The construction of molecular scale structures at the scale of the 1 - 100 nanometer range is one of the key challenges facing science and technology in the twenty-first century. This challenge is at the core of an emerging discipline of Nanoscience, which is at a critical stage of development. There have been some notable successes in the construction of individual molecular components (e.g., carbon nanotubes, and various molecular electronic devices), and the individual manipulation of molecules by probing devices. However, a key deficiency is the lack of methods for constructing complex devices out of large numbers of these molecular components. We need methods to help us hold, shape, and assemble various molecular components into complex machines and systems.
Top-down methods for construction of nanostructures, such as e-beam lithography, have inherent limitations in scale. Bottom-up methods appear to have no such scale limitations. Self-assembly is a bottom-up method of construction where substructures are spontaneously self-ordered into superstructures driven by the selective affinity of the substructures. While top-down methods are well understood, and widely used in engineering and manufacturing processes, self-assembly is a much less well-understood construction process. Chemists have for many decades used self-assembly methods (for example, for the self-assembly of lipid or polymer layers), but they conventionally result in structures with limited complexity, and are not readily programmable. However the cell is self-assembled, and contains many complex structured components.
A missing pillar in the emerging discipline of Nanoscience is an understanding of self-assembly methods for forming complex structured components. For a variety of historical reasons, self-assembly processes and experiments have not been examined by science to the degree that is now needed by Nanoscience. The Conference provides a synergism for a community of scholars working in self-assembly related areas who would otherwise not have contact with each other.