A leading nanotechnology scientist has raised questions over a billion dollar industry by boldly claiming that there is a limit to how small nanotechnology materials can be mass produced.
In a paper published on April 21, in IOP Publishing’s journalNanotechnology, Professor Mike Kelly, Centre for Advanced Photonics and Electronics, University of Cambridge, stated that you cannot mass produce structures with a diameter of three nanometres or less using a top-down approach.
This statement raises a major question concerning the billions of dollars that are poured into nanotechnology each year in the hope that the latest technology developed in the lab can make the transition to a manufactured product on the market.
Nanotechnology is built on the ability to control and manipulate matter at the atomic and molecular level and has far reaching applications including the delivery of drugs into the body, increasing the efficiency of solar panels and improving methods of food packaging.
The overall goal when entering nanotechnologies into the market is low-cost, high-volume manufacturability, but at the same time, the materials’ properties must be highly reproducible within a pre-specified limit, which Kelly states cannot happen below the 3nm limit when trying to make arrays.
The top-down approach to manufacturing, which Kelly states is limited, uses external tools to cut and shape large materials to contain many smaller features. Its alternative, the bottom-up approach, involves piecing together small units, usually molecules, to construct whole materials — much like a jigsaw puzzle — however this process is too unpredictable for defect — free mass production of arrays.