The NT Conference Vision (Science and Application of Nanotubes and Low-Dimensional Materials)
During the 1990's, when interest in fullerenes was dwindling due to
perceived lack of applications, the future of the related nanotubes
was questionable. The nanotube field was riddled by reports that
nanotubes may help create energy from nothing (thus violating energy
conservation) or store unusually large amounts of hydrogen. Most scientists
believed that nanotubes are only a fashionable topic with no lasting impact.
How to prove the skeptics wrong? I believe the best answer is to produce
and report high-quality research. A $15,000 grant in 1999 was the trigger
for organizing the
NT'99 conference as a way to bring the nanotube community together using
an unusual approach and format:
- Financial support should be spent on the best invited speakers. Any
luxury should be avoided to keep the conference cost low and to attract as
many interested participants as possible.
- The key role of contributions was emphasized by placing poster sessions
in prime conference time and summarizing the essential contents of all posters
in an oral plenary session (poster-plus presentations by contributors). Also to
encourage active participation of young scientists, posters have always played the
"first violin" at NT conferences.
- Discussion of all topics of importance to the field, including controversial
topics, was encouraged and facilitated by the open format.
- The main reason behind an NT conference was to provide a service to the
At NT'99, practically all financial support was spent on attracting and supporting key invited speakers,
who would present and discuss their results. The registration fee was $120. Very little was
spent on the location rental, and the remaining 2% financed a common meal that did
not deserve to be called a "banquet".
The participants found the format very appealing and the actual number of attendees exceeded
the planned attendance by a factor of two throughout the following years. The wish list brought
forward by participants often reflected their past disappointment at other conferences:
- To eliminate frustration from selecting a wrong session in multi-session
conferences, participants asked for a single-session conference that would cover
the entire field;
- Unlike conferences, where the organizers and advisory board are also presenters of
invited talks, NT conferences should avoid such conflicts of interest. Invited speakers
should not be nominated by sponsors, but be selected democratically by an ever changing
- The venue and the invited speakers should change each time.
These commonalities, reflecting the wishes of participants, were eventually summarized in
the NT Conference Charter.
They distinguish NT conferences from other events, including junket
conferences. This approach may appear too restrictive to some organizers, as it does not
bring immediate benefit. Yet it is feasible, as demonstrated in the first decade or so,
and has found overwhelming support by participants.
To maintain the quality of the conference series, a
Steering Committee was
eventually established to regulate all issues related to NT Conference organization,
including compliance with the
NT Conference Charter.