Molecular Nanotechnology

Nanotechnology seems to me to be the most potentially "world changing" field of research going on today. Despite this, it is far from the public eye - hardly anyone has even heard of it! Here is a brief introduction.

What's all this about then?

Molecular Nanotechnology is the heading under which goes the capability to assemble things molecule by molecule. Traditionally, things have been manufactured by cutting and scraping and bending. When nanotechnology matures, things will be built by molecular machines called assemblers, much in the same way that plants and animals are put together by molecular machines called proteins!

So what?

The ability to build things on a molecular scale will give us what the human race has craved since the first caveman to strike a piece of flint - absolute control over matter. Firstly, very small things can be made. Computers can be made several orders of magnitude smaller and faster, storage devices can have a single molecule per bit of data. Secondly, large things can be made with near perfect structures. Tall buildings and long bridges can be built out of a single piece of the strongest material available - diamond. The diamond is assembled by physically picking up carbon atoms and slotting them into place. Anything that can be designed on a computer can be prototyped instantly - in much the same way that software is designed, with small changes being implemented, then tested - all within a few minutes. The cost of manufacturing will become insignificant. Design costs will become all important.

Exactly what can be done with nanotechnology?

Here are a few example applications. The applications are very wide ranging because being able to create any structure imaginable in an instant is a very useful thing!

It all sounds a bit far fetched to me...

There is nothing to suggest that nanotechnology simply can't be done. None of the above ideas break any physical laws. Biological systems like trees and people are already assembled molecule by molecule by tiny molecular machines.

Okay, but it won't happen in my lifetime...

Major breakthroughs are not "just around the corner." However, real research is going on today, and real progress has been made. The longest estimate I have come across so far is 30 years for mature nanotechnology implementing the sorts of ideas listed above. Once simple nano-machines can be built, they can be used to make more complex ones, and on it will go. Some research going on today includes:

Fair enough, but I want to know more!

The following are good places to start to find out more about nanotechnology:


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