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Sander Olson Interviews

Jagdish Narayan

CONDUCTED OCTOBER 2004


Question 1: Tell us about yourself. What is your background, and how long have you been researching nanostructures?

I am currently Distinguished Chair Professor and Director of NSF Center at NCSU. I have a distinct honor of receiving of PhD (1971) and MS (1970) in two years from the UC, Berkeley, after Bachelor's degree with Distinction in 1969 from IIT, Kanpur, India, all in materials science and engineering.

I started the research on nanomaterials almost twenty five years ago, while I was senior scientist and group leader at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, and published first paper in 1981 ( J. Narayan and Y. Chen, Phys Rev. Lett. Volume 46, p1491-95) and received US patent in 1983 (US Patent # 4,376, 755). We called them nickel colloids instead of nanodots. Nickel colloids/nanodots were in bulk materials not in thin films, self-assembled as the present research.

Question 2: Describe your research on magnetic nickel nanodots.

Present research deals with self-assembly of Ni nanodots, where nanodots of uniform size ( range 5-25nm) can be self-assembled in three-dimensions with as many layers as needed for certain devices. We control the kinetics of clustering during thin film deposition to create the uniform size distribution, and overcome thermodynamic driving forces leading to nonuniform size distribution.

Question 3: Memory chips incorporating arrays of three dimensional 7 nanometer nanodots could theoretically facilitate 5-terabit memory chips. But could this technology be used to create memory chips with latencies and access speeds comparable to modern DRAMs?

Yes, IF we can overcome packaging challenges and minimize defects in the matrix.

Question 4: Component reliability and longevity are two issues that have hampered nanostructure development. Could a future 5-terabit nanodot memory chip be made sufficiently reliable and rugged for mass-production?  How long would these chips last?

The property of the matrix in which nanodots are embedded, is the key. For example, our matrix of alumina is quite stable, rugged, reliable and longer lasting.

Question 5: Some scientists have speculated that these nanodots could be used to make single-electron transistors. Have you done any research on using these nanodots as logic devices? Have any nanodots exhibited electrical gain?

We have given a lot of thought for SET applications. Again, it's a packaging issue to get the information out with appropriate connections.

Question 6: Certain researchers have predicted that nanodot computer memory chips could arrive within five years. Does that prediction still appear accurate?

It's possible.

Question 7: How could nanodot memory chips be fabricated? Are self-assembly techniques alone sufficient to mass-produce these devices?

Packaging issues are key, including higher blocking temperature for RT operation. Higher blocking temperature will be achieved by alloying Ni with Pt.

Question 8: Nanodots could potentially be embedded into conventional materials to increase strength and enhance mechanical properties. How does that work?

When grain size (or size of the nanocrystals) decreases, strength/hardness increases. At 7nm grain size, copper can be made as strong as steel.

Question 9: There is an ongoing debate in the scientific community regarding molecular assemblers, as envisioned by Eric Drexler. Do you believe that molecular assemblers will ever become feasible? Do you support research investigating the feasibility of molecular assemblers?

Molecular assembly may lead to prohibitive increase in the cost of manufacturing. You have to let  kinetics and thermodynamics work for you, that is where self-assembly comes in.

Question 10: Nanodots could theoretically be used to make efficient light sources. Have you done any analysis regarding the potential cost, efficiency, and longevity of such a light source?

We have worked with Kopin Corporation on that, and have a joint patent on LEDs with "NanoPockets", known as Kopin CyberLite LEDs which are highly efficient and need lower voltage of operation. You may go to google.com with key words jagdish narayan or CyberLite LEDs

Question 11: Question 11: Funding for the nanosciences has increased substantially during the past decade. Are you aware of any worthy nanoscience projects that aren't getting funded? Is the general level of nanoscale research funding adequate?

Funding is never enough. Other countries are following US lead with more vigor and funding.

Question 12: What are your plans for the next decade?

Continue to work on materials bottlenecks for novel and advanced technology and reduce the cost of manufacturing!!
 

This interview was conducted by Sander Olson. The opinions expressed do not necessarily represent those of CRN.

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