March /2017
(Panoramic View Reports)
Panoramic View of the Nanotechnology/Materials Research Field (2017) /CRDS-FY2016-FR-05
Executive Summary

Nanotechnology and materials continue to evolve with the core technologies such as control of nanometer-scale structures, high-resolution microscopes with a sub- Ångström resolution, prediction of material structures and functions using the first-principle calculation, and characterization of materials using simulation and modeling. They are expected to provide a cross-cutting technology, with life science and clinical medicine, energy and environment, social infrastructure, and information and communication.

Nearly fifteen years have passed after initiation of national policies on nanotechnology in many countries. During these years nanotechnology has been conducted along the stream heading to pursuit of the technological limits, the technology fusion, and the systemization. Particularly after 2010, the fusion between different technologies and systemization directing to the industrialization and the social implementation has been accelerated. According to the report of Lux Research Incorporated, the market size of new products commercialized by nanotechnology (nano-enabled products) expanded rapidly from 850 billion US$ to 1.6 trillion US$ during two years of 2012-2014. Nowadays, nanotechnology is widely used not only in the R&D field but also in diverse commercial products and various industries.

In the United States discussions were made in 2016 to review the National Nanotechnology Initiative (NNI), the world’s first national program to coordinate the multiagency efforts in nanoscale science, engineering, and technology. The review led to the conclusions that the collaboration among every industrial sectors is required to commercialize knowledges and technologies generated by the R&D investments for the nanotechnology and that the dissemination of those knowledges and technologies, EHS of products using nanomaterials, ELSI of nanotechnology should be made to public. It was also concluded that the commercialization of nano-enabled products should be promoted through these actions and the economic benefits should be provided to the general public. It is now being carefully watched whether these conclusions are kept or changed from 2017 under the new US government. On the other hand, a new technological framework, Horizon 2020, was launched in Europe, where nanotechnology and advanced material technology is positioned as one of the key enabling technologies (KET’s). The future view of autonomous driving systems is raised as a symbol of the integration of elemental technologies of nanotechnology and materials. In Asian region such as China, Taiwan, Korea, and Singapore, R&D facilities for nanotechnology were formed to attract the world’s R&D. In particular, we can see that the huge R&D investment to this field in China is reflected in the recent rapid increase of academic papers.

When we turn our eyes to the industrial trends, it is seen that the concept of Industry 4.0 was launched in Germany, and the ICT-related technology such as IoT or AI are influencing greatly the society and economy over the world. Devices and component materials which will play a key role in the coming IoT/AI era would be made of a lump of nanotechnology. IoT devices embedded in the products in our surroundings possess capabilities of various sensing, computing to process collected data, networking to communicate data with cloud sides, and energy-harvesting to acquire the electric power needed to drive themselves on site when needed. Realtime information processing and actions are required in the automobiles and robots entering in our life. Massive data processing technologies are also required to reduce loads in the network. In these situation, high computing-capability including AI will be incorporated in the IoT. AI is also expected to exert its power in various fields, such as massive image, voice, and video data processing, natural language processing, optimization, and reasoning which are hard to be executed in the conventional computers, and thus to work as an accelerator to complement the conventional computers. New algorisms exceeding the potential of the von Neumann architecture and hardware to operate the new algorisms are highly required world-wide and the progress of nanotechnology and materials is expected to provide the way to fulfill those requirements. The necessity of a new technology playing a substantial role in the post-Moore era is widely recognized. Neuromorphic computing incorporating the mechanism of ultra-low energy computing executed in a biological system including human being and quantum computing operating under the principle of quantum mechanics and providing the solutions for optimization problems which are hard to be solved substantially by present computers are the candidates to provide the new technology. The progress of nanotechnology and materials is highly expected to implement those computing schemes as devices.

On the other hand, the progress of information technology utilizing big data begins to influence the way of executing R&D on the nanotechnology and materials. The accumulation of massive experimental data generated newly and renewed continuously enables the discovery of knowledges on new materials and the efficient design, search, and development of materials with desired characteristics. In order to make them possible, the fusion of material technology and advanced information technology is needed, and a new approach for the material development named datadriven material design (Materials Informatics) begins to be tried world-wide. The recent increase of computing power expands dramatically the potential of computer simulations to design and develop the materials, components, and even complex systems. Multi-scale simulations to design consistently the macro-scale complex systems close to final products from the beginning of nano-scaled material structures governed by the quantum mechanics are becoming to be feasible. Furthermore, the 3D printing technology to manufacture target structures flexibly based on these digitalized design data is making rapid progress, and the progress of information technology is bringing the revolution of manufacturing in various aspects including nanotechnology and materials.

In the previous panoramic view report of the nanotechnology/materials field in 2015, emphasis was placed on the nanotechnology applications for energy and environment areas, and also for life science and medical areas. In this 2017 version, latest information and technical progress of the nanotechnology and materials is updated in every area. In addition, the direction of the nanotechnology and materials to drive the IoT/AI era is described with sufficient pages together with a new technical description on structured materials, sensing technology, and bonding and adhesive technology used for social infrastructures. In the second chapter of this version, whole view of the R&D trends both inside and outside Japan and its prospect, particularly Japan’s issues and grand challenges in the field of nanotechnology and materials are summarized comprehensively based on the information gathered through the related workshops held in CRDS and interviews with professionals. The panoramic view for the nanotechnology and materials was reviewed and revised, and 37 major R&D areas and ten concrete grand challenges were extracted through these reviewing processes. In the third chapter of this report, the overview of historical background about the progress of each technical area, current technical trend in its front-end, scientific and technological issues, political issues, and the result of global comparison (Japan, USA, Europe, China, and Korea) on its R&D are described with about 10 pages for each technical area. This report describes CRDS’s comprehensive views of nanotechnology and materials produced by collecting information and opinions and discussing in the workshops and others through the collaborations of 240 professionals from industry, academia, and government.