r1 - 25 Apr 2008 - 14:15:10 - MichaelMcDonaldYou are here:  Main Web > ConferenceInfo > PlenarySpeakers > KrotoAbstract

Architecture in nanospace

Harold Kroto

As Chemistry and Physics at one borderline and Chemistry and Biology at the other begin to become indistinguishable, multidisciplinary research is leading to the fascinating "new" overarching field of Nanoscience and Nanotechnology (N&N). Ingenious strategies for the creation of molecules with complex exactly-specified structures and as well as function are being developed - basically molecules that "do things" are now being made. In fact N&N is not new but appears to be the "Frontier Chemistry of the 21st Century." When the molecule C60 Buckminsterfullerene and its elongated cousins the carbon nanotubes or Buckytubes were discovered, it suddenly became clear that our understanding of the factors governing the bottom-up assembly of atomic and molecular structures involving carbon and other atoms was quite na´ve, especially with regard to dynamic construction events at nanometer dimensions.

New experimental approaches which focused on the way atoms cluster together have led to the production of novel nanostructures and a general refocusing of research interests on ways of controlling so-called "bottom-up self-assembly." This new approach is leading to novel advanced materials with new applications. Fascinating fundamental insights into formation mechanisms have been revealed and nanoscale devices, which parallel devices in standard engineering, are now being created. On the horizon are possible applications ranging from civil engineering to advanced molecular electronics so promising to transform the socio-economics of everyday life. These fundamental advances suggest that supercomputers in our pockets (as well as our heads) and buildings which can easily withstand powerful hurricanes and earthquakes are possible. However if these breakthroughs are to be realised in practice a paradigm shift in synthetic chemical techniques will be necessary so we can create, at will, really large molecules with accurately defined structures at the atomic level. This presents one of the greatest technical challenges for chemists. It is also worth pondering implications of the fact that the C60 molecule, which is almost exactly one nanometer in diameter, was discovered during an experiment aimed at understanding earlier astronomy results which had uncovered puzzling facts about the molecular constituents of dusty interstellar clouds which are up to 100 light years in size - indeed some 1028 or a thousand million, million, million, million times larger than C60!

To illustrate some of the key issues, material from the Vega Science Trust website (http://www.vega.org.uk) which makes TV/Internet programmes to improve the general level science understanding as well as the Global Educational Outreach website (http://www.geoset.info) which is a cache of SET educational material for teachers, will be used.