NNI and NSF Research Focus Areas

One of the strengths of nanotechnology is its potential to impact a wide range of technology areas, but it is often easier to understand and foresee probable areas of scientific advancement by recognizing the organization of the funding initiatives. For example, the following represent various sets of R&D focus areas that have been identified over the past five years.

The original National Nanotechnology Initiative plan identified nine "grand challenges."!1! Significant emphasis was placed on connections to the interests of the participating federal agencies, to establish major, long-term objectives in nanotechnology in these areas:

1. Nanostructured Materials by Design

2. Nano-Electronics, Optoelectronics, and Magnetics

3. Advanced Healthcare, Therapeutics, and Diagnostics

4. Nanoscale Processes for Environmental Improvement

5. Efficient Energy Conversion and Storage

6. Microspacecraft exploration and Industrialization

7. Bio-nanosensors for Communicable Disease and Biological Threat Detection

8. Economic and Safe Transportation

9. National Security

Later modifications to the list included two additional grand challenge areas: Manufacturing at the Nanoscale and Nanoscale Instrumentation and Metrology. In addition, grand challenges 79 were combined into one category: Chemical-Biological-Radiological-Explosive Detection, and Protection. The most recent strategic plan, "The National Nanotechnology Initiative: Strategic Plan" (December 2004), identified a slightly different organization of seven program component areas for investment:

1. Fundamental nanoscale phenomena and processes

2. Nanomaterials

3. Nanoscale devices and systems

4. Instrumentation research, metrology, and standards for nanotechnology

5. Nanomanufacturing

6. Major research facilities and instrument acquisition

7. Societal dimensions

These were based on the stated NNI goals of (1) maintaining worldclass R&D; (2) facilitating transfer of new technologies into products for economic growth, jobs, and other public benefits; (3) developing educational resources, a skilled workforce, and the supporting infrastructure and tools; and (4) supporting responsible development of nanotechnology.!!!

The effect of these identified focus areas can be seen in the research themes of the NSF Nanoscale Science and Engineering (NSE) solicitations, the most recent of which identified the following research and education themes:

• Biosystems at the Nanoscale

• Nanoscale Structures, Novel Phenomena, and Quantum Control

• Nanoscale Devices and System Architecture

• Nanoscale Processes in the Environment

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