BOOKS & MEDIA UPDATE
Learning from nature
Vincent Rotello David S. Goodsell’s new book is a useful introduction to bionanotechnology, but
Springer (2004), 300 pp.
it is more a popular account than a textbook, says John Ryan.
$125 / £78 / 113 Nanotechnology is concerned with the exploitation of conveniently arranged under headings such as
This volume explores the diverse new phenomena and properties that emerge at the biomaterials, biomolecular motors, traffic across
structures and properties of molecular scale, so it requires atomic precision in the membranes, etc., which makes it very easy for the
nanoparticles that make them useful reader to dip into the book and select particular topics.
manipulation and control of material. The extension of
tools in many disciplines. The first The penultimate chapter is the real core of the book. It
section covers their formation and lithographic techniques from the microscale to the
deals with bionanotechnology as it is today, describing
assembly into structured systems. nanoscale allows the manufacture of nanometer-sized much of the groundbreaking work in biomolecular self-
The second focuses on both the mechanical components such as wheels, cogs, gears, assembly, biosensors and biomaterials, DNA computers
fundamental physical properties and
etc., as well as smaller and faster electronic and DNA machines, and applications in nanomedicine.
practical applications in device and
materials fabrication. components such as transistors for computer chips. This chapter gives an excellent overview of the field,
However, the associated technical difficulties and costs and conveys a real sense of excitement and progress.
are so great that many scientists and engineers are But, because the field is developing so rapidly, there is
Superlattice to no doubt that this chapter will need reviewing and
now questioning this approach. Why reinvent the
Nanoelectronics updating in future editions.
wheel? Why not learn from nature? After all, the
biological world contains a wealth of nanomachines Because it is aimed at a wide audience, the book
Elsevier (2005), 300 pp.
that scale up exquisitely to the inevitably has shortcomings. The
$140 / £87.50 / 125 macroscale, as well as information text is entirely nonmathematical,
processing ‘devices’ that are more which will not satisfy the
The first historical overview of the
field describes the fundamental
powerful than anything we know biophysicist but will reassure
concepts, covers the applications how to manufacture. Further, they policymakers. The bibliography is
and types of devices produced are energy efficient and self-repair. useful for those who wish to dig
(many of which are still in use), and Most important of all, they self- deeper into the subject, but, by
answers many questions about assemble without the need for omitting references to the source
current nanoelectronics. It also enormously expensive fabrication literature, new researchers will
provides a basic understanding of
facilities. This approach to find it difficult to follow up
the physics from first principles,
while adding new depth, using molecular-scale technology is the specific issues. Technologists will
simple mathematics and explanation domain of bionanotechnology. As find that there is very little
of the background essentials. the subtitle of David Goodsell’s discussion of crucially important
book suggests, we should learn issues such as biocompatibility,
‘lessons from nature’. the stability of biological
The field of bionanotechnology is, molecules and their modified
with and after CMOS by definition, highly interdisciplinary. It requires David S. Goodsell
knowledge and expertise from both the life sciences Bionanotechnology: Lessons from Nature
A. M. Ionescu and K. Banerjee Wiley-Liss (2004), 352 pp., ISBN: 0-471-41719-X
Springer (2005), 1388 pp. and the physical sciences. Many of its most important $83.95 / £45.50 / 70
ISBN: 1-4020-7917-6 applications are likely to be realized in medicine. So,
$350 / £230 / 299 there is undoubtedly a need for a textbook that can functionality in nonbiological environments, self-repair
bridge these disciplines, but it is a tough challenge. or replacement, or the issue of scaleup from
This three-volume work covers the
However, the author has made his task considerably nanodevices to macroscopic systems.
evolution of complementary metal
oxide semiconductor Si technology more difficult by targeting a very broad audience, The book concludes with a discussion of the future for
toward fundamental scaling limits, including undergraduates, postgraduates, researchers, bionanotechnology. Here the author broaches some of
single-electron transistor (SET) and policy makers. Overall, the book is a useful the controversial issues surrounding social and ethical
devices, hybrid CMOS-SET circuits,
introduction to the field, but it is more a popular aspects. Issues such as self-replication and artificial life
and other novel, nanoscale devices
and circuits operating with just a account than a textbook. are touched on in earlier chapters, and the Drexlerian
few electrons. The early chapters provide a quick tour of the vision of ‘gray goo’, much loved by the media, is aired.
fundamental concepts of biochemistry and structural While this section adds some spice, it does not add
biology used in bionanotechnology. The material is much substance: these issues are important and a more
Expert accessible to beginners, although the terminology will substantial treatment is required to do them justice.
Graduate present some difficulties for the absolute beginner. John Ryan is director of the UK Bionanotechnology
Undergraduate The functional principles of bionanotechnology are InterdisciplinaryResearchCentre,UniversityofOxford.
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