The promise of establishing a significant number of new, high-value industries based on past investment in the NNI will be realized only if suitable manufacturing technologies can be developed to economically and reliably produce nanotechnology-based products on a commercial scale. The semiconductor industry has achieved this, but the production methods are not scalable or economical for the diversity of new materials and products at the volumes and length scales required. Radically new approaches are needed. Moreover, for such products to be ubiquitous in the nation’s future economy, they and their associated manufacturing processes must be sustainable by design.
To create the foundation for achieving this vision, the goal of this initiative is to accelerate the development of industrial-scale methods for manufacturing functional nanoscale systems. The initiative targets production-worthy scaling of three classes of sustainable materials that have the potential to affect multiple industry sectors with significant economic impact: high-performance structural carbon-based nanomaterials, optical metamaterials, and cellulosic nanomaterials. The formation of consortia with industry, government, and academic representation is a key aspect of the specific thrust areas that are the focus of this initiative:
- Design of scalable and sustainable nanomaterials, components, devices, and processes.
- Nanomanufacturing measurement technologies.
An essential prerequisite for the development of cost-effective nanomanufacturing is the availability of high-throughput, in-line metrology to enable closed-loop process control and quality assurance. The initiative is therefore focused directly on the development of inexpensive, rapid, and accurate measurement techniques. The United States has expertise in roll-to-roll manufacturing, which can be adapted to the types of high-volume fabrication processes envisioned. The formation of a consortium devoted to the development of metrology methods to enable roll-to-roll application to nanomanufacturing is expected to play an essential role here.
The systems to be manufactured based on these methods will include: (1) disruptive technologies for lightweight, high-strength, sustainable materials; (2) solar energy harvesting; (3) waste-heat management and recovery; and (4) energy storage. Success of the initiative will result in the immediate extension of the developed methods to more complex components and systems, as future nanodevices mature and help secure and strengthen the U.S. manufacturing base.