Breaking barriers: The hype

This is the first arti­cle in a series of three in which Smoltek founder and strate­gic advi­sor Shafiq Kabir share his per­son­al thoughts on nan­otech­nol­o­gy oppor­tu­ni­ties. This intro­duc­to­ry arti­cle address­es the hype sur­round­ing nan­otech­nol­o­gy in gen­er­al and car­bon nan­otech­nol­o­gy in particular.

While I was car­ry­ing out my research stud­ies, I had a rever­ie, a dream to take my research find­ings on nano­ma­te­ri­als beyond sci­en­tif­ic arti­cles for greater tech­no­log­i­cal, indus­tri­al and soci­etal ben­e­fits. I was for­tu­nate enough to pur­sue in the path of bring­ing my dream into real­i­ty. After over a decade of jour­ney in the process of bring­ing the research inno­va­tion clos­er to the semi­con­duc­tor indus­try, the light at the end of the tun­nel is becom­ing vis­i­ble and widen­ing day by day. Hence as a nan­otech entre­pre­neur I thought of shar­ing my holis­tic view of tech­nol­o­gy and soci­ety, per­spec­tives and process­es of chas­ing my dreams com­ing true.

Why I do what I do

Back in 2005, the final days of my PhD stud­ies, a moment of com­bined feel­ings of shiv­er­ing excite­ment and ner­vous­ness. These are the days when one expe­ri­ence intense con­glom­er­a­tions of thrust of writ­ing up the­sis chap­ters, fin­ish­ing cours­es, sub­mit­ting var­i­ous man­u­scripts for sci­en­tif­ic arti­cles, thoughts bounc­ing back & forth on walk­ing towards an unknown future, etc. Appar­ent­ly, such com­plex­i­ty of the sit­u­a­tion was not enough for my adren­a­line rush, I end­ed up start­ing a com­pa­ny named Smoltek. A baby step to pur­sue my dream with­out know­ing the uncer­tain­ty, hur­dles and roller coast­er expe­ri­ence that may come with it. And of course, to spice up the sit­u­a­tion, why not start the com­pa­ny at the time when the ‘hype’ of ‘car­bon nan­otech­nol­o­gy’ is at its pick!

The hype

When it comes for tech­nol­o­gy hype, Gart­ner has a very good way of pre­sent­ing high lev­el inno­va­tion trend and how a tech­nol­o­gy may mature over time to enter into the mar­ket place and may phase out even­tu­al­ly as shown in the Hype Cycle below.

The pur­ple arrow shows how Nan­otube Elec­tron­ics moved from 2005 to 2017 in Gart­ner’s hype curve for emerg­ing tech­nolo­gies.

As can be seen, in the year 2005 the posi­tion of Car­bon nan­otube is described as a hype mate­r­i­al to be used in the indus­try. Over the peri­od of past decade, tremen­dous attrac­tion on car­bon nanos­truc­tures both in the acad­e­mia and in the indus­try lead to 10000+ patents and 10000+ sci­en­tif­ic arti­cles BUT essen­tial­ly no sig­nif­i­cant high vol­ume indus­tri­al adop­tion! Hence, evi­dent­ly jus­ti­fy­ing a ‘hype’ syndrome.

There­fore one may won­der why car­bon nanos­truc­tures have attract­ed such an enor­mous atten­tion and why still a big push to make it hap­pen­ing into the industry.

Car­bon nano­ma­te­ri­als may come in ver­sa­tile forms and for­mats with many dif­fer­ent properties. 

In brief, this is what made the mate­ri­als so attrac­tive. Over the decades, researchers around the world have demon­strat­ed many use­ful­ness and appli­ca­tions of the mate­ri­als through sci­en­tif­ic arti­cles and inven­tion dis­clo­sures. A few fun­da­men­tal prop­er­ties that have drawn the main atten­tion are nano­size, extreme light weight, stronger than Kevlar, bet­ter thermal/​electrical con­duc­tor than cop­per, hydrophilic/​hydrophobic, high aspect ratio struc­tures, bot­tom up chem­istry con­trolled growth of nanos­truc­tures etc … and the list of inter­est­ing prop­er­ties may sim­ply continue.

Vari­a­tions of car­bon forms.

The next obvi­ous ques­tion may be why there is no major adop­tion to the semi­con­duc­tor indus­try of such won­der mate­r­i­al? Well, there can be very many opin­ions but one obvi­ous rea­son was the absence of a break­through tech­nol­o­gy that could enable the pos­si­bil­i­ty of inte­grat­ing such won­der mate­ri­als into main­frame semi­con­duc­tor indus­try (the indus­try that has enabled our dig­i­tal world as of today!).

The good news is: The sce­nario is chang­ing fast!

Very lim­it­ed adap­ta­tion of car­bon nano­ma­te­ri­als in indus­tri­al appli­ca­tions have been wit­nessed over the past decades e.g. as bulk mate­ri­als for R&D, in com­pos­ites, sur­face coat­ings, etc. How­ev­er, for the semi­con­duc­tor indus­try, the pen­e­tra­tion has not been rec­og­nized until today. Nan­tero per­haps the fore­run­ner in break­ing the bar­ri­er to enter into the semi­con­duc­tor indus­try through a recent­ly announced licenc­ing deal for man­u­fac­tur­ing NRAM mem­o­ry chips. 

Smoltek, is aggres­sive­ly work­ing on bring­ing its pro­pri­etary pack­ag­ing plat­form suit­able for the upcom­ing 2.5D and 3D het­ero­ge­neous inte­gra­tion SiP/​SoC pack­ag­ing with the abil­i­ty to shrink the 3D pack­ag­ing dimen­sion with addi­tion­al func­tion­al­i­ty such as embed­ded capacitor/​energy stor­ing devices. 

Such an indus­tri­al mar­riage between tra­di­tion­al tech­nol­o­gy, nan­otech­nol­o­gy & nano­ma­te­ri­als and cohab­i­ta­tions is as usu­al not with­out a fight. There has been a lot of if’s & but’s over the decades, a lot of intel­lec­tu­al, sci­en­tif­ic and prac­ti­cal­i­ty dis­cus­sions, a lot of bar­ri­ers to over­come but still appar­ent­ly set­tling at the end.

The nan­otech entre­pre­neurs are per­sis­tent­ly inno­vat­ing to break the bar­ri­ers one after anoth­er and per­haps a lot more to break BUT cre­at­ing the path to impact!

Next article

In the next arti­cle of this series, I will make an attempt to dive into ‘the real­i­ty’ with respect to my view as a nan­otech entre­pre­neur and how the real­i­ty is aid­ing pos­i­tive­ly for nan­otech star­tups in break­ing the bar­ri­ers to get into the real world.

Related insights from Smoltek

Breaking barriers: The future

This is the third and last article in a series of three in which Smoltek founder and strategic advisor Shafiq Kabir share his personal thoughts on nanotechnology opportunities. In the previous two articles, he has addressed both the hype and the reality of carbon nanotechnology. In this last article, he looks into the future. He discusses how carbon nanotechnology will unleash the power of the internet of everything.
aerial view of mountain hills

Breaking barriers: The reality

This is the second article in a series of three in which Smoltek founder and strategic advisor Shafiq Kabir share his personal thoughts on nanotechnology opportunities. In the last article, he addressed the hype surrounding carbon nanotechnology. In this one, he takes you into the reality of the nanotechnology entrepreneur. He tells you about real challenges that await breakthroughs that carbon nanotechnology can help within the near future.
Hand held circular disc with Smoltek logo

Smoltek—from carbon nanofibers to mind-controlled robotic prostheses

Smoltek holds unique world patents for technologies that make material engineering on an atomic level possible. Smoltek has solutions that allow continued miniaturization and increased performance of semiconductors, contribute to carbon-free steel production and renewable energy storage, and enable mind control of robotic prostheses. This is a story of how Smoltek came to be.