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Archive for the 'Roadmaps' Category

Nanoscale Wear

Posted by J. Storrs Hall on September 10th, 2009

One of the major problems for micromachines, much less nanomachines, is wear. The phenomenon of stiction combines the two worst aspects of surface-to-surface interaction — a high coefficient of friction and a locally-generated high applied force — to cause enormous problems. At the very smallest scale, once we gain complete control over atomic configuration, superlubricity [...]


Posted by J. Storrs Hall on August 7th, 2009

There’s a nice article over at the Singularity Hub that’s a round-up of currently-available haptics devices.  They seem primarily excited over the prospects of haptics in gaming, but there are two reasons we’re interested in developments. First is simply telerobotics, as in Feynman Path manipulation.  We want the feedback to help develop an intuitive feel [...]

Self-replicating machines and risk

Posted by J. Storrs Hall on August 3rd, 2009

Engineering and analysis in the field of SRMs is unusual in many ways.  Eric Drexler has posted a paper about differences in evolutionary capacity in mechanical and biological systems that’s worth a look. Purely coincidentally, we at Foresight have been discussing self-replication in the context of the Feynman Path and I came up with an [...]

CCC / CRA Robotics Roadmap

Posted by J. Storrs Hall on July 28th, 2009

The CCC/CRA, a consortium of academic computer science departments (essentially), has a roadmap to future robotics that has some implications for the Feynman Path. Some highlights (from the chapter on manufacturing): Vignette 2: One-of-a-kind, discrete-part manufacture and assembly A small job shop with 5 employees primarily catering to orders from medical devices companies is approached [...]

Feynman’s Path to Nanotech (part 10)

Posted by J. Storrs Hall on July 17th, 2009

Just Do It It’s the 20th anniversary of the first Foresight Conference this year. Over the intervening two decades, one of the most common questions of Foresight members and supporters has been, “What can I do to help with the development of nanotech?”  Foresight has had many useful programs, and encouraged development in many ways [...]

Feynman’s Path to Nanotech (part 9)

Posted by J. Storrs Hall on July 16th, 2009

Scaling KSRM Design Considerations There hasn’t been a lot of work on self-replicating workcells. There’s been plenty on robotic workcells that don’t replicate, but almost all of this falls into the “more complex than what it makes” category. The basic idea goes back to Waldo: imitate a machine shop and the person servicing the machines [...]

Feynman’s Path to Nanotech (part 8)

Posted by J. Storrs Hall on July 15th, 2009

Where to Start? In the last post we suggested that finding the appropriate starting point was one of the critical items to address in forming a Feynman Path roadmap, and that is true. A thorough survey of available techniques should be made, and recent advances in machining, nanomanipulation, and so forth taken advantage of. However, [...]

Feynman’s Path to Nanotech (part 7)

Posted by J. Storrs Hall on July 14th, 2009

Plan of Attack The difficult we do immediately. The impossible takes a little longer. (Seabees motto) There are at least two major parts to a project to implement the Feynman Path. The first is essentially to work out a roadmap for the second. In particular, Design a scalable, remotely-operated manufacturing and manipulation workstation capable of [...]

Feynman’s Path to Nanotech (part 6)

Posted by J. Storrs Hall on July 13th, 2009

Open Questions Taking Feynman’s Path to nanotech, or even studying it seriously, would require finding answers to a number of open questions. These questions, however, are quite important and knowing the answers will be invaluable in understanding the envelope of possibilities for future manufacturing technology. Is it in fact possible to build a compact self-replicating [...]

Feynman’s Path to Nanotech (part 5)

Posted by J. Storrs Hall on July 10th, 2009

Is it Worth Starting Now? Surely, you will say, it would have been wonderful if back in 1959 people had taken Feynman seriously and really tried the Feynman path: we’d have the full-fledged paraphernalia of real, live molecular machinery now, with everything ranging from nanofactories to cell-repair machines. After all, it’s been 50 years. The [...]

Feynman’s Path to Nanotech (part 4)

Posted by J. Storrs Hall on July 9th, 2009

MEMS Another reason the Feynman Path may not have been tried is the perception that a machine-based approach has been tried in the form of MEMS, and that standard machine designs do not work at this scale and below due to stiction. MEMS are in fact crippled by this phenomenon, which is a essentially an [...]

Feynman’s Path to Nanotech (part 3)

Posted by J. Storrs Hall on July 8th, 2009

Self-replicating Machines So why hasn’t the Feynman Path been attempted, or at least studied and analyzed? One possible reason is that there still seems to be a “giggle factor” associated with the notion of a compact, macroscale, self-replicating machine using standard fabrication and assembly techniques. Although studied in the abstract since von Neumann, and in [...]

Feynman’s Path to Nanotech (part 2)

Posted by J. Storrs Hall on July 7th, 2009

Historical Note It’s appropriate on this July 7 to make at least a reference to the history of ideas that lies behind the Feynman Path. That’s because July 7 is the (102nd) birthday of Robert A Heinlein, the famous SF writer, futurist, and inventor. His invention of interest is the “Waldo F. Jones Synchronous Reduplicating [...]

Feynman’s Path to Nanotech (part 1)

Posted by J. Storrs Hall on July 6th, 2009

The Problem In 1997, Philip Collins, then a graduate student at Berkeley, won the Foresight Institute’s Distinguished Student Award for his experimental verification that a defect location in a carbon nanotube could form a near-perfect rectifier, as well as various other heterojunction device behaviors, as had been theoretically predicted just the year before. “Such junctions [...]

Drexler’s slides posted

Posted by J. Storrs Hall on May 7th, 2009

Eric Drexler has posted the slides from his keynote talk at the Berkeley Nanotech Forum. These are a fairly painless way to get an overview of the Productive Nanosystems Roadmap.

The other half of nanotech

Posted by J. Storrs Hall on April 28th, 2009

As I pointed out in Nanotechnology Without Engines, nanotechnology’s promise of being a revolutionary rather than evolutionary technology was based on two key ideas: Nanotechnology, the revolutionary technology, was always about the power of self-replication and never only about the very small. This was clearly the case both in Drexler’s conception and in Feynman’s: … [...]

The nanotechnology we were promised

Posted by J. Storrs Hall on February 16th, 2009

A response to my “Parricide” essay has been seen on IEEE’s Tech Talk blog. Dexter Johnson gives a fair summary of the positions taken to date, and says As the argument seems to go, Drexler popularized the term nanotechnology in his book Engines of Creation, and so when the general public heard that thousands of [...]

Why the DMS debate is a good thing for nanotech

Posted by J. Storrs Hall on December 29th, 2008

One of the main reasons that we are confident in the overall predictions of molecular manufacturing is that there are many pathways to it from current technology and using currently understood science. It is thus something of a milestone that we have arrived at a fork in the road about which there is room for [...]

DNA nanotechnology provides an improved tweezers

Posted by Jim Lewis on November 7th, 2008

Re-engineering a simple nanotech device to make it more functional, Chinese scientists have developed an improved DNA tweezers that is able to capture, hold, and release a target molecule in a controlled manner.

Mechanosynthesis with AFM as a step toward advanced nanotechnology

Posted by Jim Lewis on November 6th, 2008

Robert A. Freitas Jr. brings to our attention a major step on the road to advanced nanotech, published a couple weeks ago in Science (abstract). He writes: This paper reports purely mechanical-based covalent bond-making and bond-breaking (true mechanosynthesis) involving atom by atom substitution of silicon (Si) atoms for tin (Sn) atoms in an Sn monolayer [...]