Seems like every day, there's a new discovery of something that brings molecular manufacturing closer: a new molecular motor, a new imaging technique, a new small size record for lithography...
For more than a decade, Chris Phoenix (CRN's Director of Research) has periodically been estimating the financial and technical difficulty of developing molecular manufacturing. He's recently detected a pattern: like the cost of computers, his estimate of development cost has been falling by half every 2-3 years. That means that if developing molecular manufacturing would cost $1 billion today, by 2020 it could cost less than $10 million.
If a crash development program were funded today, how long would it take to succeed? At a guess, the shortest time is five years: a year to get off the ground and do preliminary studies, a year to get research under way and find early problems, two years of all-nighters in the lab, and a final year to put the pieces together. Design software could be written in parallel, enabling the rapid development of products. This is a very aggressive schedule, but the Manhattan Project took only three years.
How much would it actually cost? At this point, there's no way to know for sure. Two years ago, Chris thought that it would take 10,000 researchers to do it in five years. Now he thinks perhaps as few as 1,000-2,000 could do it. Progress has been that rapid!
At this point, the main barrier is conceptual, not financial or scientific. Someone will develop it -- may already be working on it -- while most other people remain clueless and unprepared. This seems dangerous. CRN’s job is to raise awareness of the possibilities. Who do you think most needs to know about this? What can you do to inform them?