SEMI NanoForum Highlights Opportunities, Challenges in Emerging Industry

Nanotechnology Seen as a Solution to Many of the World's Problems

Nov 16, 2004, 00:00 ET from SEMI

    AUSTIN, Nov. 16 /PRNewswire/ -- Nanotechnology promises to be a revolution
 because of its potential to address many industrial problems, according to
 speakers at the SEMI NanoForum 2004, which runs Nov. 14-17 at the Hilton Hotel
 here. "We will solve our industrial problems from the bottom up," said Zvi
 Yaniv, CEO of Applied Nanotech.
     Before it can do that, the nanotech industry needs to receive adequate
 funding. A panel discussion on financing for commercialization of nanotech
 discussed reasons for the lack of venture capital interest in the technology.
     Yaniv believes a key barrier is that nanotechnology is not considered a
 specific science and technology. Rather, it was an approach to science and
 technology. "It's about going and solving problems at the molecular level," he
     The amount of U.S. venture capital funding for nanotech declined from $385
 million in 2002 to an estimated $200 million this year, according to Lux
 Research. "Venture capitalists just don't get it -- they don't want to invest
 in materials," said Matthew Nordan, vice president of research for Lux.
     While nanotech may have trouble getting venture capital funding, there's
 adequate government funding available. Taiwan, for example, has budgeted $640
 million over six years for its nanotechnology initiative. "There are national
 efforts and international efforts in all regions of the world," noted Frank
 Robertson, manager of external programs and technology for Intel Corp. "We
 hope that we can coordinate to make the best use of those resources and not
 duplicate too much of that effort," he said.
     Robertson added that the established infrastructure of the semiconductor
 industry can serve as both a technological and economic platform to accelerate
 the introduction of new nanotech research. In doing so, nanotech would help to
 extend the life of Moore's Law, which has tracked the miniaturization of
 silicon devices for the past 40 years.
     During a keynote speech on the first day of NanoForum, Richard Smalley,
 director of the Carbon Nanotechnology Laboratory at Rice University in
 Houston, Texas, identified the shortage of fossil fuels as the most
 significant problem facing human civilization. Nanotechnology has the
 potential to provide an energy storage capability so that alternative energy
 sources can be widely adopted. "We need new technology to solve the energy
 problem," he said.
     However, Smalley warned that the U.S. would experience a shortage of
 future scientists to find solutions to these problems. That's because fewer
 young people were pursuing science and technology as careers. "Where are the
 new Edisons?" he asked.
     "The era of Sputnik and the moon shot were the only time we were
 successful in getting American kids into science and technology," said
 Smalley, who won the Nobel Prize for chemistry in 1996 for his discovery of
 "buckyballs" -- the soccer ball-shaped molecule which is the third carbon
     Other speakers at the NanoForum pointed out the difference between
 nanotechnology and microelectronics. "Nanotechnology is not about being
 smaller, it's about being different as a result of being smaller," said Larry
 Bock, executive chairman of Nanosys Inc. "We can bring together two or more
 different materials into a single nanostructure, so now these nanostructures
 are no longer materials, they are [active] devices," he said.
     Nanotech was still in the very early stages of development, comparable to
 the information technology industry before the invention of the integrated
 circuit, according to Scott Mize, president of the Foresight Institute. "We
 are very much at the beginning of an exponential curve of development in
 nanotech that we expect will take several decades," he said.
     Mize said the nanotech industry needs to focus on major challenges because
 "big problems equal big markets." He urged the nanotech sector to follow the
 lead of the semiconductor industry by developing a technology roadmap, which
 would help the development of standards.
     SEMI is a global industry association serving companies that develop and
 provide manufacturing technology and materials to the global semiconductor,
 flat panel display, MEMS and related microelectronics industries. SEMI
 maintains offices in Austin, Beijing, Brussels, Hsinchu, Moscow, San Jose
 (Calif.), Seoul, Shanghai, Singapore, Tokyo and Washington, D.C. For more
 information, visit