BOX 4.6
Infrastructure for Interdisciplinary Nanoscience: DOE Nanoscale Science

The Department of Energy (DOE) has funded nanoscale science since the 1980s. Recently, DOE Basic Energy Sciences decided to fund nanoscale science research centers (NSRCs) at three national laboratories: the “molecular foundry” at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, the Center for Integrated Nanotechnologies at Los Alamos and Sandia National Laboratories, and the Center for Nanophase Materials Sciences at Oak Ridge National Laboratory. These centers will house specialized facilities for the synthesis, processing, fabrication, and characterization of nanoscale materials. They will all be scientific user facilities, with successful proposals selected by peer review. They will be located at existing DOE laboratories that have experience in operating such user facilities. By providing large-scale facilities that would be too expensive for individual universities, together with an interdisciplinary support staff, they will foster the interdisciplinary environment necessary for studying materials at the nanoscale. Figure 4.6.1 is an artist’s rendition of the new building for the molecular foundry at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.

FIGURE 4.6.1 Artist’s rendition of the molecular foundry at Lawrence Berkeley. Courtesy of Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.

it wishes to accelerate breakthroughs in nanoscale science and technology. Many important advances in science came after the appropriate investigative instruments, such as the scanning tunneling microscope, were made available (see Box 4.7). One must be able to measure and quantify phenomena in order to understand and use them, which is true also for nanoscale phenomena.

Metrology at the nanoscale will also be critical. Most metrological tools currently available and in use in both laboratory and industrial settings do not provide the capability to perform measurements on the nanoscale. The ability to measure nanoscale dimensions in real systems such as integrated circuits is important to verify nanoscale advances.


Applications based on nanoscale technology are predicted to have profound impacts on society and the economy over the next several decades. Government and private science and technology funding sources and those responsible for determining industrial R&D funding will need a long-term view and patience in the development of a roadmap for nanoscale technology.

It was impossible in 1947 to predict the cost of producing an individual transistor on an integrated circuit in the year 2001, nor are we now able to predict what the real costs of manufacturing circuits and networks of devices fabricated at the nanoscale will be several decades from now, but like the transistor, it seems

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