In a talk at the recent Nanoethics conference, NNI's Mihail Roco described plans for third and fourth generation nanotechnology, and very briefly sketched a fifth generation — robotics and guided assembly. This was supplemented by paper copies of an article he wrote for AIChE Journal. Long-time readers of Nanodot will find the terminology new but the concepts familiar. Read More for a summary. Boldface added by me, for emphasis.
From the May 2004 journal article:
In the introductory paragraph: "Four generations of nanotechnology products and their respective manufacturing methods and research foci are identified: Passive nanostructures; active nanostructures; three-dimensional (3-D) nanosystems and systems of nanosystems; and heterogeneous molecular nanosystems. Designing new atomic and molecular assemblies is expected to increase in importance, including macromolecules "by design", nanoscale machines, and directed multiscale selfassembling."
By 2015: "Nanoscale designed catalysts will expand the use in 'exact' chemical manufacturing to cut and link molecular assemblies, with minimal waste."
Third Generation, beginning about 2010: "This includes directed multiscale selfassembling…chemico-mechanical processing…"
Fourth Generation, beginning about 2015: "heterogeneous molecular nanosystems, where each molecule in the nanosystem has a specific structure and plays a different role. Molecules will be used as devices and from their engineered structures and architectures will emerge fundamentally new functions…Research focus will be on atomic manipulation for design of molecules and supramolecular systems, dynamics of single molecule, molecular machines, design of large heterogeneous molecular systems, controlled interaction between light and matter with relevance to energy conversion among others, exploiting quantum control, emerging behavior of complex macromolecular assemblies, nanosystem biology for healthcare (Heath et al., 2003) and agricultural systems, human-machine interface at the tissue and nervous system level, and convergence of nano-bio-info-cognitive domains. Examples are creating multifunctional molecules, catalysts for synthesis and controlling of engineered nanostructures, subcellular interventions, and biomimetics for complex system dynamics and control…now is the time to begin exploratory research in heterogeneous molecular nanosystems and systems of systems."
From the concluding paragraphs: "A main reason for developing nanotechnology is to extend the limits of sustainable development. One way is 'exact' manufacturing at the nanoscale with small consumption of energy, water and materials, as well as minimized waste."
From his March 2005 talk at Nanoethics: Dr. Roco gave time estimates for third generation nanotech starting in 2015 and peaking in 2020, and fourth generation nanotech starting in 2020 and peaking in 2030. (These estimates for the phases begin 5 years later than in his AIChE article.) Starting in 2030 — presumably Fifth Generation — he forecasted Robotics (presumably nanorobotics), Guided Assembly, and Diverging Architectures. He also mentioned as a goal "human life extension," despite the substantial amount of flak he must have gotten on that topic.