Gimzewski at Nano Poetica de um Mundo Novo exhibit, Sao Paulo, Brazil, 2008
Winter Quarter 2009: The Future Impact of Nano in New Technologies
Instructor: James Gimzewski, Professor of Chemistry
Tuesdays and Thursdays
9:00-10:50 AM, Bunche 3164
Course: The Future Impact of Nano in New Technologies
Department: Honors Collegium 174
Nanotechnology is typically discussed using a metric called the nanometer, which is a billionth of a meter. Certainly, one can classify many technologically and biologically important objects on the scale of the nanometer (nm). For instance, a virus has a diameter of around several tenths of a nanometer. DNA is around a nanometer in diameter but is over a half a meter long. Proteins have dimensions of a few nanometers. A cell is typically several thousand nanometers. In the technological world, the insulating gap in a transistor is nanometric. Molecules that we use every day, such as pharmaceuticals and gasoline, are a bit more or less than a nanometer, and polymers or plastics are made of long spaghetti-like molecules less than a nanometer in diameter but several thousand nanometers long. Terms such as nanoparticles and nanomedicine are used here to describe situations in which critical aspects of the whole or parts of the system are determined by nanometric dimensions in the range of 1-100 nm. The anticipated markets for nanotechnology, on the other hand, are measured in billions. Nanotechnology's economic impact in the coming 15-20 years is fragmented into many areas in units of $US billion per year and indicate a $1-trillion-per-year market. The science behind nanotechnology (nanoscience) is usually lumped under the rubric nanotechnology, and the evolutions of nanoscience and resultant technologies run hand in hand. The conception of the technology is frequently ahead of the science. In many cases, "nanotechnology" is merely used to describe the future in a fictional sense. It is a subject about which everyone, be they artists, scientists, politicians or housewives, doctors, scientists and engineers have their own "dreams and nightmares". Nanotechnology, is materialism's "endgame," meaning that it is at once about materiality, in the sense of "controlling matter at a molecular level," and also presents the potential to undermine that way of thinking altogether. Roy Ascott summarizes this way of thinking: "Materialists may see working in the nano field as the end game, but it is not necessary to embrace a radical transcendentalism to see that nano is located between the material density of our everyday world and the numinous spaces of subatomic immateriality". In this sense there is an important role for humanists and artists also to reflect upon and participate in the creation of what is also a philosophical transformation for humankind.
This course is more than the science behind nanotechnology, its about the impacts and shifts in technology and how they will potentially influence medical care, the environment and energy issues as well as military, government and economics. Like technology today it is impossible to separate nano from cultural and societal issues that are likely to change in a negative way if we continue corporate-industrial manufacture and welfare.
The classes will typically involve PowerPoint lectures with adequate opportunity for interaction covering the background, state of the art and future perspectives of problems we face. In each case the science will be described in a way that requires no specialist knowledge of science and which is devoid of mathematics. It is closely connected to the societal role and current state of affairs. For instance in a unit on the environment, I will approach the key issues of global warming from various perspectives relating to global industry, basic chemistry of the process, as well as the political and social hurdles in making a green planet. The role of nanotechnologies in alternative energy, in alternate lighting technologies and in cleaning up pollution will be discussed. I will also supplement my lectures with some leading figures that will provide new insights into the state of nanotechnology.
Topics that will be covered
Introduction to the Nanoscale
Nanoscale Tools and Materials
Money, Economics and Investment
Environment and Green Technologies
Medicine, Old Age and Sustainability
Aerospace and Architecture
Communication and Computation
Ethics, Safety and the Gray Goo
Art and Science
Topics are subject to change. A tour of the California NanoSystems Institute is tentatively scheduled.