Nanotechnology in Japan

Bio of Masakazu Aono who first used an STM to pick and place atoms on silicon.

Aono currently is Research Supervisor, “Nanoscale Quantum Conductor Array” Project, International Cooperative Research Project (ICORP), Japan Science and Technology Agency (JST)

Now, he wants to study an unexplored area of biotechnology. Prof. Aono says, “I want to study thoroughly the slick exchange mechanisms of signals among biological materials using a STM with at least 1,000 probe-tips. My ultimate goal is to create a new paradigm in the computation field based on my research in such an area.”

Here is a summary of nanotechnology work in Japan (summary written in 2005)

The most relevant part seems to be (a lot of good work there) Ultimate Manipulation of Atoms and Molecules (1992-2001)

* Private sector partner: Angstrom Technology Partnership
* Public sector partner: National Institute for Advanced Interdisciplinary Research(NAIR)

The purpose of R&D is to develop technology for exactly observing and identifying atoms or molecules, and arranging them in a desired layout. In combination with mechanical probe techniques and beam techniques, the new technology allows the identification, observation, measurement and manipulation of atoms and molecules on the surface of various materials, organic molecules such as DNA, and atomic assembly in free space. R&D of simulation technology will also be pursued to exactly predict atomic and molecular processes. In JYF 1994, it was found possible to manipulate structures down to the atomic level by means of magnetic fields. This suggests the possibility of creating new materials through the control of materials’ structures at atomic and molecular levels.

This last project is the most “nanotechnological” project at present, although it has been insisted that the main idea is the manipulation of individual atoms with an eye towards creating materials with new properties. The original impetus for the project was a small band of researchers at Tsukuba’s Electrotechnical Laboratory (ETL), who approached MITI with the concept which then found interested partners in the private sector. (Supposedly the ETL researchers’ ideas were sparked by D r. Aono’s Atomcraft project carried out under ERATO.)

Original plans were for this to be one of the “large-scale” projects run under MITI, but with the development of the ISTF program, the decision was made to incorporate it as one of the ISTF projects. MITI seems to be very insistent on attempting to bring together national laboratories, academia, and the private sector. This project has the Angstrom Technology Partnership as the private sector partner, and the National Institute for Advanced Interdisciplinary Research (NAIR) as the public sector partner. Both have come together to form the Joint Research Center for Atom Technology (JRCAT) to carry out the above- mentioned research. Although universities are not officially associated with the project, several of the researchers are graduate students (mainly from Tsukuba University)or professors working half-time at national laboratories. The research groups involved are the same as those in NAIR (See JRCAT research results below for complete list)

A list of targets to achieve by the final date (2001) include (intermediate goals in parentheses):

* (Control of Local Surface Reactions)–> Manipulation of Atoms/Molecules
* (Control of Subnanometer Structures) –> Control of Bulk Properties
* (Observation and Control of Growing Surfaces) –> Formation of Superstructures
* (Control of Reactions in Atom Clusters) –> Formation of Nanometer Structures
* (Observation of Molecules)–> Molecular Fabrication
* (Simulation Based on First Principle Calculations) –> Reaction System Simulation

A list of the individual members of the Angstrom Technology Partnership (private partners) shows all of the larger Japanese semiconductor companies, as well as a few of the US and Korean ones. Perhaps the most interesting partner is Molecular Simulations, Inc. (formerly Biosym), which is a US company known for its simulation software, particularly for biotechnology and pharmaceutical development.

About The Author