Nanotechnology Perceptions is a peer-reviewed academic journal of the Collegium Basilea in Basel, Switzerland. The issue dated March 27, 2006, is devoted completely to a series of essays written by members of the CRN Global Task Force.
This is how nanotechnology is introduced and described in the journal:
Nanotechnology -- the precise engineering of tiny but powerful machines -- is advancing quickly, leaping from the pages of science fiction into world-class research laboratories, and coming soon to a desktop near you.
Like electricity or computers before it, nanotechnology will bring greatly improved efficiency and productivity in many areas of human endeavor. In its mature form, known as molecular nanotechnology (MNT) or molecular manufacturing (MM), it will have significant impact on almost all industries and all parts of society. Personal nanofactories (PNs) may offer better built, longer lasting, cleaner, safer, and smarter products for the home, for communications, for medicine, for transportation, for agriculture, and for industry in general.
However, as a general-purpose technology, MM will be dual-use, meaning that in addition to its civilian applications, it will have military uses as well -- making far more powerful weapons and tools of surveillance. Thus, it represents not only wonderful benefits for humanity, but also grave risks.
Several factors will come together to make MM truly revolutionary.
- Cost: One PN can build another PN as easily as any other product, so nanofactories will be neither scarce nor expensive. Labor costs will also be minimal, since PNs will be automated. Small carbon-based molecules (feedstock) are quite inexpensive.
- Exponential manufacturing: One PN can be made to build two, or a small system can build one twice as big. Working in parallel, manufacturing capacity can double every few hours. Within just a few months, a single molecular manipulation device could be expanded to PN's with a combined capacity of thousands of tons per hour. The PN architecture can even scale to individual factories of industrial size.
- Precision: Atoms of each type are identical with each other, and products made from precisely placed atoms also will be identical—more reliable and easier to manufacture.
- High performance: Small machines are more powerful than large ones—perhaps a million times more powerful, when shrunk to nano-scale—and precise materials are perhaps 100 times stronger. Also, precise surfaces can have extremely low friction and wear. Nanofactory-built products could include large numbers of small, high-performance machines.
- General-purpose manufacturing: Structures will be made by automated placement of tiny building blocks, so changing the program (blueprint) will change the product. A wide range of components and products is possible, including computers, sensors, motors, and displays, and combinations thereof.
- Rapid prototyping: Because a nanofactory will make a complete product in a few minutes from any given blueprint, new product designs could be built and tested almost immediately, and at very low cost.
Progress toward developing the technical requirements for desktop molecular manufacturing is moving forward rapidly. The March 27 issue of Nanotechnology Perceptions begins to illustrate the radical changes that personal nanofactories will bring to society, and to all of our lives.