About 250 technologists and policy makers from around the globe meet this week in Brussels, Belgium, at INC3, the third international nanotechnology conference on communication and cooperation, to discuss the latest developments in nanotechnology, the challenges and bottlenecks, and the economic and societal implications. The need for collaboration involving industry, academia, society stakeholders, governments and financial institutions at world-wide level will be presented in technology and economic presentations.
Already, state-of-the-art nanotechnology-based products reflect the significant benefits at societal and individual levels that can be expected from future nanotechnology developments. New or better performing goods and services are emerging in electronics, healthcare, chemistry and materials sciences, to name a few.
New production routes are being designed towards the target of zero waste and zero emissions. The presentations emphasize that the multi-disciplinary skills and tasks needed for further nanotechnology innovations exceed the resources and capabilities of any single company, nation or region.
Collaboration among government, industry, and academia in a broad cross-section of fields is essential for the creation and development of nanotechnology-based business.
Within the area of semiconductor technology, scaling to minimum feature sizes on the order of five nanometers may be possible, but a rapid increase in innovations in device and interconnect materials, processes, and structures will be required. The use of several new and exciting nanomaterials will be explained. New system functionalities and better system performance will be presented based on micro- and nano-electromechanical systems. All of these inventions result in new applications such as extremely dense storage devices, novel high-capacity computation techniques, ultra-sensitive biosensors etc.
Nanophotonics will have the highest impact on optical communications and biomedical applications. Silicon-based photonics will be able to alleviate the foreseeable capacity bottleneck in data communications, by shifting the processing from the electronic to the optical domain. Fast integrated photonic circuits are expected to dramatically reduce the financial burden of the healthcare in an ageing society by applications such as optical processing (e.g. biosensors) for medical diagnosis.
In the “Bridge to bio” session, medical applications are being shown to compose one of the fastest growing sectors of the semiconductor industry. New therapeutic and diagnostic instrumentation based on interfacing brain neurons with electronics, and new and affordable medical devices such as biosensors, enzyme immunoassays, controlled drug delivery, gene therapy, and tissue engineering will be presented. The presentations reflect the enormous potential emerging from the convergence of semiconductor nanofabrication, biology, medicine, and electronics.
On Wednesday April 18, Professor Jean-Marie Lehn, Nobel Laureate in chemistry in 1987, will present the keynote on the self-organization approach of nanoscience and nanotechnology. He will discuss the spontaneous but controlled generation of well-defined, functional molecular and supramolecular architectures of nanometric size through self-organization. This very advanced technology offers a powerful alternative to nanofabrication and to nanomanipulation for the development of functional nanostructures.
INC3 also addresses the economic and societal impact of nanotechnology. An economic boost is foreseen. The nanotechnology market is expected to exceed the current information technology and telecommunications market within seven years and holds great promises for emerging and developing economies. INC3 will show that several actions need to be taken in order to guarantee this economical boost. New jobs with an increased demand for interdisciplinary skills will need to be created, sometimes challenging traditional education and training approaches. To cope with the risks and complexity of developing completely new nanotechnology-based products and to investigate the social impact of these developments, collaboration at a global scale will be necessary at all levels.