NEW YORK The nascent nanotechnology industry needs to start playing by the same public-policy rules as other government-funded technology programs, the former chairman of the House Science Committee told the Nanabusiness 2003 conference here on Tuesday (May 13).
Former congressman Robert Walker, now a Washington lobbyist, reminded conferees that federal funding for nanotechnology research is close to final approval in Congress. "You are real, the House just passed the nanotechnology funding bill," Walker told about 150 executives. "Now you need to play in the public policy arena."
Walker, chairman of Wexler & Walker Public Policy Associates, a Washington lobbying firm made up of former government officials, said policy makers "want to see that your funded project has potential for a 'transformational' change, they want to see evidence of cost reduction and they want keep track of the status of your contract."
With House passage of a three-year spending plan totaling $2.36 billion for nanotechnology R&D programs, more companies will be targeting government funding. Projects geared toward the departments of Defense and Homeland Security are expected to attract the greatest number of entrants.
The Homeland Security Department is the essence of "transformational" change, said Walker and nanotechnology that can be applied to security will have a good chance of getting funded. Information management and security applications are expected to be in highest demand.
Walker said there would be increasing requirements for air traffic management and security using a constellation of satellites. Nanotechnology will be used to make future satellites smaller and more rugged.
The Pentagon's transformation initiative will seek to equip soldiers with an array of portable electronics for guidance, navigation, intelligence and maneuverability. That will require small size and new power requirements like hydrogen fuel cells. The fuel cell technology is a primary development target for nanotechnology.
"I can see uniforms that would be embedded with fuel cells for all of the soldier's gear," said Walker. "Hydrogen fuel cells are also becoming indispensable for a new kind of stealth terrain vehicle that the armed forces are working on."
One pitfall faced by novice nanotech companies is overselling the capabilities of new technologies. "Your future is going to be determined by an ingrained Washington bureaucracy which needs its own transformational change," said Walker.
Experts said it will take incremental steps before new fields such as carbon nanotubes can find real-world applications. Proponents said energy is one early application.
A carbon-gated electron source was recently demonstrated that emitted a current density of at least 15 amps/cm2. SI Diamond Technology's Applied Nanotech Inc. subsidiary announced the high-current density levels Tuesday. Such densities are required for such applications as CRT TVs, high-power microwave devices, e-beam lithography and fine-focus x-ray tubes.
"With additional electron optics, CRT makers will be able to use the new carbon nanotube electron emitter to achieve more directional and precise electron beams," said Zvi Yaniv, president and chief executive of Applied Nanotech.
The demonstration was moves the technology a step closer to allowing a wider deflection angle suitable for large-area, high-definition televisions based on CRTs, Yaniv said.