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Enabling Nanotechnology from Discovery to Manufacture (+$6 million)

photo of nanotube on ant's leg

Carbon nanotube on the hair of an ant’s leg.

Image: NIST

High-resolution version of this image

Challenge

The United States faces dramatic changes in manufacturing, with production using nanoscale components and processes expected to be a dominant factor in the 21st century. The promise of U.S. investment and innovation in nanotechnology can only be realized if the necessary infrastructure of measurement methods and standards is available to safely produce superior nanotechnology products.

Products built from nanoscale components—a thousand times thinner than a human hair—require entirely new ways to accurately quantify their properties and determine their sizes, shapes, and chemical composition. Moreover, there is an urgent need to improve understanding and measurement of nanomaterials to ensure safe handling and protection against potential health or environmental hazards that may be posed by specific types of these materials.

Proposed NIST Program

In FY 2007, NIST began a major initiative to address the measurement barriers hindering rapid development of nanotechnologies. A new NIST Center for Nanoscale Science and Technology has been established that combines both research and a state-of-the-art nanofabrication and nanometrology user facility.

The research initiatives newly proposed in FY 2008 will build on recent NIST advances in nanoscale science and technology by:

  • Developing ways to measure strength, stress, strain, optical, and electronic properties of nano-structures to improve processes and understanding of failure mechanisms;
  • Creating three-dimensional, high-resolution imaging methods that reveal details of structure, chemical composition, and manufacturing defects and allow researchers to view nanostructures as they interact with their environment;
  • Simulating nanoscale phenomena with computer models to allow economical development of production methods for complex nanodevices; and
  • Producing the measurement techniques required to address the interagency efforts to characterize nanotechnology impacts to our health, safety, and environment.

Expected Impacts

NIST work in this area should help to:

  • Enhance competitiveness of U.S. manufacturers of products that incorporate nanotechnology and protect the promising future of this market sector by ensuring that a reliable infrastructure of tools exists to accurately measure both the beneficial and potentially harmful properties of nanotechnology materials;
  • Accelerate private-sector commercialization of new products and innovations such as high strength, high toughness materials for greater auto fuel efficiency and personal protection and drug delivery systems with nanoscale components;
  • Enable more compact, powerful, and innovative products made with nanotechnology-enhanced electronic chips that are smaller, faster, and more efficient; and
  • Produce increased yield, productivity, and reliability in the manufacture of nanostructures and devices for the electronics, sensor, information storage and communications industries.