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technical meaning of "nano" is one billionth, as in 10 to the -9
meters, aka a nanometer. Less technically, nano means something
very small or minute. Nanosystems, however, as the California NanoSystems
Institute (CNSI) will explore it, carries considerably more interesting
great triumph of 20th-century scientific," says UCLA chemist and
CNSI scientific co-director Jim Heath, "was to derive a fundamental
understanding of the characteristics of the very, very small - like
a few molecules or a few atoms - and the characteristics of bulk
solids and how to manipulate and manufacture based on that knowledge.
But it's the stuff in-between that interests us. It's smaller than
the bulk solid, but much more complex than individual molecules.
It's always characterized by very high information content, and
the function can be very complex and not easily predictable. But
it's harnessing that - those nanosystems - that will be the real
challenge of 21st-century science."
those nanosystems will span the spectrum of modern technologies,
from telecommunications to medicine. "Every nanosystem we can think
of has some nanoscale component," Heath explains, "a protein, for
example, or a quantum dot or the family of interlocked molecules
of a molecular mechanical system. Bring these components together
to make the nanosystem - proteins and lipids, for instance, to make
a cell, or single atom dopants linked with nanowires to make a circuit."
All of these systems have crucial characteristics that can be studied
and manipulated at nanometer-length scales. And the CNSI will bring
together the infrastructure - the research and imaging requirement
- to do just that. "It will," says Heath, "be designed to attack
a broad range of problems and to bring together disciplines in a
completely new and unique way."