When and why will molecular manufacturing revolutionize the world? From a technical point of view, the answer has a few subtle but easily understandable aspects. Understanding those points will let us project from current and near-future technology developments, to understand how far we are from a molecular manufacturing breakthrough.
Over the next few weeks, I'll be writing a series of posts exploring the various aspects of fast takeoff. I'll be covering design spaces, product design, factories-building-factories, product performance, the economics of competing technologies, and whatever else seems necessary to understanding the difference between a cool technology and a revolutionary one.
By the time I'm done, CRN's new website design should be live, and I'll convert these posts into new content. (Yay!)
Here's a teaser: A very basic and primitive computer-controlled molecular manufacturing system might have a million atoms (or molecular building blocks). If 99% of those atoms can be placed by the system, then 10,000 atoms must be placed "by hand." That's a very large molecule, or a very large number of scanning probe operations. Probably, a system like this would not be revolutionary - too hard to build, to design, or both. But a system that could handle 99.99% of its atoms would only need 100-atom "inputs" per copy. That is quite feasible by today's standards. So a difference of less than 1% can make the difference between a laboratory demo and a revolutionary manufacturing system.