Thursday, April 5, 2007

Interview with FEI's Mike Thompson

Today, I would like to present an interview I did with Mike Thompson, Business Development Manager, Nanotechnology at FEI Company.

RR: "Nanotechnology" is an oft-abused term; what definition do you use?

Your oft-abused comment is justified as the term "Nanotechnology" has a chameleon quality and shifts according to the environment in which it is placed; now as our awareness of Nanotech becomes mature we need to be more specific.

The interest and considerable investment associated with the nanotechnology rests in the fact that there is a transitions zone in the properties of matter as one shifts from atoms to bulk materials. The zone in which properties change rapidly is in the linear dimensional range of approximately 1nm to 100nm, this range is often quoted in definitions. As range is an approximation we can capture its meaning by using the term "nanoscale". The objective of nanotechnology is new, and is to functionalize this size/shape property dependence of nanoscale matter. This approach differs from past, current and future engineering which has the objective of functionalizing the "invariant properties" of bulk matter.

Many definitions of "Nanotechnology" are misleading as they can include "science" as a component of the definition. This is at best a convenience as much of what we read about today relates to science at the nanoscale. Here we should emphasize that nanoscale research is essential work as we cannot efficiently functionalize events at the nanoscale until we can understand, and characterize, their properties. The amount of research and engineering which is required to commercialize Nanotechnology is a huge undertaking and has probably been underestimated. While science is a precursor to the creation of a potential product, the contribution is one of the enablement and as should not be incorporated in the definition of "Nanotechnology."

RR: By your estimation, how large (in terms of $US) is the nanotech tools market today? How does that compare to 10 years ago, and how will it compare to 10 years from now?

In 1995, the "nanotools" market was under $US 300 Million US. The total Nanotech tools served available market in 2005 was close to $US 1 Billion. Market growth is expected to be roughly 14% per year through 2008. Predictions beyond this point are speculative and will depend upon the rate of adoption rate of tools by industry as nanoscience-based products move from prototyping through to production.

Read the entire interview, here:

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