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Technological and other developments to watch was expanded to four parts for 2009+. This is the third section DNA/biotech/synthetic biology, nanotechnology to Watch in 2009+.
1. DNA nanotechnology
2. Synthetic biology
3. Synthetic life
4. Moriarty/Freitas/Merkle diamondod nanotech
5. Zyvex atomically precise manufacturing
6. UK ideas factory projects through 2010
7. Stem Cells
8. Gene therapy
January 22nd, 2009
DNA/biotech/synthetic biology, nanotechnology to Watch in 2009+
Technological and other developments to watch was expanded to four parts for 2009+. This is the third section:
1. Computers, robots, electronics and communication
2. Energy and transportation
3. DNA/biotech/synthetic biology, nanotechnology - this section
4. Medicine, life extension, space, manufacturing and anything else that was not covered
1. DNA nanotechnology
There was a lot of activity with DNA nanotechnology in 2008 with new synthetic bases and a lot of usage of DNA for structures and the precise placement of structures. Some of the big 2008 developments follow. 2009 will see more breakthroughs in this highly active area.
All DNA fabricator constructed walking DNA
Living cells have become factories for synthetic DNA.
An important thing to track is the progress toward George Church's vision of lowering DNA synthesis costs by about one billion times to a few dollars per kilogram.
George Church notes two key requirements for implementation:
1. Engineering of [more efficient] nucleotide synthesis: We are collaborating with Philippe Marliere on optimizing metabolic pathways to the synthesis of the four dNTPs in vivo.
2. DNA secretion: This is a natural process in some bacteria, could be enhanced to prevent (potentially toxic) levels of DNA in vivo.
A pilot plant is expected to go into operation in early 2009 and commercial production could commence in 2010, according to Amyris.
Tihamer Toth-Fejel, a senior research engineer at General Dynamics Advanced Intelligence Systems, speculated in an article at the Center for Responsible Nanotechnology blog:
if Freitas, Merkle, and Moriarty succeed next year, all heck will break loose. Not immediately, of course, but diamond is a very useful engineering material. If we could use it to make cars and buildings, we would. Everything depends on availability and cost and both depend on technology.
Four years from now, the Zyvex-led DARPA Tip-Based Nanofabrication project expects to be able to put down about ten million atoms per hour in atomically perfect nanostructures, though only in silicon (additional elements will undoubtedly follow; probably taking six months each). At a standard Moore's Law exponential growth rate (doubling time of 18 months), this Patterned Atomic Layer Epitaxy (Zyvex's approach) will only get us up to 23,058,430,092,136,939,520,000,000 atoms per hour by 2100 a few hundred pounds worth.
Does atomically precise tip-based nanofabrication follow Moore's Law? If we take Eigler's 35 xenon-atom IBM emblem in 1990 as the start, then that gives us a doubling time of just over 12 months, and that adds up. By 2012, we'll be doing about ten times better than Moore's law. And that is without the big kick.
What happens when we use probe-based nanofabrication to build more probes? A massive acceleration in progress - a big kick for nanotechnology
It's starting to happen now (see Thermal Actuated Multi-Probes Cantilever Array for Scanning Probe Parallel Nano Writing System by Watanabe, Isono, et al). Chad Mirkin, who also has another piece of the DARPA Tip-Based Nanofabrication project, has already used 55,000 dip pen nanolithography tips to make 1,600 100 nm dots in under 30 minutes. (Mirkin is using standard microphotolithography MEMS to make the dots; this is the most conservative approach to productive nanosystems. The others include Structural DNA Rothemund, Nanorex, et. al and Schafmeister's Bis proteins, plus a few more not as promising.)
What happens when productive nanosystems get built, and are used to build better productive nanosystems? The exponential increase in atomically precise manufacturing capability will make Moore's law look like it's standing still.