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Benjamin H. Wu
Deputy Under Secretary for Technology,
U.S. Department of Commerce

Opening Remarks at the NIST Nanotechnology Open House
June 20, 2002, Gaithersburg, Md.


Thank you, Arden, and good morning to all.

On behalf of the Commerce Department and its Technology Administration I, too, would like to welcome you to NIST's Nanotechnology Open House.

It's a privilege to be among some of our nation's brightest, scientific minds here at NIST.

I am delighted that NIST is hosting this event and it's very appropriate.

I have spent my entire career working with NIST, ever since it's transformation from the National Bureau of Standards in 1988.

As our nation's oldest Federal laboratory, and the only one with the express mission of working with industry, NIST is playing an important role in advancing nanotechnology research and development.

The work that the word-class scientists are doing here at NIST - in developing the measurements, standards, and data crucial to exploiting the nanotechnology potential - will yield returns in virtually every aspect of our science and technology enterprises.

From materials, to fire prevention, to manufacturing and chemical processing, to medicine, to national security, to space exploration, to communications just to name a few.

As the nation's premier measurement laboratory, NIST will provide:

  • Basic measurement capabilities,
  • Nanomaterials characterization,
  • Nanomagnetics research,
  • Nanoelectronics development,
  • Nanobiotechnology applications, and
  • Quantum devices and measurement.


I am hopeful that today's talks and tours will stimulate fruitful interactions and future collaborations.

Now when you get right down to it, you might say, if you can pardon the pun this early in the morning, that we're here to engage in "small talk"-some very, very small talk.

And when the topic of discussion shifts to the size of a chip feature or some other ultra small device or part, you could say that it's likely that with nanotechnology we'll be splitting hairs - over and over and over again.

Which actually makes nanotechnology sound a bit like politics, doesn't it?

I hear the groans coming from the back of the auditorium, so I'll stop with the jokes - but it's worth noting that some bizarre aspects of quantum mechanics, a topic that will permeate much of this morning's discussion, were once considered laughable and unrealistic - even by one of the greatest scientists of all time, Albert Einstein, who was in fact a founding father of quantum theory.

But, as another Nobel Prize winner, Bill Phillips, will tell you shortly, these aspects are emerging into reality.

Through Bill's work, we are now making encouraging strides in building a quantum computer.

I find this all truly amazing.

And, in fact, just last week NIST's Dave Wineland and two of his colleagues published an article in which they proposed a design that could be the blueprint for the creation of a quantum computer.

This computer architecture incorporates a large number of interconnected ion traps, using techniques already demonstrated at NIST on a smaller scale.

And while a practical quantum computer may still be a distant prospect, it continues to be an object of serious pursuit.

It demonstrates how far science and technology have taken us in less than a century and hints at how much further we can go in the years and decades ahead.

As scientists and engineers gain understanding and mastery of molecular and atomic structures and processes, we are likely to see a steady stream of commercially valuable and socially useful technologies.

President Bush fully recognizes and deeply appreciates the importance of the tiny revolution in science and technology that is just beginning.

And the Administration is committed to helping our nation be at the forefront of nanotechnology.

The President believes strongly in the economic gains and social advances that nanotechnology can bring to the citizens of the United States and to the rest of the world.

His proposed budget for the next fiscal year demonstrates this commitment.

Although challenged to meet funding priorities across government - especially against the backdrop of our war on terrorism and the need to bolster homeland security - President Bush has proposed a record $111.8 billion Federal investment in R&D.

This amounts to an 8 percent increase over current spending.

In particular, the President has proposed a 17 percent increase in funding for the government-wide National Nanotechnology Initiative.

The Federal investment in nanotechnology would grow to more than $700 million in the coming year.

We hope that the work enabled by this investment will eventually pay handsome dividends for the nation and the world with:

  • Continued improvement in electronics for information technology;
  • Higher-performance, lower-maintenance materials for defense, transportation, space, and environmental applications; and
  • Accelerated biotechnical applications in medicine, healthcare, and agriculture.


Federal nano investments in 2003 will focus on fundamental nanoscale research, centers of excellence, and on the supporting infrastructure.

Priority areas will include:

  • Research to enable efficient nanoscale manufacturing;
  • Innovative nanotechnology solutions for the detection of and protection from biological-chemical-radiological-explosive agents;
  • Education and training of workers for future nano-based industries; and
  • Partnerships and policies to enhance industrial participation in the nanotechnology revolution.


It is vitally important that we bring together all the key stakeholders - government, industry, academia, and financiers - so that knowledge moves quickly and efficiently from the laboratory to the marketplace.

We are in an era of innovation-based competition.

And nanotechnology will be the arena for much of that competition.

If U.S. industry performs well -by successfully seizing the opportunities spawned by public and private nanotechnology research - then our economy and our citizens will prosper.

The emphasis on nanotechnology is not being placed just here in the United States but has also become a global phenomenon.

In 2000, when the United States formally launched the National Nanotechnology Initiative (NNI) - like the shots fired at Lexington in 1776, this shot was heard around the world.

The NNI was translated into dozens of languages.

Countries around the globe have accordingly responded with their own nanotech initiatives.

The National Science Foundation estimates that global governmental spending on nano R&D is about $2.2 billion.

Japan, for example, accounts for one-third of the global investment in this area.

The United States accounts for about one-fourth of the total, and Europe for about one-fifth.

Europe, Japan, and the United States may represent the lion's share of the effort, but the competitors - or, potential partners as I prefer referring to them - are everywhere.

The entire world, it seems, is converging on this frontier of science and technology.

In Korea, for example, public and private sector spending on nanotechnology this year is projected to be about $150 million.

And, according to reports, Taiwan recently announced that it intends to spend $600 million on nanotechnology over the next five years.

Not only that, Taiwan plans to begin introducing nanotechnology in its schools, starting at the equivalent of our junior high school level.

It's clear that the world has recognized that nanotechnology is an amazingly robust area of activity with a potentially huge upside.

I encourage all of you here to pursue this opportunity with passion, to explore the fertile possibilities for advancement that lie at interdisciplinary boundaries, to seek out the advantages of collaboration, and to be entrepreneurial in your thinking.

Today, you will get a healthy sampling of NIST's nanotechnology efforts.

You will discover that many of projects under way here in Gaithersburg and in Boulder, Colorado, merit world-class status.

Some are aimed at incremental advances necessary for the microelectronics industry, for example, to continue its decades-long run of squeezing ever more and ever smaller devices on a chip.

Others focus further out on the nanotechnology horizon.

All are united by the shared aim of building a new foundation, or infrastructure, of technical resources and generic technologies to help you succeed in your molecular endeavors and, ultimately, to help the United States fully realize the potential of nanotechnology.

Today I encourage you to participate as prospective partners and to consider how you might leverage this valuable national technical resource known as NIST.

I wish you all a productive day.

Thank you.