The Michelson Memorial Lecture is Oct 23 at 7:15pm in Alumni Hall.


Speaker:  Sir Harold W. Kroto


Title:  Architecture in NanoSpace


Sir Harold W. Kroto

The Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry

The Florida State University

Tallahassee, Florida 32306-4390 USA


As the borderlines between Chemistry, Physics and Biology become

indistinguishable, cross-disciplinary research is leading to the fascinating

"new" overarching field of Nanoscience and Nanotechnology (N&N - not to be

confused with M&M). Ingenious strategies for the creation of molecules with

complex exactly-specified structures and function are being developed -

basically, molecules that "do things" are now being made. In fact N&N is

not new at all but may be considered 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 key factors governing atom

assembly, especially at nanometer scale dimensions, was quite naive. Since

then a wave of innovative atom-by-atom molecule-by-molecules self-assembly

(bottom-up) strategies has led to the creation of new advanced materials

with novel applications. Fundamental insights into nanostructure

formation are enabling us to make nanoscale devices similar to, but about a

million times smaller than, those made by traditional mechanical engineering

techniques. These fundamental advances suggest that at some point in the

future it may be possible to make pocket supercomputers and construct

buildings which can readily withstand powerful hurricanes and earthquakes.

N&N promises to revolutionize civil as well as electronic engineering and in

the process transform the economics of many aspects of everyday life.

However, if these breakthroughs are to be realized, a significant paradigm

shift in our synthetic chemistry capability will be necessary. Strategies

for the creation of very large molecules with perfectly prescribed

structures at the atomic level will be needed and this presents chemists

with a massive challenge. Directors of research might also ponder the fact

that the one nanometer (10e-9m) diameter Buckyball was

discovered accidentally by an experiment aimed at explaining our earlier

puzzling radio astronomy studies of the dusty clouds of the Milky Way which

were about 100 light years in size - some 10e28 or a thousand million

million million million times larger! Yet another reminder that important

scientific advances often arrive from left field and how difficult it is to

make the breakthroughs we need.