IRG1-1: Nanotechnology and the Pacific Rim

(Hyungsub Choi, W. Patrick McCray, Cyrus Mody)


This project is conducted in collaboration with Rich Appelbaum and IRG2, and continues an earlier IRG1 line of research on Semiconductor Technologies and the Road to Nanoelectronics.


In recent years, Pacific Rim countries have made significant contributions to the development of nanotechnology, especially in electronics. China, in particular, has grown rapidly as judged by its quantitative output in nanoscale science and technology. Japan has traditionally been a leader in areas subsumed under the rubric of nanotechnology, i.e., semiconductors and novel materials. South Korea has also made rapid progress in nanotechnology.


One area of study has been the transformation of policy regimes in science, technology, and high-tech industry within the U.S. and Japan, as driven by their competition with, and perceptions of, each other. Our research has explored how the political economies of science and technology within the U.S. and Japan gradually converged, and were driving forces for nanotechnology's development during the final quarter of the 20th century. Since the late 1970s, these two countries have been at the forefront of the scientific and technological developments leading to nanotechnology. Technical and institutional evolution within the countries was profoundly shaped by their competitive and cooperative relationships, along with national policy. Since the early 1980s, the U.S. government became more active in funding private industry in what political historians call the emergence of the “hidden developmental state.” In Japan, meanwhile, policymakers sought to counter American criticism that Japan was not contributing enough to the world's store of basic knowledge. Examining the transnational history of nanoelectronics in the U.S. and Japan affords an improved identification of the origins of contemporary science and technology policy in both countries.


A new focus of this research area is on the rapid development of nanotechnology infrastructure in South Korea in the 21st century. The initial research site is the National Nano Fabrication Center (NNFC) in Daejeon, Korea,  the first and largest shared facility in Korea that provides silicon-based nano instrumentation and characterization services to academia, industry, and government laboratories around the country. Established in 2004 with funds from the Ministry of Science and Technology (renamed the Ministry of Knowledge Economy), the city of Daejeon, and local industrial partners, the NNFC is slated to become fully self-supportive by 2012. Examining the center’s operation procedures provides a useful window to observe the state of Korean nanoscale science and technology from a broad range of perspectives, and provides opportunities for comparative analysis with nanofabrication facilities in other countries.