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Digital Atomic-Scale Fabrication

September 15, 2017 | 11:00 AM – 12:30 PM
Nedderman Hall 229 | Seminar Flyer

Seminar Speaker

John N. Randall, Ph.D.

President of Zyvex Labs, Richardson, Texas




Digital Atomic-Scale Fabrication
John N. Randall, PhD
President of Zyvex Labs
Richardson, Texas

Friday, September 15, 2017
11:00 AM – 12:30 PM
Nedderman Hall 229


Nanotechnology has provided some return on the significant investments made by the US Government. There are unquestionably some economic, technological, and scientific benefits that have been derived. However, much of the promise has yet to be delivered. An interesting analogy could be made between the state of nanotechnology today and information technology when it was still in its largely analog implementation. The vast majority of the growth of that industry and the benefits that it has provided, were enabled by implementing digital information theory in electronics, communication, and storage. It is interesting to note that the promise of digital information theory was described by John von Neumann, Claude Shannon, and Alan Turing long before it was realized.

In this talk, I will suggest that the long anticipated advantages of nanotechnology will begin to be exploited, when we move from analog nanofabrication to a digital approach. The fact is, with a few exceptions, our nanofab facilities all operate in the analog regime, treating matter as if it is infinitely divisible, when in fact we know that it is quantized into atoms and molecules. I believe that there is a spectacular opportunity to learn from the tactics employed by Richard Hamming and many others that learned to deal with the inevitable errors in computation, transmission, and storage. This was accomplished by a host of error detection and error correction schemes. The current and rapidly evolving IT systems are incredibly complex and yet extremely reliable. I believe that by embracing and developing digital tactics with our nanofabrication processes, similarly impressive nanosystems that are not restricted to information processing will emerge.

I will describe our atomically precise patterning technique that achieves sub-nm resolution that is a fully digital fabrication technique and how we are exploiting it to develop atomic scale fabrication. I will also give some thoughts about how we can develop digital atomic scale fabrication that will tolerate fabrication errors via error detection and correction and produce error-free structures. I am convinced, and hope to convince you, that this is the most promising path to realizing the promises of nanotechnology and to the wonders that Atomically Precise Manufacturing will bring.


John N. Randall was born in Berkeley CA but got to Texas as fast as he could. He spent a major portion of his misspent youth as a professional student. When he ran out of EE degrees to earn at the University of Houston, he was forced to get a job. For mysterious reasons he joined MIT’s Lincoln Laboratory which was an excellent place to work and was near the great city of Boston which is cursed with terrible weather. After three Boston winters, Patrice (John’s wife who has much greater wisdom) insisted that they move back to Texas. John worked at Texas Instruments Central Research Laboratory for 10 years making quantum resonant tunneling devices. He changed jobs within TI to accept a two year position at IMEC in Belgium where he worked on optical lithography and acquired an affinity for Belgian beer and chocolate. After returning to Dallas he worked in TI’s Kilby Fab and was lithography gate team leader for TI’s most advanced IC process. In 2001 Jim Von Ehr made John an offer he could not refuse, (to work on really cool technology at Zyvex) and tricked him into being in management. In spite of this, Zyvex developed two successful nanotechnology product lines: Nano probing which is used by semiconducting companies all over the world, and carbon nanotube enhanced composites which is used to make baseball bats, hockey sticks, bicycle parts, and 54 foot boats. John is presently President of Zyvex Labs which is working to change the world with Atomically Precise Manufacturing AND to heal the blind. He has published 107 technical articles, has 30 issued US patents, and loves his wife and children.