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« More Questions Than Answers | Main | Prototyping Future Weapons »

July 25, 2006


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Sounds to me he's talking about nano sized robots than assemblers, no one said making nano sized robots is impossible, but building products with one molecule at a time isn't endorsed by the mainstream science community because its a speculative and unproven theory.

And how do you make smart materials from pure carbon? re/active materials are made through many elements, even steel is made from carbon,iron,nickel,zinc etc, and that is a very primitive material, in the near future smart materials are the key to better products, no chemist could get a single element such as carbon to become various smart materials.

Tom Craver

DT - I think a point you're missing is that once one can make a diamond-only nanofab, it'll be pretty easy to make a version that can manipulate other elements, as necessary.

One could build most of any object out of diamond, graphite and nanotubes, and implant dopants (e.g. boron to make diamond a semiconductor), or deposit small chunks or droplets of other materials to provide properties that carbon may not be good for (e.g. dyes for color).

And with a bit more difficulty, one should be able to build nanofabs that do mechanochemistry with other elements - able to produce most smart materials.

Chris Phoenix, CRN

DT, carbon is very versatile. We don't yet know everything it can do, but we know it can make conductors, insulators, semiconductors, and several different types of 2D and 3D lattices. Rob Freitas seems to think that a hydrocarbon-only nanofactory structure is workable, with just a few atoms of germanium for the tooltips.



Still I don't see how carbon will ever form into every smart material, it has as much of a chance as copper or any other element does. So you'll be rolling the dice on that, which I'm positive will not be that versatile. we also don't know what metals and other elements can also do, like I said carbon doesn't have any better chance than other elements. We might find that mixing iron,carbon and sand would make even a better semiconductor, for example.

Chris Phoenix, CRN

Every smart material? No.

Better/more flexible than copper? Yes.

A wide range of micro-scale material properties and functions, from nanoscale carbon structures? Yes.

Enough to build a generally complete set of machines? I think so, though I haven't personally verified it in detail. But nested buckytubes = linear and rotary bearings (as studied by Zettl and others). Mechanical structure is no problem. With structure, bearings, insulators, and conductors, you've got motors and computers. Build from there.



It might make a good insulator,bearing and conductor by today's primitive definition of quality material, but in the future material science will progress and we could very well see biological semiconductors(which are being worked on today)that have live cells on the chips, or paint that heals itself, materials that change color, materials that we still don't know about, composites will form the future, to get the most out of all types of elements, rather than settle.


This is largely a matter of prioritizing. Most work has been done on diamondoid because it is the material that has the most promise to made to make things at the nanoscale that behave like large scale machines. I think in this early stage there are many criticisms that can be leveled at the MNT proposals, out of all of these the paucity of elements is low on the things-to-do-something about list. Basic work involving quantum simulations of diamondiod tooltips, various gears, rotors etc. is a higher priority. As is work on laying the groundwork for future experimental work.

By limiting the number of elements involved, you make the analysis of proposals much more tractable. Only until a.) we run into problems that require new elements be added just to get a nanofactory built, of b.) we build one and then feel confident to expand capabilities; will we see an emphasis of the element paucity problem. I think this is the best approach.


i think we should be using more molecular nanosystems to benefit in more technologys


yea.., true, but is it expensive?


probably... we gotta hire all those scientist and special microscopes :S!

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