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Smalley on the future of nanotubes

from the let-your-imagination-fly dept.
An Anonymous Coward writes "MIT's Technology Review printed an interesting Q&A session with Richard E. Smalley, the founder of the "buckyball" and nanotech guru, asking what he sees in the nanotube future."
Read More for some quotes.

"SMALLEY: I like the word "nanotechnology." I like it because the prefix "nano" guarantees it will be fundamental science for decades; the "technology" says it is engineering, something you're involved in not just because you're interested in how nature works but because it will produce something that has a broad impact. When you put those two things together in one word, there's a tension. As our disciplines, particularly chemistry and physics, have matured, we're now dealing with things at a very fundamental level that do have a practical importance." …

SMALLEY:… "I believe research at what I call the wet/dry interface is intellectually most intriguing to me. It may be that in 20 years from now that is where we'll look back and say we have made huge advances. What I call the wet side of nanotechnology is the machinery of cellular life. As we learn to interface this natural machinery with inorganic, electromechanical structures and systems engineered on the nanometer scale (the dry side of nanotechnology), vast new frontiers will be opened both in fundamental science and in practical technology." …

"We want to make nanotubes available at small enough cost to let your imagination fly." …

SMALLEY: "In theory you can make them to Alpha Centauri. What would be the strength of a long fiber? You would have the strongest damn thing ever made in the universe. Can we ever make that? And what good would it be? If you could make it cheaply and a continuous length, you could make the longest suspension bridge you ever heard about, elevators in space. But "buckycables" would also be terrific conductors of electricity. It is the logical replacement for all power transmission cables in the world. That's at the lunatic fringe, but I can say that because I'm an advocate of it." …

Unfortunately they couldn't resist a partisan parting shot:

SMALLEY: "That was the key factor, serious scientists getting involved that are far removed from "nanobots" [nanoscale robots figure in many speculative visions of nanotech]. We haven't quite completed the task of "de-nanobotting" the field. But the main point is that nanotechnology is so important that we don't want it to be associated with just nanobots. Whether or not they can ever happen is another issue, but there's a so much broader reality to nanotechnology, and in ways a much more interesting one.

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