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Nanotechnology's Shift from R&D to Commercialization Urged

While an emphasis has been articulated on moving towards "nanomanufacturing", the question is whether the current institutions are a barrier or an aid in that shift

2 min read
Nanotechnology's Shift from R&D to Commercialization Urged

Through the concurrence of a number of events, I am now wondering if we are not seeing a minor shift developing in the way that nanotechnology development is being approached that may in fact lead to a more fundamental one.

The shift that I see developing is one that moves away from simply developing new nanomaterials but to seeing how these nanomaterials may in fact enable new products. Of course, that has always been the idea supposedly, but it has not been clear through funding and research whether this has been encouraged and pursued.

I commented recently on the work of Professor Geoffrey Ozin at the University of Toronto, who has offered a set of recommendations for continued research into nanomaterials that may allow us to actually reap some benefit from them rather than simply stockpiling in an effort to retain research funding.

And now I have read over at Andrew Maynard’s 20/20 Science blog his eloquent preamble in his response to National Nanotechnology Initiative (NNI) Strategic Plan 2010; Request for Information (FR Doc. 2010–16273) Submitted August 15 2010.

While Maynard’s points are well made, I wonder whether eloquence may be lost on bureaucrats, even of the most enlightened variety. Maynard describes a “changing of context” from the time the NNI was formed 10 years ago when it was supporting research and development to now where nanotechnology is heading towards being “…a significant driver of economic growth and social progress.”

This change leads Maynard to ask whether the institution that has asked the questions is in fact a hindrance or assistance in the further development of nanotechnology.

“With this changing context, it is necessary to consider whether the concepts and expectations embedded within the NNI are still valid, or whether they have become an impediment to progress,” asks Maynard “This is a tough question to ask of such a well-established and influential initiative. But it is one that needs to be addressed if the efforts of the past ten years are to bear fruit.”

I am not sure that urging the leaders of the NNI to undergo some kind of existential questioning of their institution will lead to much more than a shrug and dismissal when it appears that not asking those questions, or at least not understanding the answers, is part of their modus operandi.

Let's hope they're ready to listen.


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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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