Nanotech Pioneer Weighs In on Its Progress Thus Far

Twenty years from his groundbreaking experiment with an STM and xenon atoms, Don Eigler looks at nanotech today

1 min read

When one reflects on the relatively short history of nanotech there are handful of names that standout, like Feynman, Taniguchi, Drexler, Smalley and Kroto, Binnig and Rohrer, and Don Eigler.

The New Scientist has recently published an interview with Eigler online that marks the 20th anniversary last month of his moving around of xenon atoms with a scanning tunneling microscope (STM) to spell I-B-M.

The brief interview calls upon Eigler to provide context to his 1989 experiment using the STM to manipulate the atoms: “Prior to this it was only through chemistry that we were able to build atomically precise structures.”

And provides his way of understanding the development of nanotechnology today: “I like to differentiate between evolutionary technology and revolutionary technology. My cellphone and laptop contain evolutionary nanotechnology because they can be traced back to larger structures. Revolutionary is still very much in the future, but I'm thinking of things like new forms of drug delivery or new kinds of molecular structures.”

Even the environmental, health and safety concerns that have become near-daily fodder for science news, Eigler offers up an opinion on: “…with testing and an appropriate degree of regulation we'll be able to reap the benefits with very little in the way of a downside.”

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Two Startups Are Bringing Fiber to the Processor

Avicena’s blue microLEDs are the dark horse in a race with Ayar Labs’ laser-based system

5 min read
Diffuse blue light shines from a patterned surface through a ring. A blue cable leads away from it.

Avicena’s microLED chiplets could one day link all the CPUs in a computer cluster together.


If a CPU in Seoul sends a byte of data to a processor in Prague, the information covers most of the distance as light, zipping along with no resistance. But put both those processors on the same motherboard, and they’ll need to communicate over energy-sapping copper, which slow the communication speeds possible within computers. Two Silicon Valley startups, Avicena and Ayar Labs, are doing something about that longstanding limit. If they succeed in their attempts to finally bring optical fiber all the way to the processor, it might not just accelerate computing—it might also remake it.

Both companies are developing fiber-connected chiplets, small chips meant to share a high-bandwidth connection with CPUs and other data-hungry silicon in a shared package. They are each ramping up production in 2023, though it may be a couple of years before we see a computer on the market with either product.

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