The Next Big Thing Is Really Small - PCC - ebook

nanotechnology  a-no--tek-'nä-l -je- n (1987): the science of manipulating material at the atomic level Although nanotechnology deals with the very small—a nanometer is 1/80,000th the diameter of a human hair—it is going to be huge. From the food we eat, the clothes we wear, and the products we manufacture to the composition of our bodies, everything is made of atoms. And if we can manipulate the atom, then that changes the rules of the game for almost every product. Coal and diamonds, for example, are both constructed from carbon atoms. It’s merely the arrangement of the atoms that differentiates an inexpensive fuel source from a pricey engagement jewel. While the science of nanotech cannot yet transform coal into diamonds, it is advancing rapidly and will begin to radically alter the business world during the next few years—and will continue to do so for the forseeable future.  The buzz surrounding nanotech is comparable to that at the dawn of the digital revolution, which changed the face of how business operates. Unlike the Internet, however, which applied new technology to many old processes and businesses, nanotech is about creating entirely new materials, products, and systems (and therefore markets), as well as making existing products faster, stronger, and better. You may be tempted to wait until the buzz dies down before deciding how to integrate nanotech into your business, but don’t make the mistake of thinking of it as being light-years away. Even though it may sound far-off at times, within ten years nanotech will have huge effects on many industries, including manufacturing, health care, energy, agriculture, communications, transportation, and electronics. Within a decade, nanotechnology is expected to be the basis of $1 trillion worth of products in the United States alone and will create anywhere from 800,000 to 2 million new jobs.  Nanotechnology will require you to radically re-think what your core business is, who your competitors are, what skills your workforce needs, how to train your employees, and how to think strategically about the future. Jack Uldrich and Deb Newberry explain exactly how you should prepare for nanotech’s imminent arrival. They identify today’s nanotech innovators, chronicle and project the rapid rise of nanotech developments, and show how to think strategically about the field’s opportunities and investments.  The Next Big Thing Is Really Small provides a sneak peek at the technology that will transform the next ten years, giving investors and executives a road map for using small wonders to generate big profits.

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Nanotechnology is the manipulation of matter at the atomic level to create better materials, devices and systems. Within the next few years and into the foreseeable future, nanotechnology will be introducing impressive new materials that will impact directly on a large number of industries—manufacturing, health care, energy, agriculture, communication, transportation and electronics. By 2010, the market for nanotechnology products and services will reach $1 trillion and will create 800,000-2million new jobs.

In other words, the arrival and commercialization of nanotechnology products will impact every business and dramatically alter the general business climate. It is the next big thing, which will hit the marketplace, and therefore, everyone needs to understand what nanotechnology is all about.

Key Thoughts

"The impact of nanotechnology on the health, wealth and lives of people will be at least the equivalent of the combined influences of microelectronics, medical imaging, computer-aided engineering and man-made polymers in the twentieth century."

Richard Smalley, winner of the 1996 Nobel Prize in Chemistry

"Because of nanotechnology, we will see more change in our civilization in the next thirty years than we did during all of the twentieth century."

Mike Rocco, senior adviser for nanotechnology at the National Science Foundation

Nanotechnology 1What is nanotechnology?

A nanometer is one-billionth of a meter. At this level, it becomes possible to manipulate individual atoms and molecules to create materials and devices, which have specified characteristics. The essence of nanotechnology is that new materials can be developed which will perform to exact specifications rather than being stuck with how naturally occurring materials perform.

Nanotechnology is the art and science of learning how to manipulate and rearrange materials at the atomic or molecular level. The term "nano" means one-billionth of something, or 10-9. A nanometer is 1/75,000th the width of a human hair. A DNA molecule is about 2.5 nanometers wide.

Nanotechnology is cross-disciplinary. It draws on aspects from chemistry, physics, engineering, biology, materials science and information sciences. Because of this, many scientists who have never worked with people outside their area of specialization are now collaborating with people from other fields. This is generating a tremendous cross-fertilization of ideas, which has never occurred before, and it is leading to a merging of markets and products. Developments now being made in one field can have quite startling flow-on effects in another seemingly unrelated area. Nanotechnology is bringing about the convergence of a number of industries.

All of this enthusiasm for the potential of nanotechnology may seem far-fetched to business people who are jaded by a constant stream of superlatives and breakthroughs, but nanotechnology is no pie-in-the-sky theory. Since the 1980s, the tools for seeing and manipulating matter at the atomic level have been evolving and improving. The scanning probe microscope(invented in 1981 by IBM)makes it possible for individual atoms and molecules to be moved and manipulated. Nuclear magnetic resonance spectrometers determine the 3-dimensional structure of molecules, and a machine called a "NanoManipulator" allows atoms and molecules to be moved. A process called physical vapor synthesis is available to produce mass quantities of unique nanomaterials which will have unique physical characteristics not found in any naturally occurring material. All of these technologies are now available and are known quantities.

The potential benefits of nanotechnology are highly impressive:

■ New building construction materials can be created that has the characteristics the customer wants rather than simply taking the materials nature has provided. This will have flow-on effects in the $460 billion global plastics industry, the $57 billion U. S. steel industry and the $27 billion glass industry.

■ The $18 billion cosmetics industry will be reshaped by the availability of longer-lasting lipsticks and mascaras with never-before-seen colors or even completely transparent materials that can be used in sun-screens and such like.