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Advanced nanofactories in twenty years?

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.

5 Responses to “Advanced nanofactories in twenty years?”

  1. Mark Plus Says:

    Another 20 years, eh? Sounds like another attempt by “nanotechnologists” at rent seeking. People with a lot of money who pursue due diligence into the history of this mirage will eventually see it as a scam.

  2. SenatorMark4 Says:

    Rent seeking again when all they have to do is produce a positive vision and make it a contest. American people are great at getting involved in ideas. PIcture a contest to embed the photosynthetic chain on a cracker and having a few million in prizes for the one that make the most progress. Follow that with another contest to complete the chain and this time make it on a substrate that is strong enough to live on your roof. At that point we enter the hydrogen economy and we can quit resorting to pissing on Taliban and just let them eat sand.

  3. spinoneone Says:

    O.K., point taken. However, we need to be prepared for “nanotechnology” to be the next enviro firestorm. You know the scenario – the little “critters” get loose from the lab and havoc ensues.

  4. Chris Phoenix Says:

    Astroturf trolls. Your kneejerk accusation of “rent seeking” would be more believable if these particular nanotechnologists had ever gotten any “rent.”

    SenatorMark4 doesn’t realize that he’s not talking about molecular manufacturing.

    Mark Plus throws around accusations with no evidence.

    People who pursue due diligence will realize that molecular manufacturing is already at TRL 3.

  5. Alvin Steinberg Says:

    The National Institutes of Health increased there biomedical nanotechnology research from about $200,000,000 to more than $400,000,000.

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