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2004 World Technology Awards Winners & Finalists

Charles Lieber

Please describe the work that you are doing that you consider to be the most innovative and of the greatest likely long-term significance.

The work I am doing and consider to be most innovative and of greatest long-term significance centers on advancing the bottom-up paradigm for nanotechnology through the synthesis and understanding of fundamental and unique properties of nanoscale wires, the development of approaches for assembly of these nanoscale wires into integrated structures, and the definition of applications of these nanoscale materials in technologies ranging from nanoelectronics to biosensing and photonics.

I have made seminal contributions to the growth of a broad range of nanoscale wires, including nanowires and carbon nanotubes. I showed that carbon nanotubes could be used as templates for the synthesis of metal and nonmetal carbide nanowires, and subsequently made a breakthrough with the creation of a general method for the controlled synthesis of virtually any composition and size semiconductor nanowires. Most recently, I have demonstrated the ability to exploit these ideas for the creation of nanowire superlattices in which either the composition or doping is modulated in a controlled manner at the nanoscale. This new innovation enables tremendous opportunity for creating novel properties and devices much in the same way that superlattices revolutionized planar semiconductor industry. Overall, I have created the intellectual framework for predictable growth of nanoscale building blocks in which the composition, size and morphology are predictably controlled on all length scales. These results will have long-term significance since the building blocks underpin all nanotechnologies, and moreover, have served as key intellectual property for starting Nanosys Inc.

I have also made innovative contributions to understanding the properties of carbon nanotubes and semiconductor nanowires. I developed new scanning probe microscopy techniques to define key electrical and mechanical properties of individual carbon nanotubes and nanowires, and was the first to illuminate the relationships between atomic structure and electronic properties of nanotubes. The three papers describing these innovations have received more than 900 scientific citations. In addition, I have pioneered and been the world leader in illuminating the electrical, optical and optoelectronic properties of semiconductor nanowires. Of great significance, this work has demonstrated unambiguously that semiconductor nanowires with predictable and controlled electrical and optical properties can be synthesized, and thus provides the well-defined building blocks needed to develop nanotechnologies.

I am especially proud of doing just thistaking my innovative fundamental science towards creation of key devices needed for nanotechnology. I have used our semiconductor nanowire building blocks to create innovative nanoscale electronic, sensor and optoelectronic devices. Our demonstration of real-time bio/chem sensing with nanowires serves as the basis for a major business effort today at Nanosys, Inc. My development of nanowire transistors with exceptional capabilities has also served to initiate a major program at Intel investigating these devices for future large-scale nanoelectronics and computing. Recognizing the critical and general importance that integration will play in future, I have also developed novel methods for hierarchical assembly of nanowires and nanotubes, and used these methods to assemble integrated logic devices that can carry out simple computation. Lastly and as an indication of potential of my work, we have recently reported the first electrically-driven individual nanowire lasers that can be assembled into novel multi-color on-chip sources that open new opportunities in many areas of photonics.

Together, these examples demonstrate a broad-range of innovation in nanoscale science and technology, and moreover, open up new vistas for the future. I believe this work, which demonstrate clearly the potential of moving from a top-down to bottom-up manufacturing paradigm, will make real the promises of nanotechnology in the future, and am excited that both small (Nanosys) and large (Intel) companies are now joined in helping to realize this vision based on my work.

Brief Biography

Charles M. Lieber was born in Philadelphia, PA in 1959. He attended Franklin and Marshall College for his undergraduate education and graduated with honors in Chemistry. After doctoral studies at Stanford University and postdoctoral research at the California Institute of Technology, he moved in 1987 to the East Coast to assume an Assistant Professor position at Columbia University. Here Lieber embarked upon a new research program addressing the synthesis and properties of low-dimensional materials. Lieber moved to Harvard University in 1991 as a Professor of Chemistry and now holds a joint appointment in the Department of Chemistry and Chemical Biology and the Division of Engineering and Applied Sciences. At Harvard Lieber has pioneered the synthesis of a broad range of nanoscale materials, the characterization of the unique physical properties of these materials, and the development of powerful methods of hierarchical assembly of nanoscale wires, together with the demonstration of visionary applications of these materials in nanoelectronics, biological sensing and nanophotonics. This work has been recognized by a number of awards, including the Feynman Award in Nanotechnology, McGroddy Prize in New Materials from American Physical Society and the Gold Medal from the Materials Research Society. Lieber is an elected member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and Fellow of American Physical Society and the American Association for the Advancement of Science, is an honorary Professor at Tsinghua, USTC, Fudan and Zhejiang Universities in China, and serves on the Editorial and Advisory Boards of a number of science and technology journals. Lieber has published more than 200 papers in peer-reviewed journals and is the principle inventor on more than 20 patents. In his spare time, Lieber recently founded a nanotechnology company, NanoSys, Inc., with the modest goal of revolutionizing commercial applications in chemical and biological sensing, computing, photonics, and information storage. Lieberís lifelong goal is to carry out research that will change society and human well-being for the better.