Newt nabs the nano-stump

Mark A. DeSorbo

New York City—Newt Gingrich has a new nickname.

It's Nano Newt, a moniker the former Speaker of the U.S. House earned when he became an honorary chairman of the NanoBusiness Alliance, a trade organization made up of scientists, academic and business leaders that was formed to promote the design and manufacturing of electronic circuits and mechanical devices built on the molecular level.

“If you can begin to learn self-assembly at the nano level, the reduction in energy and the reduction in waste products will lead to the largest breakthrough in environmental quality in the history of the human race,” Gingrich told reporters at a news conference. “And that's not hyperbole. That's just a simple, basic reality.”

Fueling development and helping “the average citizen, the average investor and the average would-be entrepreneur” understand nanotechnology is Gingrich's mission.

The nanometer and nanotechnology is definitely on the minds of contamination-control professionals because product dimensions continue to drop and that means particle size ranges will most likely need to be extended to include that ultra-microscopic size range that is a length some 75,000 times smaller than the width of a human hair. [See “Fed-Std-209 shelved, ISO reigns,” CleanRooms, January 2002, p. 1.]

For Purdue University, it is the next frontier, and work is already underway at its West Lafayette, IN, campus on a $100 million park that officials say will lead the way in the exploration and development of nanotechnology and bioscience. The centerpiece of the four building, 40-acre Discovery Park development will be a $51 million nanotechnology center that will house more than 23,000 square feet of cleanroom space.

“Nanotechnology is an area that is still in its infancy and not yet dominated by a particular geographic location, as Silicon Valley dominates the computer industry,” says George Adams, an engineer at Purdue who headed the facility's planning committee. “That means nobody has a compelling lead at this point, so this is an area in which you can become a big player fairly easily. We have the potential to make Indiana a high-tech region in the United States for this kind of technology.”

At the time of this report, however, the biggest nanotechnology development came from the White House.

In early February, President Bush announced his proposed budget for 2003 with $679 million earmarked for the National Nanotechnology Initiative, a 17 percent increase over last year.

“This development, along with increased spending on other federal research and development efforts, [like] homeland defense and NASA, are sure to continue to further speed the development of nanotechnology in the United States and globally,” F. Mark Modzelewski, a founder and executive director of the NanoBusiness Alliance wrote in a letter to coalition members. “I think we all need to commend President Bush for his foresight as to nanotech's importance even in these tough budgetary times.”

Modzelewski, a former Clinton administration official, is equally appreciative of Gingrich, saying that the former West Georgia College history professor has always been a nanotechnology buff.

Presently, Gingrich spends his time between the Gingrich Group, his Atlanta-based communications and consulting firm; commentating on Fox News; the American Enterprise Institute and Stanford University's Hoover Institution and advising the Pentagon on strategic planning as a member of the Defense Policy Board.

Gingrich has friends in high places as well. Vice President Dick Cheney and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld are longtime friends, while National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice was a former associate at the Hoover Institution.

Although he has no desire to join the administration, Gingrich told Cox News Service that his best service would be that of an idea moderator.

“I really see myself as a bridge in that sense, between the world of the future and the practical, every day administrative and political problems of the present,” he says.

Gingrich believes nanotechnology provides the “basic building blocks of material.”

“If you can start moving individual atoms, you are affecting everything we do,” he says. “The countries that lead the way will lead the 21st Century.”


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