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« Many Causes of Failure | Main | C-R-Newsletter #35 »

November 29, 2005


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Mike (or dr. Treder?),

On a blog which talked about PeakOil (I think it will be anything but apocalyptic)and future society, most commenters jumped to PeakOil and dismissed MM as, in the words of one commenter, "mumbo-jumbo". I don't see it that way, but I do think "nano" needs to put a product on the market; something that outperfoms some existing method spectacularly, something that's not too hard.

Sidenote: it really is a pity that most newspapers - policymakers still read them, after all - only feature a science part for the saturday edition. They should feature a science page every day! There's enough material... ;)

So far we've only seen nano-pants (on The Tonight Show, I think), but those never made much impact. Were they a total failure? Now, I know what *I* want, but it's probably too sciencfiction-y, so I'm not going to tell you. But if you could build a home for $100,000 or less - that would otherwise cost well over a million - in a week, that would an impact! Of course, that's advanced materials-stuff, but that's not the point.

Brian Wang

I think it would be more accurate to say that molecular manufacturing would revolutionize / have a disruptive effect on production. Plus create robust and powerful new capabilities which are currently only in a basic or nascent form.

We can make more factories now (I think there are few in Japan that are nearly completely automated). We have machines that can make the parts used in the machine. There is a lot of work towards improving the speed and flexibility of changing production lines.

Molecular manufacturing would radically alter and reduce the tradeoffs for production. How much flexibility ? How many different products can be produced ? Speed to make another factory ? How automated ? How reprogrammable ? The 130 some design factors for assemblers listed by Freitas and Merkle.

Brian Wang


A million dollar purchase price for a house is often mostly land costs. For a million dollar building there are radical costs savings possible from pre-fab building methods. There is a range of tradeoffs there. The less like a mobile home that you want to make it then the more costs come up and possibly exceed standard building methods. It is possible to get a building at about $30-40 per square foot (not sure how much prices have gone up recently because of market conditions, raw material cost increases for wood and energy). It would be built in a factory in say Oregon and shipped in trailer sections for onsite assembly which is minimal connections. You could ship it to California for a few thousand dollars (transportation costs higher with oil prices) where it often costs $100-200+ per square foot (higher labor costs and you would be comparing against the $100 because it would be the cheapest finishing and materials). When is it worth it to go with this approach if you had to pay $500K+ for the land ... if you can even find land that is approved to build upon and does not have a bunch of extra costs to prep the land ? Often better to build a fancier home.

There are also some "instant" home techniques that are being developed for emergency structures and for underdeveloped nations. Inflate a home or home segment shell and then spray on special concrete..deflate the support shell after drying.

You can make things cheap or cheaper and there are times when it is worthwhile to get the savings. There are tradeoffs.

Molecular manufacturing will radically change the tradeoffs. Todays nanotech is changing the costs of some things and enabling new stuff too but it is mainly in the area of new polymers/nanotube mixes that might be in military applications or in electronics. Nanotube hybrid memories coming perhaps in 2006. Nanotube TVs coming soon. Todays nanotech may be successful with solar cells or in enabling even larger and more efficient windmills and turbines.
As Mike Treder was noting though Molecular Manufacturing is different from todays nanotech..and even the impactful capabilities that are introduced over the next few years from this nanotech capability is radically different from what MM will enable. However, MM is still not actually here yet and crnano point is that when it is the effects will be large and rapid.


Thank you, Brian. I fully understand that MM is radically different, but perhaps I should have said that there is no marketable product.
You rightly point that todays nanotech will be used for military or electronic applications (such as solar panels). But while that in itself will already scare some people (fears of supersoldiers and so on), it is of course peanuts.
Suppose CRN would develop, say, a cream for longterm hair removal. Personally I dislike shaving and it would be nice to get rid of it for an entire week or even a month. This is beyond the capabilities of todays cosmetics. Suppose that it could be done by MM. In my view this would (finally) put the idea on the market and alert policymakers. CRN can (and does) then point out that it won't be that innocent forever. For a short time - maybe long enough - you'd spread the illusion that MM's progress too is incremental.

Homes: I know of domes. But I meant so-called smart homes, which are eecofriendly and stuffed with domotica. Cheaper with new production methods. Transport: by adding hydrogen (via Green Car Congress and the Motortechnische Zeitschrift, october) to the fuel, the combustion engine will perform better. Surely someone will jump on that with a form of MM?

Overall point: no product = no attention. So what if MM brings us a Star Trek world (the 'Voyager' kind)? Yay!

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