Will it be possible to remove the heat generated by tens of thousands of components in a single silicon chip?Gordon Moore
In 1959, at a meeting of the American Physical Society in Pasadena, California, physicist Richard Feynman set out a vision of the future in a remarkable after-dinner speech titled “There’s Plenty of Room at the Bottom.” The talk had the subtitle “An Invitation to Enter a New Field of Physics,” and it marked the beginning of the field of research that is now known as nanotechnology. Nanotechnology is concerned with the manipulation of matter at the scale of nanometers. Atoms are typically a few tenths of a nanometer in size. Feynman emphasizes that such an endeavor does not need new physics:
I am not inventing anti-gravity, which is possible someday only if the laws are not what we think. I am telling you what could be done if the laws are what we think; we are not doing it simply because we haven’t yet gotten around to it.
During his talk, Feynman challenged his audience by offering two $1,000 prizes: one “to the first guy who makes an operating electric motor which is only 1/64 inch cube,” and the second prize “to the first guy who can take the information on the page of a book and put it on an area 1/25000 smaller.” He had to pay out on both prizes – the first less than a year later, to Bill McLellan, an electrical engineer and Caltech alumnus (Fig. 15.1). Feynman knew that McLellan was serious when he brought a microscope with him to show Feynman his miniature motor capable of generating a millionth of a horsepower. Although Feynman paid McLellan the prize money, the motor was a disappointment to him because it did not require any technical advances (Fig. 15.2). He had not made the challenge hard enough. In an updated version of his talk given twenty years later, Feynman speculated that, with modern technology, it should be possible to mass-produce motors that are 1/40 a side smaller than McLellan’s original motor. To produce such micromachines, Feynman envisaged the creation of a chain of “slave” machines, each producing tools and machines at one-fourth of their own scale.