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« Nanoscale Toolbox | Main | Nano Promise and Problems »

June 05, 2004


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jim moore

I think that there is another very good reason (that I just realized today) for making MNT out of almost pure carbon. If the electrical conduits (or some of the low friction surfaces) are made with graphite like material (Bucky balls or Bucky tubes or networks of tubes or just sheets of graphite) it introduces a very real vulnerability to some frequencies of EM radiation. The pi bond structure in these molecular systems makes them capable of absorbing energy at potentially a wide range of wavelengths. The diamondiod material that makes up the rest of the nano-weapon should be transparent across most of the EM spectrum but thats good because it will not shield the vulnerable graphite-like material.

If this graphite vulnerability is deliberately built in ( or better yet, is unavoidable) defending against large numbers of very small attackers could be as simple as a low level laser sweep. Because the very small can't have much shielding this type of weakness limits many of the very underhanded attack modes made possible with MNT. Or at least I hope so.

jim moore

Couple more thoughts,
If we take the current nano-factory design it should be easy to integrate vulnerabilities into the designs of all of the active nano-blocks. If the blocks are designed to undergo an irreversible chemical change (that causes the nano-block to break) when exposed to a certain intensity and frequency of light we can add a layer of security to the system.

Ideally you may want to have the nano-blocks break only when exposed to a combination of stimuli. The goal should be for the nano-blocks to almost never break during normal operations but break greater than 99% of the time when exposed to its designed in vulnerability.

If people are going to have a super powerful technology it might be a good idea to have some kyrptonite.

Mike Deering

Products that disintegrate upon reception of a coded broadcast. This is a very bad idea. Would you want your spaceship built out of this stuff? Or your artificial heart? What about the chain on your kid's swing? Many nanobot systems will be vital personal safety or security mechanisms that would be dangerous to disable.

If you are going to limit this vulnerability to only weapons or bad nanobots then you are going to have to have intelligent monitoring to differentiate them. And if you have intelligent monitoring why not just prohibit the production of bad products in the first place?

By the way, this kind of weakness can be easily designed in, or easily designed out, dependent on the bond architecture you choose. It is not an unavoidable weakness, but if we thought of a good use for it we could do it.

jim moore

I was thinking more like designing the active nano-blocks to be especially vulnerable to some kind of low power weapon that would not hurt people. Something with more power than a broadcast code but less than a high intensity UV laser.

I am not so sure that small scale carbon nano-systems that have some components that conduct electricity can be made to be invulnerable some type of EM radiation attack.

Mike Deering

So you design active nano-blocks to be vulnerable to a low power weapon. What would you use these vulnerable nano-block in? Certainly nothing mission critical, medical, safety, transportation, communication, or security related. Nothing you wouldn't want someone else to be able to easily disable. What does that leave? Toys? What's the point? Is this some kind of new mechanism of centralized control by a totalitarian leadership? Personally, I'm looking forward to the day when products never wear out, break down, become obsolete because you can't upgrade them, or end up in a land fill (recycle their atoms). I understand the need to build in control mechanisms but the extreme miniaturization of nanotechnology allows for very sophisticated, versatile, and intelligently responsive control systems.

Susceptibility to EMP attack is a function of wavelength which is dependent on circuit length. The circuit lengths in nano-circuitry are too short for any practical EMP weapon. Buckyballs and nanotubes are not graphite and do not share the same electrical or structural strength characteristics.

jim moore

Ok, my goal here is to provide a layer of security, not a completely secure system. By designing the publicly available active nano-blocks to be vulnerable to a specific frequency of laser light we can insure a good defense against at least some kinds of possible attacks. It would be most effective against small MNT products. Larger systems (such as a spacecraft, or even a space suit ) could easily be shielded against a low power laser. Intermediate sized systems would have some degree of shielding, but the shielding may make the objects easier to detect.

Now I know some people will say military researchers will make their active nano-blocks different, so that they are not vulnerable to the same frequency of light. And I think they will be right, but this design strategy can limit the destructive capabilities of individuals and small groups.

Chris Phoenix, CRN

Jim, I think this is a very clever and likely useful idea. A variant would be to build in "fluorescent" tags (maybe actually fluorescent, maybe some mechanism with similar effect) that made the things detectable but not killable.

In fact, now you've got me wondering whether there's some part of the electromagnetic spectrum that could 1) penetrate many materials, at least a little; 2) resonate/interact with nanometer-scale carbon lattice, "touching" either atoms, bonds/molecules, or machine parts; 3) deliver enough energy to be useful either for sensing or for messing with the machinery. Of course it's preferable if it doesn't do indiscriminate damage to other materials (gamma rays meet all the above criteria, but can't be widely used).

I'll email a physicist I know...


jim moore

The tag idea is really nifty. Imagine that you have an L shaped array with a place for four different quantum dots. If each of the dots can be one of four different colors you can uniquely identify 256 different blocks (if my math is right).

It could be very neat you could use a low power scanning laser to stimulate the quantum dots in each nano-block potentially giving you very detailed information on the make up of any product of a nano-factory.

Hector Magnetic1

I like that kryptonite comment, the nanoblocks should contain some kind of quantum code only known to the creator. So when i feel like disintigrating my out of control robot, i'll just push my universal RMC and boom its grey goo. Of course the control will be powered by my DNA and brain waves.


i dont agree with u....

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