November 18, 2012
By: Bethany Bump
Source: The Daily Gazette
Event shows how nanotechnology influences lives
The battle for the region’s first-ever speed texting champion came down to two teenage sisters.
“Crap,” whispered Alyssa Rotella nervously, as she turned around to
face her dad. “I didn’t include a comma!” Rotella, 17, was the
frontrunner of the competition. She had come in first place during the
previous round, which narrowed the field of competitors from 10 to five.
And she had an actual keyboard on her phone, as opposed to the rest of
the smartphone users in the Top Five using touch screen keypads.
In order to win the final round, the contestants had to text the
following without error or abbrevia- tions: What was the first text
message, sent in 1992? “Merry Christmas ”
It turned out
that Alyssa’s 15-year-old sister, Brianna Rotella, didn’t forget the
comma. She was declared winner of the 2012 NanoText Competition on
Saturday, hosted by the University at Albany’s College of Nanoscale
Science and Engineering as part of NANOvember, a month-long educational
outreach to showcase the emerging science of nanotechnology.
Somehow, the two Ballston Spa sisters kept their tensions from showing.
They smiled, and even shouted excitedly to their dad about winning a
total of $175 worth of gift cards to the Apple store. But one has to
wonder who will rule the roost around home for the next few weeks, maybe
In case anyone was curious just how much the
world of nanotechnology has influenced our lives, they should look no
further than the crowd that gathered Saturday inside of CNSE’s NanoFab
It used to be that smartphones — which
typically contain anywhere from five to 10 nanochips per device — were
perceived as the technology of Generation Y, of smart businessmen and
women in smart suits, of stock traders and on-the-go politicians.
On Saturday, the auditorium was full of plenty of Generation Yers —
young kids wearing Uggs and conversation about the upcoming history
exam. But there were also middle-aged moms and dads, a handful of
elementary-age children, and a surprisingly large number of elderly
“To me, it demonstrates that nanotechnology is
impacting society across the board,” said CNSE spokesman Steve Janack,
of the diverse crowd. “It’s not just things that young people use, like
videogames and cellphones and things like that. It’s not just things
that would interest older folks like energy and health care. It’s across
the board. It’s all of those things. That’s what’s exciting.”
HOW WE GOT HERE
Before the room of people could vie for the crown of region’s fastest texter, they had to get a little history first.
Life as we know it now may contain iPhones and Droids, said Dr.
Vincent LaBella, an associate professor of nanoscience at CNSE. But a
long time ago, in 1876, Alexander Graham Bell invented a microphone that
transmitted speech from one room to another over a wire.
LaBella took the crowd through an entire century’s worth of advances
in telephone technology — switchboards, mechanical relays, the vacuum
tube, transistors and computer chips — before arriving at the topic of
smartphones and nanochips.
From the 1970s to today, he
said, workers in the field have shrunk transistors from 10,000
nanometers to almost 20 nanometers.
The transistor used
in a modern smartphone is 22 nanometers, he said. CNSE researchers are
working to develop transistors even smaller than that.
SMALLER AND SMALLER
“Today, these modern telephones are really computers,” said LaBella.
“And they’re made powerful by the tiny pieces of silicon chips in there
with a billion transistors on there — all at 22 nanometers each. The
smaller we can make transistors, the faster they operate, the more
features we can put on a chip. So, just imagine what the next iteration
of smartphones will be.”
The crowd was eager to hear what LaBella thought was the best smartphone technology out there.
He admitted to being a “Windows guy,” but declined to endorse any one system as better than another.
The room of smartphone users then partook in a spirited debate over
iPhones versus Androids versus Windows. BlackBerry, which has suffered
significant market share loss over the last few years, was noticeably
not a part of the debate.