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The National Nanotechnology Initiative budget for 2010

Dr. Maddalena Rostagno – DIAD

Hydromel Dissemination Team

The National Nanotechnology Initiative (NNI) is the US Government agency cross –cut programme devoted to the development of activities in the field of nano – micro science and engineering in strong collaboration and interrelation with all the participating US agencies supporting it.

The NNI has been officially effective since 2001 with an initial proposed funding of about 700 Million Dollars with the specific purpose of accelerating and coordinating at national level the discovery, the development and deployment of micro – nano technology.

In the present the NNI can rely on the participation in the programme of 25 federal agencies, 13 of which has specific budget dedicated to nanotechnology research and development. Among these last ones can ne quoted the Department of Agriculture, the Department of Defense, the Department of Energy, the Department of Homeland security, the National Science Foundation and NASA and many others.

The need for multidisciplinarity and interrelationships implicit in the nano –world has been receipt and realized gathering together both academic and governmental institutions active in a wide variety of field: from food to safety to environment to biomedical. Moreover these agencies spend their budget on nanotechnology in funding university programme, closing very efficiently the loop.

In principle the designed mechanism is the following: the NNI provides funding for nanotechnology through the Government Funding Agencies involved. The Academic institutions (research centers and universities) plays a key – role in the realization of the programmes promoting interdisciplinarity work among different departments and developing new educational initiative. The Government Labs provide large scale facilities and infrastructures that can be used as technology incubators, paving the way to the private investment that normally can be expected only after three years of product development. Private investment is usually finalized to maintain in house precompetitive research and to promote start ups and spin offs. (learn more about it at http://www.nanotechnologyinstitute.org/).

Since 2001 the NNI Investment Programme has steadily grown from 1555 Million Dollars (2008) to 1639 Million Dollars (planned for 2010, learn more at www.nano.gov).

Research on fundamental nanoscale phenomena and process remains the largest funded action (507 Million Dollars – 2010), followed by nanoscale devices and systems (354, 6 Million Dollars), nanomaterials  (296,8 Million Dollars – 2010) and facilities & indtrument acquisition (218,7 Million Euro – 2010).

As far as concern the nano – material programme the nanostructured materials keeps on having a central focus in particular regarding carbon nanotubes development (properties and applications), nanowires and protein nanotubes.
For example, in the framework of the NNI one of the main contribution of the National Reconaissance Programme will be the development of a process to weave carbon nanotubes threads into conducting wires for the fabrication of the world’s first USB cable suing carbon nanotubes to replace copper conductors. Another application under development are carbon nanotube interconnections and vias to enable the replacement of aluminum and copper as electronic pathways for charge carriers. Another focus is the fabrication of 16-kbit memories based on use of carbon nanotubes as nanoelectromechanical switches and the first engineering model of 4 M-bit carbon nanotube memory with sufficiently high speed and low power consumption to potentially revolutionize memory applications in space vehicles.  

In Hydromel project, researchers in the Nanotechnology group at the Tyndall National Institute (Cork, Ireland, http://www.tyndall.ie/) are addressing the challenge to develop low cost self assembly technologies for the assembly of nanowires at technologically relevant substrates, i.e., silicon chips. (learn more about it at the following link http://www.hydromel-project.com/index.php?id=121)

Fabrication of carbon nanotube devices at low cost and high throughput remains one of the main scientific barrier to be overcame, Hydromel is concentrating its effort in climb over this technological gaps exploiting the potential of self – assembly techniques. The Hydromel partner ETHZ (Swiss Federal Institute of Tcehnology of Zurich) is facing this technological challenge collaborating in the framework of the Hydromel project and have recently demonstrated self-assembly and electrical contacting of carbon nanotube enabled devices. 

For example, dielectrophoretic (DEP) assembly has been widely used for high-precision assembly of carbon nanotubes.  It is a distributed control method driven by centralized control of electric field to generate individual forces and torques on NTs, the optimal sets of parameters being explored through either pure experimental investigations or simulations. Our present effort represents a hybrid approach, i.e., to investigate the influence of the nanoelectrode geometry while using other experimentally obtained parameters . It provides a key advantage in that the electric field-based method is compatible with most microfabrication process steps, because the technique operates at room temperature, in a non-corrosive fluid environment, and at low voltage. Therefore, the approach is well suited for integration with micro and nano-electronic devices, such as cross bar memories, switches, logic gates and, ultimately, nanocircuits and nanonetworks.

One possible application of the carbon nanotube based devices relates to electromechanical nanoswitches based on axial shell displacements. Using DEP assembly and shell engineering technique, spatially separated, opposing nanotube segments could be obtained and located between adjacent metal electrodes to constitute a switching device. In the as-fabricated configuration, all four switches are in the ‘OFF’ state (Figure 1). When a potential difference is applied between any two adjacent metallic contacts, charges with opposing polarities are induced in the nanotube segments that are attached to these contacts. In this ‘ON’ state of the switch, a current flow is established between the metallic contacts, as shown in Figure 2.

Figure 1. SEM images of fabricated nano switch. (a) An image taken with a stage tilt of 40 degrees. The arrows point to 6-15nm gaps engineered at each of the suspended, inter-electrode NT segments. (b) An image of two NTs assembled at one electrode location. (c) Top- view of NTs in panel ‘b’. (d) Array design.
Figure 2. Switching results. (a) I-V plots of switches with low turn-on bias (0.8 to 2V in this case). The engineered NT is shown in inset. (b-c) SEM image of a switch in the open and closed configurations.