to be looked at.
Chairman Smith. Representative Woolsey.
Ms. Woolsey. Well, you stole my question. And I was going
to ask Dr. Wong and Dr. McWhorter about cooperation
internationally. So I suppose what I'd like to say--ask is how
can we do a better job of being--of partnering with other
scientists around the world so we're not reinventing the wheel
if it's already invented and et cetera.
Mr. Wong. I think we've--over the last 15 years or 20
years--we really have evolved a system of international
competition yet cooperation at the same time that's extremely
healthy. At the basic science research level, there's open
publication, there's open exchange. I think that's been a
tremendous boon to the whole field and we will continue to do
Ms. Woolsey. Mr. McWhorter.
Mr. McWhorter. I agree. I think this is an area that we
have done very well in. You know, we are a global community now
and it's, you know, I think the world of scientists are much
more connected these days and most of the conferences are
international in nature and so there's a lot of interaction
among people from different countries.
Ms. Woolsey. Well, where would it not be? I mean, when we
talk nuclear, is that a place where we wouldn't be sharing?
Mr. Wong. I think there are at least two areas where one
has to be very careful. One is national security issues, when
national security issues are involved, clearly we ought to be
careful. And second is when intellectual properties are
involved, when the research and development have moved
sufficiently downstream to have property rights. I think there
we have to be careful as well unless our commercial interests
Ms. Woolsey. And is it possible to be careful enough? I
mean, if we are all working together globally would we maybe
not have to be so careful? Oh, you know where I am. I've shown
Mr. Wong. My bias is that we can always improve, but I
think we're doing pretty well. That's my bias.
Ms. Woolsey. Anybody else like to respond to that?
Mr. Smalley. I believe it's much easier to render the
entire process sterile by trying to be too careful than it is
to both succeed in developing an area and make sure that you've
kept it all to yourself. You spend all your time trying to make
sure that nobody else gets a good idea, you shut down your own
So in this area of nanotechnology where it's tempting, in
fact almost impossible to avoid, talking about revolutionary
advances, which will have huge economic impact and national
security implications, it's quite easy to get yourself in a
conversation where you're saying, well, if it's that important,
let's put it all behind a fence and we'll do it all ourselves
and never talk to anybody. And that would be a prescription for
sterility. It would not happen in the United States. And we
would guarantee being a third-class player in the game.
Ms. Woolsey. Okay.
Mr. McWhorter. I think that we can keep in mind the
difference between nanotechnology in general versus specific,
say, national security applications of nanotechnology. And in
the general case, you know, cooperation is good. And in the
specific case of national security, secrecy and confidentiality
is critical. And so there would be applications that, maybe at
a national lab, where, you know, we wouldn't talk about the
work. And so, you know, the national security issue is a very
Mr. Merkle. Yes, I think, actually, I would agree with the
general comments. One of the observations is that an
international cooperative effort where we are very closely
involved with researchers in other countries is also a very
good way of monitoring their activities so that we are not
caught by surprise.
Ms. Woolsey. Thank you.
Chairman Smith. Mr. Larson.
Mr. Larson. Thank you again, Chairman Smith. And, again, my
appreciation. Just a quick two questions. One will be very
simple to answer, but the--in the President's proposed
information technology initiative, it includes the acquisition
of the terascale computing system for addressing challenging
scientific computing problems. What would be the impact of that
level of computational power on nanotechnology research?
Mr. Smalley. It's vast. The key aspect of nanotechnology is
you're now dealing at the fundamental, ultimate level where you
know where all the atoms are. That instantly makes it a
fundamental science. So if you know where the atoms are, you
can say, okay, how does it behave? And it becomes a
calculatable problem. Well, not calculatable with the computers
of a couple decades ago, but, interesting, calculatable now
with these new incredible computers.
And I can tell you from my own research as we try to build
these cables that are 100 times stronger than steel and so
forth, every day there are questions: well, how can we make
this work? And we'll think up some way. It'll take usmonths to
see whether it works. And we do calculations to see whether it's
feasible. And those calculations are now becoming much, much more
relevant and much more fundamental.
It's a wonderful aspect about nanotechnology that hasn't
been mentioned today so far is that it is simultaneously deep,
fundamental true science of the true ivory tower sort and yet
commercially, in some cases immediately, financially
interesting. By and large the reason that biotechnology has a
special flavor is that it is a nanotechnology. That you know
where all the atoms are. You can calculate it. And yet you're
dealing with some little nano object that suddenly has a
commercial importance as a drug. And so you will find
researchers in biotech industries, completely privately funded,
doing research that would fit perfectly in a biochemistry
department in a university and visa-versa. There's this
immediacy between the ivory tower pure scientist and the
In the rest of science, by and large, that's not been the
case. The pure scientists are dealing with problems and
techniques that are pretty far from the commercial realm, with
a few exceptions. But in nanotechnology, they will get much
more together. So it will have the effect of vitalizing the
American scientific establishment by getting the scientist at
the most fundamental levels involved in objects of societal and
Mr. Larson. What are the top 10 universities in this
country dealing with this technology?
Mr. Smalley. Well, Rice University, clearly, is number one.
By and large, they are the top 10 that you always hear
mentioned, although since the 1960's and the 1970's, the
strength of research in this country has broadened out
dramatically from the Harvard and MIT, Cal Tech, Princeton,
Yale. But those names still are up high on the list, for good
Mr. Wong. Let me mention, if I may, a topic that hasn't
been raised--bioinformatics. It's a subject that's very closely
connected with nanotechnology. And bioinformatics lives on
terascale computers. And the computation involving the shape of
molecules and their functions is a critical part of
bioinformatics. And it's probably the most exciting part of
Mr. Larson. And, Dr. Merkle, you've made the distinction a
couple of times here, at least--and for a non-scientist,
forgive me--but you keep--when we say nanotechnology, you make
a point to say molecular nanotechnology.
Mr. Merkle. Well, I think there is the idea that we'll be
able to build a wide arrangement of molecular structures. And,
in particular, one of the things which, of course, I've
mentioned a few times is that artificial self-replicating
systems will play an important role. This is an idea which I
think is gaining acceptance, but is not yet fully accepted
throughout the scientific community, and so I want to just say
that this is an area where there are some differences in
opinion about the particular routes to follow, but,
nonetheless, agreement about the overall goals and objectives
that we should be able to build, essentially, most of the
structures that are consistent with physical law.
Mr. Larson. Thank you, sir.
Chairman Smith. Gentlemen, on behalf of the Committee, the
Congress, the Nation, our compliments to you for what you have
achieved so far. I think all of us that have heard your
testimony today and will read your testimony in the transcript
are going to be the flag bearers because it seems obvious that
the information--there's enough information and enough
justification to aggressively pursue additional research in
this area. I mean, it might not culminate in what we would hope
it would, but it seems obvious that the justification is there
and it's a worthwhile pursuit and I think we will aggressively
pursue that as we proceed with our new appropriations.
So, again, my thanks. My compliments. We would like to ask
your permission to send you additional questions. One question
I would like you to answer for us, if you will, is how do we
best devise the kind of peer-review process that is going to
help us best assure that the taxpayers' dollars is best spent?
So if you'll include that in your responses.
Chairman Smith. So, again, thank you very much and this
Committee is adjourned.
[Whereupon, at 4:20 p.m., the Subcommittee was adjourned.]
[GRAPHIC] [TIFF OMITTED] 60678.001
[GRAPHIC] [TIFF OMITTED] 60678.002
[GRAPHIC] [TIFF OMITTED] 60678.003
[GRAPHIC] [TIFF OMITTED] 60678.004
[GRAPHIC] [TIFF OMITTED] 60678.005
[GRAPHIC] [TIFF OMITTED] 60678.006
[GRAPHIC] [TIFF OMITTED] 60678.007
[GRAPHIC] [TIFF OMITTED] 60678.008
[GRAPHIC] [TIFF OMITTED] 60678.009
[GRAPHIC] [TIFF OMITTED] 60678.010
[GRAPHIC] [TIFF OMITTED] 60678.011
[GRAPHIC] [TIFF OMITTED] 60678.012
[GRAPHIC] [TIFF OMITTED] 60678.013
[GRAPHIC] [TIFF OMITTED] 60678.014
[GRAPHIC] [TIFF OMITTED] 60678.015
[GRAPHIC] [TIFF OMITTED] 60678.016
[GRAPHIC] [TIFF OMITTED] 60678.017
[GRAPHIC] [TIFF OMITTED] 60678.018
[GRAPHIC] [TIFF OMITTED] 60678.019
[GRAPHIC] [TIFF OMITTED] 60678.020
[GRAPHIC] [TIFF OMITTED] 60678.021
[GRAPHIC] [TIFF OMITTED] 60678.022
[GRAPHIC] [TIFF OMITTED] 60678.023
[GRAPHIC] [TIFF OMITTED] 60678.024
[GRAPHIC] [TIFF OMITTED] 60678.025
[GRAPHIC] [TIFF OMITTED] 60678.026
[GRAPHIC] [TIFF OMITTED] 60678.027
[GRAPHIC] [TIFF OMITTED] 60678.028
[GRAPHIC] [TIFF OMITTED] 60678.030
[GRAPHIC] [TIFF OMITTED] 60678.031
[GRAPHIC] [TIFF OMITTED] 60678.032
[GRAPHIC] [TIFF OMITTED] 60678.033
[GRAPHIC] [TIFF OMITTED] 60678.034
[GRAPHIC] [TIFF OMITTED] 60678.035
[GRAPHIC] [TIFF OMITTED] 60678.036
[GRAPHIC] [TIFF OMITTED] 60678.037
[GRAPHIC] [TIFF OMITTED] 60678.038
[GRAPHIC] [TIFF OMITTED] 60678.039
[GRAPHIC] [TIFF OMITTED] 60678.040
[GRAPHIC] [TIFF OMITTED] 60678.041
[GRAPHIC] [TIFF OMITTED] 60678.042
[GRAPHIC] [TIFF OMITTED] 60678.043
[GRAPHIC] [TIFF OMITTED] 60678.044
[GRAPHIC] [TIFF OMITTED] 60678.045
[GRAPHIC] [TIFF OMITTED] 60678.046
[GRAPHIC] [TIFF OMITTED] 60678.047
[GRAPHIC] [TIFF OMITTED] 60678.048
[GRAPHIC] [TIFF OMITTED] 60678.049
[GRAPHIC] [TIFF OMITTED] 60678.050
[GRAPHIC] [TIFF OMITTED] 60678.051
[GRAPHIC] [TIFF OMITTED] 60678.052
[GRAPHIC] [TIFF OMITTED] 60678.053
[GRAPHIC] [TIFF OMITTED] 60678.054
[GRAPHIC] [TIFF OMITTED] 60678.055
[GRAPHIC] [TIFF OMITTED] 60678.056
[GRAPHIC] [TIFF OMITTED] 60678.057
[GRAPHIC] [TIFF OMITTED] 60678.058
[GRAPHIC] [TIFF OMITTED] 60678.059
[GRAPHIC] [TIFF OMITTED] 60678.060
[GRAPHIC] [TIFF OMITTED] 60678.061
[GRAPHIC] [TIFF OMITTED] 60678.062
[GRAPHIC] [TIFF OMITTED] 60678.063
[GRAPHIC] [TIFF OMITTED] 60678.064
[GRAPHIC] [TIFF OMITTED] 60678.065
[GRAPHIC] [TIFF OMITTED] 60678.066
[GRAPHIC] [TIFF OMITTED] 60678.067
[GRAPHIC] [TIFF OMITTED] 60678.068
[GRAPHIC] [TIFF OMITTED] 60678.069
[GRAPHIC] [TIFF OMITTED] 60678.070
[GRAPHIC] [TIFF OMITTED] 60678.071
[GRAPHIC] [TIFF OMITTED] 60678.072
[GRAPHIC] [TIFF OMITTED] 60678.073
[GRAPHIC] [TIFF OMITTED] 60678.074
[GRAPHIC] [TIFF OMITTED] 60678.075
[GRAPHIC] [TIFF OMITTED] 60678.076
[GRAPHIC] [TIFF OMITTED] 60678.077
[GRAPHIC] [TIFF OMITTED] 60678.078
[GRAPHIC] [TIFF OMITTED] 60678.079
[GRAPHIC] [TIFF OMITTED] 60678.080
[GRAPHIC] [TIFF OMITTED] 60678.081
[GRAPHIC] [TIFF OMITTED] 60678.082
[GRAPHIC] [TIFF OMITTED] 60678.083
[GRAPHIC] [TIFF OMITTED] 60678.084
[GRAPHIC] [TIFF OMITTED] 60678.085
[GRAPHIC] [TIFF OMITTED] 60678.086
[GRAPHIC] [TIFF OMITTED] 60678.087
[GRAPHIC] [TIFF OMITTED] 60678.088
[GRAPHIC] [TIFF OMITTED] 60678.089
[GRAPHIC] [TIFF OMITTED] 60678.090
[GRAPHIC] [TIFF OMITTED] 60678.091
[GRAPHIC] [TIFF OMITTED] 60678.092
[GRAPHIC] [TIFF OMITTED] 60678.093
[GRAPHIC] [TIFF OMITTED] 60678.094
[GRAPHIC] [TIFF OMITTED] 60678.095
[GRAPHIC] [TIFF OMITTED] 60678.096
[GRAPHIC] [TIFF OMITTED] 60678.097
[GRAPHIC] [TIFF OMITTED] 60678.098
[GRAPHIC] [TIFF OMITTED] 60678.099
[GRAPHIC] [TIFF OMITTED] 60678.100
[GRAPHIC] [TIFF OMITTED] 60678.101
[GRAPHIC] [TIFF OMITTED] 60678.102
[GRAPHIC] [TIFF OMITTED] 60678.103
[GRAPHIC] [TIFF OMITTED] 60678.104
[GRAPHIC] [TIFF OMITTED] 60678.105
[GRAPHIC] [TIFF OMITTED] 60678.106
[GRAPHIC] [TIFF OMITTED] 60678.107
[GRAPHIC] [TIFF OMITTED] 60678.108
[GRAPHIC] [TIFF OMITTED] 60678.109
[GRAPHIC] [TIFF OMITTED] 60678.110
[GRAPHIC] [TIFF OMITTED] 60678.111
[GRAPHIC] [TIFF OMITTED] 60678.112
[GRAPHIC] [TIFF OMITTED] 60678.113
[GRAPHIC] [TIFF OMITTED] 60678.114
[GRAPHIC] [TIFF OMITTED] 60678.115
[GRAPHIC] [TIFF OMITTED] 60678.116
[GRAPHIC] [TIFF OMITTED] 60678.117
[GRAPHIC] [TIFF OMITTED] 60678.118