At the Society of Manufacturing Engineers’ recent Micro and Nanomanufacturing Conference, the keynote speaker, Michael Postek of the National Institute of Standards and Technology, gave a presentation titled, “You Can’t Make It if You Can’t Measure It.” In it, Postek discussed the critical role that the development of appropriate metrology methods and instrumentation will play in advancing the production of nanosystems.
The same holds true for design. Theories are well and good, but if you can’t properly design a nanoscale system, it likely won’t come to fruition. Design and modeling techniques are instrumental to the success and progress of nanotechnology. The intricacies of the much-hyped field necessitate modified modeling and design techniques suitable to the unique requirements and properties of nanoscale systems. And, as we all know, design steers the course for fabrication.
Drawing from numerous workshops held from 2005 to 2007, Battelle (Columbus, OH) and the Foresight Nanotech Institute (Menlo Park, CA) jointly released “Productive Nanosystems: A Technology Roadmap” in January. Intended to provide a common vocabulary and vision for atomically precise (AP) manufacturing technologies and productive nanosystems, the extensive document underscores the importance of creating modeling and design software for AP nanosystem development.
Identifying design software as a potential bottleneck for AP nanosystem development, the roadmap suggests the support of multiscale modeling and research targeted at the requirements needed to support CAD software for AP nanosystems. “Nanoscience and nanotechnology are on the verge of tremendous advances in modeling and design that originate in macroscale engineering, chemistry, and computer science. The modeling and design infrastructure that has developed around macroscale engineering, including computer-aided design–based mechanical and electrical engineering, provides a solid foundation of protocols and design interfaces that are now being extended to software for molecular modeling and design,” the roadmap states.
But molecular modeling and design software is already a focus of one nanotech-oriented company. Blazing a trail in the nanotechnology frontier, Nanorex Inc. (Bloomfield Hills, MI) offers open-source computational modeling tools for the design and analysis of AP nanosystems. Lending additional credibility and expertise to the venture, K. Eric Drexler—recognized as a nanotechnology pioneer—serves as chief technical advisor to the company. “The members of the Nanorex team share a common vision—to create compelling, reliable, affordable, and easy-to-use engineering software to support the development of advanced nanotechnologies on the pathway to productive nanosystems,” according to the Nanorex mission statement.
Nanorex’s open-source software, along with the technology roadmap, are steps in the right direction, advancing nanosystem development. However, it appears as though researchers from multiple disciplines seemingly still have a marathon to go in order to reach the AP nanosystem finish line.
Shana Leonard, Editor