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« Power and Abuse | Main | Nanotechnology Progress »

August 30, 2004


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I have reviewed the documentation and find the elements and renderings to be helpful in discussing elements of a molecular assembler. The artists conception of the robotic arm in particular is very useful and shows a pick and place example of molecular manufacturing. These particular images are useful for the Lehman to discuss the subject with those less informed as they give a concrete example of a possibility. I would say in general if we can visualize and construct models of a part it seems reasonable we will be able to construct said part. So I find myself sitting here wandering how many parts one would need in a molecular assembler. This issue has been addressed before by Chris Phoenix in his newspapers. The other day I was driving somewhere to have dinner and I recall thinking we would need a conveyor belt to move the blocks in the case of a block assembler from one place to another within the assembler. And I recall thinking do we need a belt physically on top of the rollers to support the cubes. As the first cubic rolling off the first assembler would be quite small. But in comparison to the physical belt it would be riding on it might be larger than the belt. This means that in the very first generation of the assembler if one was to use a conveyor belt to move the blocks the belt thicknesses would be larger than or at least equal to the size of the block, this seems troubling. As I have worked in manufacturing facilities in the past although not recently I have noted that the belts used on conveyors will typically rotate around some sort of roller. So perhaps a design where the cubes simply sit upon rollers is a better design for the convenience of cubes.

This gives us one example of a situation where a part that would otherwise have been necessary and difficult to produce has been eliminated. Which brings us back to the next question which is how many parts do we really need. Following a and example of diminishing part count can we get the assembler down to one part. This would be the ultimate reduction in overall parts. This summer seems relatively small but perhaps we could get to a situation where we needed only 100 parts these parts are needed in great quantity but are identical to each other. If we use the example of a designer molecule and that molecule can be constructed in a chemical wash we see a possibility of producing many millions of individual parts to be used in the assembler with relative ease. Save for the fact that we have a collection of one part that has to be joined to the other 99 parts in a specific pattern.

Following on this train of thought if we where to continue to discuss the minimum parts that would be needed in a cubic assembler. A method for moving the cubes from place to place is an example of one part. This part would likely be made up of at least two other parts one to represent the roller and want to represent the roller encasement. We'll also need a method to produce the block. This actually has the most diverse and possible complexity in my opinion to any of the prescribed parts or questions of the block assembler. As a general outline for a methodology to produce the block I would just like to say we should utilize all natural and quantum affects at each level of production. That is a say at the first level quantum affects might be helpful and acts the later levels say 6 and 7 natural affects such as they are might come in the play.

One of the first affects worth mentioning is gravity as gravity does function at every level in varying degrees it might be useful in some way in the construction of the blocks. The other fact that should be noted is the impact a vacuum has on cleanliness when producing a block by eliminating undue contaminants we should see a quantum increase in overall performance and dependability of products. Another fact I believe could come in the play is centrifugal force where in the case of free-floating carbon atoms one might spin the material forcing it against a mold than extracting the molded forms of a cubic and producing cubes in this manner. Indeed one might use a spiral shaped mold where carbon is injected into a spinning chamber on one end and on the other perfectly formed diamond cubes are rejected. This particular design lends itself to the production of quantities of cubes as one would assume these could be produced very quickly. Where in the case of a robotic arm individual molecules have to be moved and would seem to at first glance to be slower and its capability of production.

As to the steps of the block assembler it would appear the first step is the most complicated. Indeed the entire argument seems to rest on how to reconstruct a very small diamond block, extract that block from a mold if we use the mold, move the block from point A to point B. And on this question rest the success or failure of this form of MNT. Once again referring to the renderings given on the web page many of the require parts are rendered an although I'm not that familiar with the rendering technology I will assume that the issues of pair bonding and relationships between each of the molecules has been addressed in reference to their strengths and weaknesses.

In the case of another example what if the feedstock element used in the building block molecular assembler was the first level block. That is to say if we start with the smallest block and move from their we see a situation where we do not have to place each individual molecule but we simply move the individual blocks into their prescribed location within the useful product. This at first glance seems to have many advantages over a pick and place assembler as we only have to move a block from point A to point B. This particular scenario requires us to spend a little more time any energy in the construction of the feedstock material and we are also left with how to prevent the feedstock material from sticking to each other until within the building block molecular assembler where we would wish for that effect. This may not be that complicated as we could perhaps coat each of the blocks with a second element and within the assembler wash that element off at the prescribed time and place than joined the surfaces of the blocks to create the next size larger block.

Well perhaps this is enough to think of for today.

Chris Phoenix, CRN

Todd, it sounds like you're on your way to reinventing self-assembly. This is a technique in which you design molecules so that they'll fit together to form more complex structures; you design the shape, the pattern of charge, etc so that as they float around in the water they are attracted to each other and stick in the right way.

This allows you to make the molecules by bulk chemistry rather than mechanosynthesis. And it means you don't have to have a mechanism put them in place, since they find their own place.

There are a couple of drawbacks relative to MM. First, the self-assembled molecules aren't covalently bound, so they tend to be relatively weak (though spider silk is an interesting exception). Second, it's hard to build complicated things, since you can only insert information into the design of the molecules and the sequence in which you mix them. With molecular manufacturing you can program every operation.



Just a thought on the whole conveyor belt thing. Using a conveyor belt seems a little sloppy to me. Might it instead be more controled to have an arm swing from assembler arm A to assembler arm B, grabbing the block and swinging it over for the next step. I would think this would take up less space overall too.

Question for you Chris. In you reply to Todd, about the self-assembling molecules is bulk chemistry. Might it be possible to self assemble molecules of spider silk like this, in a liquid chamber in the block assembling factory for use as the feedstock. If so, might this be quicker and more cost effective for 1st generation factories?

Chris Phoenix, CRN

Conveyors vs. arms: either way would work.

Wet chemistry in nanofactories: Might work, but may not be worth the trouble of separating large molecules from water.


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