Another day of learning under-the-hood facts and intuitions about how--and more importantly, why--the nanoscale works the way it does. Here's an indication of how good the conference was: the last speaker was unable to appear due to medical reasons, so a previous speaker offered to fill in at the last minute with an unprepared talk. This was a Friday afternoon, the end of an intense four-day conference... and almost everyone stayed.
I had known that short-range forces between nanoscale objects decreases far more rapidly with distance than the gravitational and electrostatic forces we're used to. But I'd never known why--knowing a formula is not the same as knowing a mechanism. Yi Cui's presentation on "Principle of Self Assembly" made it beautifully clear. A normal non-graduate-level class might spend a whole session on that, but he only needed a few minutes. In the rest of the talk, he explained aspects of hydrophobic interactions, crystal growth, capillary force on nanoparticles, and several different ways of assembling nano-structures from nanoscale particles.
Teri Odom supplied lots of information about nano-wires--how to build them and how to test their electronic properties and how to use them as chemical sensors.
Ryan Vallance gave a nuts-and-bolts lecture on what goes into making systems that can position things with nanometer precision.
A couple of the talks today were less useful. But overall, the quality of talks at the conference has been very high.
After the conference, I spent a large fraction of an hour sharing information with a high-level person at a large semiconductor company. I explained some aspects of molecular manufacturing, and he explained how his company decides what technologies to develop, and at what stage they begin to be interested. It sounds like semiconductor companies probably won't invest in molecular manufacturing until it's already almost developed--even though earlier investment might save them billions of dollars in fab costs. This does not necessarily mean that some small startup company with more foresight will put them all out of business by building better cheaper chips, because it's not easy to design a chip with a fifty-million-transistor logic component (not to mention another half billion transistors of memory). My best guess at this point is that at least some semiconductor companies will be able to survive as design houses even if they don't own molecular manufacturing technology.