May 02, 2005
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entire 24 volumes of the Encyclopedia Britannica on the head of a pin. From there he goes on to imagine storing all the books in the world on a million pin heads. He then ponders about miniaturizing the computer. In the lecture he says that:
“Biology is not simply writing information; it is doing something about it. A biological system can be exceedingly small. Many of the cells are very tiny, but they are very active; they manufacture various substances; they walk around; they wiggle; and they do all kinds of marvelous things---all on a very small scale. Also, they store information. Consider the possibility that we too can make a thing very small which does what we want---that we can manufacture an object that maneuvers at that level!”
"The principles of physics, as far as I can see, do not speak against the possibility of maneuvering things atom by atom. It is not an attempt to violate any laws; it is something, in principle, that can be done; but in practice, it has not been done because we are too big"
K. Eric Drexler in his “Engines of Creation” published in 1086 proposed the "assembler", a device having a submicroscopic robotic arm under computer control. It will be capable of holding and positioning reactive compounds in order to control the precise location at which chemical reactions take place. This general approach should allow the construction of large atomically precise objects by a sequence of precisely controlled chemical reactions, building objects molecule by molecule. If designed to do so, assemblers will be able to build copies of themselves, that is, to replicate.
For the purpose of this article "nanotechnology" is a technology that involves all of the following:
nanotechnology that has created the most excitement and publicity. In a mature nanotech world, macrostructures would simply be grown from their smallest constituent components: an 'anything box' would take a molecular seed containing instructions for building a product and use tiny nanobots or molecular machines to build it atom by atom.
Nanotechnology is an enabling technology that will have a significant impact on a broad array of application areas including electronics and computing, materials and manufacturing, energy, transportation, pharmaceuticals, health care, defense, biotechnology and so on. According to David Lewis, Director of Lucent's New Jersey Nanotech Consortium “It's is hard to think of an industry that won't be disrupted by nanotechnology.” NanoMarkets, a technology analyst firm, forecasts the market for nano-enabled electronics will reach $10.8 billion in 2007 and grow to $82.5 billion in 2011. The challenges facing nanotechnology include:
Nanotubes as one example of nanotechnology
Fullerenes are one of only 3 types of naturally occurring forms of carbon (the other two being diamond and graphite). They are molecules composed entirely of carbon, taking the form of a hollow sphere, ellipsoid, or tube. Spherical fullerenes are sometimes called buckyballs, while cylindrical fullerenes are called buckytubes or nanotubes. The molecule was named for Richard Buckminster Fuller, a noted architect who popularized the geodesic dome. R.F. Curl, H.W. Kroto, and R.E. Smalley were awarded the 1996 Nobel Prize in Chemistry for his discovery and characterization of buckminsterfullerenes.
The most common fullerenes is C60 whose structure of is that of a
truncated icosahedron, which resembles a
round soccerball of the type made of hexagons and pentagons, with a carbon atom at the corners of each hexagon and a bond along each edge. A polymerized single-walled nanotubule (
P-SWNT) is a substance composed of polymerized fullerenes in which carbon atoms from one buckytube bond with carbons in other buckytubes. In the field of nanotechnology, heat resistance and Superconductivity are some of the more heavily studied properties.
Experimentalists and theorists have shown or suggested that solids based on buckyballs can be insulators, conductors, semiconductors, or even superconductors when doped with other atoms or molecules. Pure buckyball solids form crystal structures, like graphite or diamond, that are insulators or semiconductors. However, when doped with an alkali metal, such as potassium or rubidium, these solids can become electricity-conducting metals. Buckyballs doped with an organic reducing agent exhibit ferromagnetic properties.
tailored through application of external magnetic field, application of mechanical deformation and so forth.
The National Nanotechnology Initiative (NNI) is a federal R&D program established to coordinate the multiagency efforts in nanoscale science, engineering, and technology. The goals of the NNI are to:
The NNI is managed within the framework of the
National Science and Technology Council (NSTC) , which was established by
Executive Order on November 23, 1993. This Cabinet-level Council is the principal means for the President to coordinate science, space, and technology to coordinate the diverse parts of the Federal research and development. The Nanoscale Science Engineering and Technology (NSET) Subcommittee of the NSTC coordinates planning, budgeting, program implementation and review to ensure a balanced and comprehensive initiative. Twenty-two federal agencies participate in the Initiative, 11 of which have an
R&D budget for nanotechnology.
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-- Jack Horgan, EDACafe.com Contributing Editor.
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