Chinese scientists are building the world’s largest multifunctional research platform for nano-science and nano-technology that could help develop more powerful computers and more intelligent robots.
The Vacuum Interconnected Nano-X Research Facility in Suzhou, Jiangsu Province, integrates the state-of-art capabilities of material growth, device fabrication and testing in one ultra-high vacuum environment, said Ding Sunan, deputy director of the project.
“We are exploring a new technology route of nano-scale devices production on the platform, which simulates the ultra-high vacuum environment of space,” said Ding, a researcher at the Suzhou Institute of Nano-Tech and Nano-Bionics under the Chinese Academy of Sciences.
Nano-X has received initial funding of 320 million yuan (about 46.5 million U.S. dollars), and will eventually have a budget of 1.5 billion yuan.
Construction on the first stage began in 2014 and is expected to be completed in 2018. It comprises 100-meter-long ultra-high vacuum pipelines connecting 30 pieces of equipment. Ultimately the facility will have ultra-high vacuum pipelines of about 500 meters, connecting more than 100 large pieces of equipment, Ding said.
Nano-X is designed as a complete system for materials growth, device fabrication and testing. All samples can be transferred accurately, quickly and smoothly among all tools in an ultra-high vacuum environment.
The facility can prevent surface contamination from the air, keeping a material’s intrinsic properties unchanged and realizing quantum manipulation and control, said Ding.
Experts say it will help make breakthroughs in common and critical problems in materials science and device technology, and develop new manufacturing technologies of nano-materials and core devices in the fields of energy and information.
Nano-X is expected to be incorporated into China’s national research infrastructure system, and become a world-class open platform for research and development in nano-science and nano-technology, providing advanced technical support for the national strategy of high technologies.
According to www.nano.gov, Nanoscience and nanotechnology are the study and application of extremely small things and can be used across all the other science fields, such as chemistry, biology, physics, materials science, and engineering.
“The ideas and concepts behind nanoscience and nanotechnology started with a talk entitled “There’s Plenty of Room at the Bottom” by physicist Richard Feynman at an American Physical Society meeting at the California Institute of Technology (CalTech) on December 29, 1959, long before the term nanotechnology was used.
“In his talk, Feynman described a process in which scientists would be able to manipulate and control individual atoms and molecules.
“Over a decade later, in his explorations of ultraprecision machining, Professor Norio Taniguchi coined the term nanotechnology. It wasn’t until 1981, with the development of the scanning tunnelling microscope that could “see” individual atoms, that modern nanotechnology.
“It’s hard to imagine just how small nanotechnology is. One nanometer is a billionth of a meter, or 10-9 of a meter. Here are a few illustrative examples:
- There are 25,400,000 nanometers in an inch
- A sheet of newspaper is about 100,000 nanometers thick
- On a comparative scale, if a marble were a nanometer, then one meter would be the size of the Earth
“But something as small as an atom is impossible to see with the naked eye. In fact, it’s impossible to see with the microscopes typically used in a high school science classes. The microscopes needed to see things at the nanoscale were invented relatively recently—about 30 years ago.”
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