A Message from the Director-General

Masakazu Aono
Masakazu Aono
Fellow, National Institute for Materials Science
Director-General, MANA

Pioneering a New Paradigm

The International Center for Materials Nanoarchitectonics (MANA) was established as one of the five research centers selected as part of the World Premier International (WPI) Research Center Initiative, launched by Japan's Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT) in 2007 (*). I am pleased to report that in the three years since its inception, MANA has achieved steady progress and I would like to take this opportunity to express my sincere gratitude to all parties who have supported and contributed to its success.

The creation of a sustainable society remains one of the most important challenges mankind faces in the modern age. The realization of such a society will require technological innovation in a wide range of fields including the environmental, energy, resources, IT and communications, diagnostic and medical sectors. More importantly, however, advances in each of these disciplines will depend to a large extent on the development of new materials. Historically, advances in materials sciences have always paved the way for technological innovation with the resulting technologies functioning as the driving force that breaks through existing barriers.

Following remarkable development over the last two decades, the field of nanotechnology has come to play a central role in modern day materials development and it is widely expected to remain a key pillar of materials sciences in the future. However, if we view nanotechnology as just another significant milestone in approaches toward materials development, we lose a valuable opportunity to leverage its true potential. Nanotechnology should really be considered an entirely new branch of technology that has brought about a paradigm shift in conventional materials development. At MANA, this new discipline is referred to as “Nanoarchitectonics” and we are striving to promote and explore this field.

Perhaps the most remarkable insight thus far gained through nanotechnology is that “interesting new functions seem to appear once material is reduced to nanoscale dimensions.” However, the mere incorporation of these single properties into materials development will not bring about substantial innovation in the science. Of more importance are the various new cooperative functions that originate as the result of the mutual interactions nanoscale structural units exert with each other. Properly understanding the cooperative functions and systematically using them could likely spark a transformation in materials development. We must advise caution though, as the conventional manufacturing approach of making and assembling parts in accordance with a particular design (valid for macro-scales to micron scales) cannot necessarily be transferred to nanoscale operations. Specific manipulation of nanoscale structural units, comprised of atoms and molecules, is not simply a matter of using the appropriate tools or techniques but is dependent on a range of other factors such as statistical and thermal fluctuations and thus not always absolutely achievable. Incorporating these structural ambiguities and deficiencies into design decisions, Nanoarchitectonics constitutes a new branch of technology that will prompt the development of new materials by exploring new essential tools and techniques to create materials with revolutionary properties based on the organization of cooperative functions.

To promote and effectively use Nanoarchitectonics as an independent discipline, MANA has established four research areas consisting of Nano-Materials, Nano-Systems, Nano-Power, and Nano-Life, with the scope of research extending from fundamental to applied levels. The Center has also succeeded in creating an international environment with over half of its research body comprised of foreigners and is actively trying to attract competent human resources from all over the world. MANA is also dedicated to the training of young scholars in an effort to contribute to the next generation of researchers.

In closing, I would like to once again request your continued support for our activities.

(*) A sixth research center was added in Kyushu University in 2010.