Nanotechnology: Moving Beyond Small Thinking


The recently published National Geographic special issue titled “100 Scientific Discoveries That Changed the World,” leads off with a research program that began in 1997 when we funded a Northwestern University researcher by the name of Chad Mirkin. AFOSR took a chance on a process called Dip-Pen Nanolithography (DPN), and what Dr. Mirkin himself noted, was “a far out idea and a paradigm shift in scanning probe microscopy,” but indeed, proved to be an idea that changed the world.

Highlighted in the Journal of Science, January 1999, DPN is a technology that builds nanoscale structures and patterns by drawing molecules directly onto a substrate. This process was achieved by employing an Atomic Force Microscope (AFM), the tip of which has the innate capability to precisely place items and draw lines at the nanoscale level. The AFM was basically an extremely small paint brush. Mirkin’s fundamental contribution was recognizing that it could be used to print structures on a surface through materials, rather than through an energy delivery process–the latter being the approach taken by all previous researchers.

DPN has led to the development of powerful new nanofabrication tools, ways of miniaturizing gene chips and pharmaceutical screening devices, methods for making and repairing photomasks used in the microelectronics industry, and high-throughput methods for discovering structures important in biology, medicine, and catalysis. Since 1997 Dr. Mirkin has authored over 480 manuscripts, holds over 440 patents and applications, and is the founder of four companies, which specialize in commercializing nanotechnology applications.

Professor Chad Mirkin recently spoke at two AFOSR events on the following topics A Chemist’s Approach to Nanofabrication: Towards a “Desktop Fab” and Nanotechnology: Moving Beyond Small Thinking.

A Chemist’s Approach to Nanofabrication: Towards a “Desktop Fab”

Nanotechnology: Moving Beyond Small Thinking

AFOSR Spring Review Provides an Inside Look at the Research Being Funded by AFOSR

We hosted our 55th annual Spring Review from 5 through 9 March, 2012. AFOSR Program Managers discussed what they have funded over the last year as well as insight into trends and plans for the future basic research programs of interest to the Air Force.

The AFOSR Spring Review provides an excellent opportunity for both an introspective self-examination of a wide-ranging research portfolio as well as welcoming the views of customers and stakeholders in the continuous pursuit of cutting edge research that forges the foundation of our future Air Force.

This year we streamed the presentation of AFOSR’s annual Spring Review (SR12) so anyone could watch online and ask questions. You can watch videos from the spring review on our and also download PDFs from our Spring Review Website. We have also embedded the videos below.

Feel free to ask questions of the program managers here and we will try to get them answered.

Day 1

Day 2

Day 3

Day 4

Day 5


Shaping Computer Science – Who is Air Force Basic Research Video

Today’s AFOSR funded computer science research takes form in many different programs at public and private research facilities throughout the world.

In this video, you’ll be introduced to these researchers doing revolutionary computer research – from Dr. Nandini Iyer’s work to help pilots effectively process complex acoustic scenes to UCSB Prof David Awschalom’s work to build a new type of electronics technology through spintronics and quantum computing research.

Stopping Light and Restarting it Again!

Dr. Lene Hau, Mallinckrodt professor of physics and applied physics at Harvard University, and her co-researchers, Dr. Naomi S. Ginsberg and Dr. Sean R. Garner, stopped and extinguished a light pulse in a tiny, supercooled sodium cloud called a Bose Einstein Condensate, and then brought the light pulse back into existence in another atom cloud in a separate location.

The information inside the light pulse was transferred from the first to the second cloud by converting the light pulse into a travelling matter wave, a small atom pulse that was a perfect matter copy of the extinguished light pulse. After the matter wave entered the second cloud, the atoms there worked together to restore the original light pulse.

Currently, scientists and engineers working in optical networks and quantum cryptography are only able to store an optical signal, but Hau’s work will enable them to have a greater degree of control over quantum processing than ever before.
Watch the video to see how it was done!

Sir John Pendry Speaks About His Theory for a Perfect Lens

AFOSR-funded researcher, Sir John Pendry spoke to a crowd of over 200 at the Air Force Institute of Technology’s (AFIT) Kenney Hall Auditorium Monday as part of AFIT’s regular speaker series and in celebration of the 60th anniversary of AFOSR.

Pendry is well known as a condensed matter theorist and as the Chair in Theoretical Solid State Physics at the Imperial College in London where he has worked extensively on electronic and structural properties of surfaces developing the theory of low energy diffraction and electronic surface states.

One of his most notable achievements is a theory for the perfect lens that has no limits to resolution—a microscope that can resolve objects smaller than the wavelength of light.

In addition to this work, in 2006, Pendry collaborated with David Smith at Duke University to develop a theory to hide an arbitrary object from electromagnetic fields. Realizations of this concept have succeeded at radar and at visible wavelengths.

The simplicity of his concepts together with their vast potential impact have exciting implications for the future Air Force and science in general.