The Premiere of the Nanoclast Awards

A roundup of the best and worst in the world of nanotechnology through the lens of the Nanoclast

3 min read
The Premiere of the Nanoclast Awards

While I have been contributing to IEEE Spectrum Online’s blogosphere since June 2007, 2010 marks the first full year of writing a stand-alone blog.

To mark this occasion I am going to offer up for the first time the Nanoclast Awards that may, or may not, become an annual event.

With little deliberation on the matter, the awards will be broken into three categories. They are: Best Advancement in Microscopy, Best Advancement in Nanomaterials, and finally no Nanoclast award ceremony would be complete without the Most Annoying Nano-related Story of the Year.

Let’s proceed to the nominees.

For our first category, “Best Advancement in Microscopy” it has been a banner year with some groundbreaking research. Here are the nominees:

First, IBM's Breakthrough in STM Imaging that now makes it possible to take images of an atom at nanosecond speeds as opposed to mere millisecond speeds.

The second nominee are the researchers at Ohio State University and the University of Hamburg in Germany who developed a custom-made scanning tunneling microscopy (STM) that reportedly took the very first images of the spin of an electron.

Our third and final nominee in this category is again Ohio State University this time in cooperation with Oak Ridge National Laboratory in using every conceivable microscopy tool in their arsenal to determine the causes for the demise of rechargeable batteries.

And the winner is…IBM’s breakthrough in STM imaging. I have made this selection from such a strong group of nominees based on the researchers' willingness to put their work into some perspective. While the press were mentioning “molecular electronics” and “Moore’s Law” they were saying, “Wait a minute.”

Our second category, “Best Advancement in Nanomaterials” not only had strong candidates but a lot of them.

With little surprise, our first nominee is research into graphene. After being the new darling of the advanced material community for the past 6 years, this year its discovery got the Nobel Prize in Physics for Andre Geim and Konstantin Novoselov.

So, our first nominee goes to IBM again for developing a simpler approach for creating a band gap in graphene.

Our second nominee are the researchers at Oregon State University who developed a method for creating a metal-insulator-metal (MIM) diode architecture that in the past had proven difficult to produce with high yield and top-level performance.

And our third and final nominee for this truncated list of nominees is a bit of a change from the previous two and a bit more humble in its aims but still managed to generate a fair amount of interest here on this blog. That is the coating that could make an average (not stealth) plane invisible to radar.

And our winner is…IBM’s ability to create a band gap in graphene. Graphene may be a wonder material but its electronic applications are going to be severely limited if they can’t find a way of creating a band gap for it. IBM’s research here may be just the ticket.

Our third and final category, “Most Annoying Nano-related Story of the Year” will come from three areas. They are hype: exaggerating the potential of nanotechnology; fear mongering: turning nanotechnology into all the wicked things that have resulted from man’s history of industrialization; and finally just plain wrong headedness: just examples of such sloppy thinking you lose all patience.

In the area of hype, we have our first nominee, which represents the story template that starts off telling us that nanotechnology is nothing but hype and then sets about trying to hype up its potential applications. Really annoying.

Our second nominee is an example of fear mongering that has become quite popular and that is confusing economic systems like capitalism and political systems like totalitarianism with nanotechnology. Either sadly misguided or deliberately misguiding others.

Our third and final nominee is for an example of an over taxed journalist who just begins to lose their way in a story and loses you in the process. Just a sad display. 

And our winner is…none of the above but instead the story that managed to combine elements of all three. What happens when a Pulitzer Prize winning journalist decides he’s going to blow the lid off of nanotechnology? You get this annoying bit of slapstick.

I hope you enjoyed our premier of the Nanoclast Awards, and I am looking forward to see what 2011 will have to offer.

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