We are living in historically unprecedented times. In the year 450 B.C., the famous Greek philosopher Democretes postulated that matter is divided into tiny segments called Atoms. It took over two thousand years before his hypothesis could be verified. Now, in the beginning of the twenty first century, we are at the dawn of a new era. It is even conceivable that, within our lifetimes, it will be possible to construct matter a single atom at a time.
While such a vision is still very far off, our group is working toward the technological advances necessary to achieve this ultimate goal. This will require much hard work and toil, but the inventions on the road to this goal will have applications in virtually all fields of science and technology.
By working to gradually reduce the size of electronic circuit elements, enormous strides in signal processing and communications speed have been achieved in the last thirty years. The size of each circuit element is expected to continue to decrease for the next ten to twenty years, until each circuit element becomes the size of a single atom or a single molecule. Explorations of new physical phenomena on this length scale (called nanotechnology) require the contributions from many different fields of science and engineering, including physics, chemistry, materials science, and electrical engineering.
Our group is working on short-term problems to apply what has already been learned from the physical, chemical, and biological sciences to a diverse set of engineering problems, from building faster electronic and optical circuit elements to achieving more engineering control over chemical and biological processes. At the same time, we are studying new phenomena that occur at the nanoscale: the interface between the microscopic world of atoms and the macroscopic world of everyday experience. Such studies will undoubtedly lead to further applications with enormous benefit to society.