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« Nanotechnology Masters | Main | Got no time for that... »

August 05, 2005


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Richard Jones

I certainly agree that the very broad definition of nanotechnology needs to be broken up somewhat, and the distinction between materials and functional devices is a good place to start. But your definition seems to me to introduce another definitional problem - what's a machine? If you managed to make a large-scale integrated circuit with individual molecules as the components, is that a machine? What about a delivery device that wrapped up a strand of RNA, shielded it from the body's defenses and injected it into a diseased cell? What if you made a synthetic analogue of a bacterial flagellar motor? All three of these examples would certainly be well beyond a nanomaterial, but you might not recognise them as machines of the kind we're familiar with. (Actually you might think the last one was, but you'd be wrong).

Isn't your formulation just a slightly clunky rewriting of Drexler's own definition in Nanosystems: "The principles of mechanical engineering applied to chemistry"? This is a fine, succinct, definition. The only problems with it are that it assumes (a) that the principles of mechanical engineering can be applied to chemistry, and (b) it excludes the possibility of any other kind of radical nanotechnology which uses different principles.


How about a definition based upon nanoscale effects: nanotechnology is any artificially engineered device/process where a certain benchmark of operating efficiency via the scaling law is harnessed.


I meant "operating speed", not operating efficiency.

Philip Moriarty

"Nanotechnology is the engineering of tiny machines": is this a suitable definition of the field?

This seems like a very good question for debate and discussion later this month! (Visit http://www.nottingham.ac.uk/~pazxc/ssss2005/ssss2005debate.htm for details).

Best wishes,


PS Mike, Chris - apologies for yet another shameless plug for the Nottingham event...

Mike Treder, CRN

No problem, Phillip. In fact, I'm planning to do a blog post tomorrow about the upcoming debate.

Philip Moriarty

Hi, Mike.

Thanks for publicising the debate - much appreciated. I look forward to reading the blog post.

Best wishes,


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