The potential of advanced nanotechnology is getting some attention from mainstream media. Late last year The Guardian web site posted a brief article on the prospects for nanofactories and atomically precise manufacturing, featuring quotes from Christine Peterson and Robert Freitas. From “Nanofactories – a future vision” by Penny Sarchet:
Mimicking nature is a recurring theme in nanotechnology and molecular nanotechnology, inspired by the natural nanostructures found in our own bodies, offers many exciting potential outcomes.
“Molecular nanotechnology is the expected ability to build our products with molecular-level precision, as nature can do,” says Christine Peterson, president of the Foresight Nanotech Institute in California. “It will bring unprecedented quality, energy efficiency and environmental sustainability”.
The recent development of an electron-powered molecular “nanocar”, by a team led by chemist Ben Feringa at the University of Groningen in the Netherlands, hints at the potential. Further indications that molecular nanotechnology is achievable are being found in the quest for ever-smaller computing.
Many of these efforts attempt to use nature’s own method of storing and transferring information – DNA. “DNA computing is the goal of building devices out of DNA that are able to act like computers, initially doing simple calculations but eventually doing everything that a macroscale computer can do,” says Peterson. …
One future prospect for molecular-scale nanotechnology is to build nanofactories. “The nanofactory is a proposed compact molecular manufacturing system that could build a diverse selection of large-scale, atomically precise products,” explains Robert Freitas Jr, senior research fellow at the Institute for Molecular Manufacturing, also in California. “The products of a nanofactory would be atomically precise, with every atom in exactly the right place, offering the ultimate in quality control. It could make products out of the strongest materials known to man – especially diamond, sapphire, and related ultra-strong ceramics. In manufacturing, it’s hard to do better than that.”
The first two-dimensional structure to be built atom-by-atom was made from silicon in 2003. However, Freitas says nanofactories are still a long way off. “We expect this will require a 20-year research and development effort and on the order of $1bn (£622m) in funding to achieve.” …
If anyone knows someone with a billion dollars they will not need for twenty years, ask them to contact Christine or Robert.