Dr. Ramón L. CERRO
Professor and Chairman
Department of Chemical and Materials Engineering
University of Alabama in Huntsville
ABSTRACT: The National Nanotechnology Initiative in the USA was established by President Clinton on January 21, 2000. The initiative was launched from Caltech in Pasadena, CA, to highlight the importance of the work of professor Feynman who is credited with the NNI motto that “There is plenty of room at the bottom”.Since the year 2000, NSF and most federal funding agencies have consistently devoted special funding opportunities to areas in nanotechnology and nano-biotechnology. However, after funding many nano-initiatives and the creation of special nano-materials centers, there is a feeling that the nano-bubble burst. We will analyze accomplishments in nanotechnology during the past five years. What is nanotechnology and what is not? What are the areas of most promising developments? Is it really a new science or just a new way to look at traditional science?Nanotechnologies and its well-known offspring Nano-Biotechnology and Nano-Materials have made important progress and we can show interesting examples of scientific results, but the largest achievement has been demonstrating the crucial links between macroscopic phenomena and the molecular world. Among the challenges is what a blue-ribbon panel from NSF calls, “the tyranny of scales”(*). That is the ability to span 12 orders of magnitude in computer simulations and modeling. The large disparities in space and time that is rendering software and hardware obsoletes, demands “major computational breakthroughs”. Protein unfolding spans scales from quantum to molecular and to continuum. Turbulence modeling, not a nano-scale problem but spanning several time scales, remains unsolved. Dealing with multiple length scales has been a traditional chemical engineering field. From the quantum basis of catalysts to the mass transfer and flow inside large chemical reactors. If there is a prime quality of chemical engineer work is the spanning of many scales of space and time. Thus, the profession stands ready to benefit from modeling and simulation spanning multiple scales that will most likely constitute the future of chemical engineering process simulation. (*) Simulation-Based Engineering Science, Report of the National Science Foundation, May 2006.