The Next Small Thing

July 15, 2001 | Source: Forbes

Scientists are re-creating our world in the realm of the intensely tiny. The potential payoff: denser hard drives, smaller chips, better medicine.
Top research organizations within large companies and renowned universities are inventing the future: electronics as cheap and plentiful as bar codes on packaging; lightweight vests enmeshed with sensors could measure a person’s vital signs; analysis of a patient’s DNA could be done so quickly and precisely that designer drugs could be fabricated on the fly; a computer the size of your library card could store everything you ever saw or said.

Current nanotech research includes:

* IBM: scanning tunneling microscope and “millipede” storage system, which will record more than 400 gigabits of data per sq. in.

* Harvard University: self-assembling 3-D circuit

* University of Texas: protein-controlled semiconductor growth

* Cornell University: lithography to separate DNA fragments and detect whether food is spoiled

* Hewlett-Packard: Carbon nanotubes to create computer chips

* UCLA: chips built from organic molecules

* Yale: self-assembling memory devices, leading to memory so cheap that people will throw away electronics the way they do packaging