Thursday, February 05, 2004

Nano is chocolate in silicon's peanut butter

I've written before on Intel's Nano Inside, and EE Times' report, Top chip makers tout nanotechnology, expands a bit more on these ideas.
    At the 90-nm node, gate lengths are 50 nm, which is "clearly nanotechnology by any definition," said George Bourianoff, Intel Corp.'s senior program manager for the strategic research group at Intel.

    Bourianoff said there's a "push-pull relationship" between the silicon industry and nanotechnology. He said carbon nanotubes and nanowires may extend CMOS scaling down to the 1 to 3 nm range. At the same time, he noted, the silicon manufacturing infrastructure is an ideal platform for enabling nanotechnology.

A couple of days ago, I met Zyvex President Tom Cellucci at an Ann Arbor restaurant (Take a note, young entrepreneur wannabes: this high-powered nano honcho enjoys Greek salad and hummus, while this low-powered journalist just sat and chain-drank coffee), and we discussed a range of issues. Among them were the short-term commercialization steps the company is taking along the way to its goal of building a molecular assembler. (Yes, you read that correctly. A real company still has, as its stated goal anyway, the creation of the "impossible.")

Cellucci was brought on board in late 2002 to, essentially, force the company to "get real" and start selling products after the initial hype surrounding Zyvex (one of the first nanotech companies to launch) had died down. I had assumed, then, that Cellucci would sluff off the "molecular assember" question, clear his throat and attempt to change the subject. So, of course, I asked the question. His answer surprised me.

    CellucciMe: "Would you say that Zyvex has pretty much turned around almost 180 from the goal of a molecular assembler, or is there still part of the corporate culture that's working toward that goal?

    Cellucci: Oh, no. No, we still are holding true to the long-term vision of developing a molecular assembler. What we've done, though, is we've gotten more detailed in what that technology development pathway needs to be, what capabilities we need to build and at the same time we looked at unsatisfied need in the marketplace.

    For example, we needed to develop a nanomanipulation capability. We needed to move things at the nanoscale. Well, we found out that there were a lot of companies, large companies like GE, Intel, Hewlett Packard, our customers today, who were doing R&D in nanotech, and very much could use these tools. That's how we launched the nanomanipulator line."

Silicon and nanotech, as a colleague of mine would say, are the new Reese's of the tech world -- the "peanut butter and chocolate" that can help each other taste so much better.

More on the silicon/small tech marriage will appear in the March/April issue of Small Times magazine.

Related Posts
Intel's 'Nano Inside'
The Electric Kool-Aid Nano Test


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