This Nanotechnology Glossary is a work-in-progress, and will be updated very frequently, so check back. Please email us with any missing terms, and we will include them. Any definition that can be attributed to an author will be, unless we get a quote sent to us without one. If you see one for which the author is not shown, and you know who it is, please let us know and we will make the update. Thanks! [brackets] indicate author and copyright holder
ACE Paste: Atomspheric Carbon Extractor. Harvests the greenhouse gases for Carbon, to be used for diamondoid fabrication. Larger than most pastebots, because it has to be collectible afterwards. A well-designed paste could harvest 100X or more its empty weight. ACE Paste may not be necessary, because large fixed installations might be more efficient. [uhf]
Adensoine Triphosphate [ATP]: A chemical compound that functions as fuel for biomolecular nanotechnology having the formula, C10H16N5O13P3. [Encyclopedia Nanotech]
Animat:This term was developed by Alan H. Goldstein. In his article I, Nanobot, he suggested that a new state of life be named after the contraction of the term "anima-materials" Ñ "animats". This artificial life form (most likely nanobiotechnology based) must meet the following tests:
A = Devices that can survive and function in our ecosphere, for example inside human beings.
B = Devices that can derive energy from biological metabolism. Many nanomedical devices will be powered by the fuel available inside the human body. A common idea is to take our own glucose-oxidizing enzymes and use them as a fuel cell for the nanobiobot.
C = Devices capable of copying themselves by molecular self-assembly. Note that any information necessary for the animat's operations cannot be stored in DNA or RNA or any other methods that are discovered to be used naturally by life on Earth. The corollary: If the information necessary to execute the animat's operations can be stored in DNA or RNA, then the animat is really biological and is not an animat.
So A + B + C = a self-replicating device capable of living in our ecosphere, powered by fuel available in our ecosphere = Animat.
Assembler: A general-purpose device for molecular manufacturing capable of guiding chemical reactions by positioning molecules. A molecular machine that can be programmed to build virtually any molecular structure or device from simpler chemical building blocks. Analogous to a computer-driven machine shop.[FS]
Atomic Layer Deposition(ALD) (AFM) A self-limiting, sequential surface chemistry that deposits conformal thin-films of materials onto substrates of varying compositions. ALD is similar in chemistry to chemical vapor deposition (CVD), except that the ALD reaction breaks the CVD reaction into two half-reactions, keeping the precursor materials separate during the reaction. ALD film growth is self-limited and based on surface reactions, which makes achieving atomic scale deposition control possible. By keeping the precursors separate throughout the coating process, atomic layer control of film grown can be obtained as fine as ~ 0.1 angstroms per monolayer.
Atomic Force Microscope (AFM) An instrument able to image surfaces to molecular accuracy by mechanically probing their surface contours. A kind of proximal probe. .... A device in which the deflection of a sharp stylus mounted on a soft spring is monitored as the stylus is moved across a surface. If the deflection is kept constant by moving the surface up and down by measured increments, the result (under favorable conditions) is an atomic-resolution topographic map of the surface. Also termed a scanning force microscope. [FS] See How AFM Works, What is an Atomic Force Microscope? and Window on a Small World
Atomic Manipulation: Manipulating atoms, typically with the tip of an STM.
Atomistic Simultations: Atomic motion computer simulations of macromolecular systems are increasingly becoming an essential part of materials science and nanotechnology. Recent advances in supercomputer simulation techniques provide the necessary tools for performing computations on nanoscale objects containing as many as 300,000 atoms and on materials simulated with 1,000,000 atoms. This new capability will allow computer simulation of mechanical devices or molecular machines using nanometer size components. [The Center for Computational Sciences at the ORNL]
Ballistic Magnetoresistance: (BMR) is yet another way in which spin orientation, encoding information on a storage medium such as a hard drive, can modify electrical resistance in a nearby circuit, thereby accomplishing the sensing of that orientation. [Physics News]
Bio-assemblies or Biomolecular Assemblies: containing several protein units, DNA loops, lipids, various ligands, etc.
Biovorous: From "biovore;" an organism capable of converting biological material into energy for sustenance. [ZY]
Biochauvinism: The prejudice that biological systems have an intrinsic superiority that will always give them a monopoly on self-reproduction and intelligence. [FS]
Biomimetic: Imitating, copying, or learning from nature. Nanotechnology already exists in nature; thus, nanoscientists have a wide variety of components and tricks already available. [Encyclopedia Nanotech]
Biomimetics: study of the structure and function of biological substances to make artificial products that mimic the natural ones. [BNL]
Biomimetic Chemistry: Knowledge of biochemistry, analytical chemistry, polymer science, and biomimetic chemistry is linked and applied to research in designing new molecules, molecular assemblies, and macromolecules having biomimetic functions. These new bio-related materials of high performance, including, for example, enzyme models, synthetic cell membranes, and biodegradable polymers, are prepared, tested, and constantly improved in this division for industrial scale production. [DCBE]
Biomimetic Materials: Materials that imitate, copy, or learn from nature.
Biopolymeroptoelectromechanical Systems [BioPOEMS]: combining optics and microelectromechanical systems, and used in biological applications.
Biostasis: A condition in which an organism's cell and tissue structure are preserved, allowing later restoration by cell repair machines. Applicable to cryonics. [FS] See also "ischemic coma," "ametabolic coma," "biostatic coma," and "in suspension." [Brian Wowk]
Blue Goo - opposite of Grey goo. Benificial tech, or "police" nanobots.
Bogosity Filter: A mechanism for detecting bogus ideas and propositions.
Born-Oppenheimer Approximation: permits the use of classical mechanics in modeling and thinking about molecular and atomic motions. Needless to say, this greatly simplifies the conceptual framework required for thinking about molecular machines. [RCM] Once used as an argument on why MNT could not work. Since refuted: See That's impossible! How good scientists reach bad conclusions
Bose-Einstein Condensates [BEC's]: "...aren't like the solids, liquids and gases that we learned about in school. They are not vaporous, not hard, not fluid. Indeed, there are no ordinary words to describe them because they come from another world -- the world of quantum mechanics." [See A New Form of Matter]
Bottom Up: Building larger objects from smaller building blocks. Nanotechnology seeks to use atoms and molecules as those building blocks. The advantage of bottom-up design is that the covalent bonds holding together a single molecule are far stronger than the weak. [NTN] Mostly done by chemists, attempting to create structure by connecting molecules.
Brownian Assembly: Brownian motion in a fluid brings molecules together in various position and orientations. If molecules have suitable complementary surfaces, they can bind, assembling to form a specific structure. Brownian assembly is a less paradoxical name for self-assembly (how can a structure assemble itself, or do anything, when it does not yet exist?). [NTN]
Brownian Motion: Motion of a particle in a fluid owing to thermal agitation, observed in 1827 by Robert Brown. (Originally thought to be caused by vital force, Brownian motion in fact plays a vital role in the assembly and activity of the molecular structures of life). [NTN]
Bulk technology: Technology in which atoms and molecular are manipulated in bulk, rather than individually. [FS]
Buckminsterfullerene: See Fullerenes. A broad term covering the variety of buckyballs and carbon nanotubes that exist. Named after the architect Buckminster Fuller, who is famous for the geodesic dome, which buckyballs resemble. [CMP]
Bucky Balls [AKA: C60 molecules & buckminsterfullerene] - molecules made up of 60 carbon atoms arranged in a series of interlocking hexagonal shapes, forming a structure similar to a soccer ball. See our Nanotubes and Buckyball page.
Bush Robot: A concept for robots of ultimate dexterity, they utilize fractal branching to create ever-shrinking "branches," eventually ending in nanoscale "fingers." Developed by Hans Moravec. See Fractal branching ultra-dexterous robots
Cellular Automata: an array of identically programmed automata, or "cells," which interact with one another. [David G. Green]
Cell pharmacology: Delivery of drugs by medical nanomachines to exact locations in the body. [FS]
Cell Repair Machine: Molecular and nanoscale machines with sensors, nanocomputers and tools, programmed to detect and repair damage to cells and tissues, which could even report back to and receive instructions from a human doctor if needed.
Single Cell Repair Unit
A cell repair unit using cilia for propulsion and equipped with a nanocomputer having 10 megabytes of fast RAM and 1 gigabyte of slower-access memory. The unit is extending 1000 individually-controlled molecular manipulators.
Multiple Cell Repair Units Working Together
Several cell repair units are shown simultaneously engaged in repairing a single neuronal cell. Communications fibers and cables link the repair units to a master controller system that directs all the repair activities from outside the scene.
Chemical Vapour Deposition (CVD): a technique used to deposit coatings, where chemicals are first vaporized, and then applied using an inert carrier gas such as nitrogen.
Cobots: Collaborative robots designed to work alongside human operators. Prototype cobots are being used on automobile assembly lines to help guide heavy components like seats and dashboards into cars so they don't damage auto body parts as workers install them. [Wired 5.07 Jargon Watch]
Cognotechnology: Convergence of nanotech, biotech and IT, for remote brain sensing and mind control. [Nanodot]
Computational Nanotechnology: permits the modeling and simulation of complex nanometer-scale structures. The predictive and analytical power of computation is critical to success in nanotechnology: nature required several hundred million years to evolve a functional "wet" nanotechnology; the insight provided by computation should allow us to reduce the development time of a working "dry" nanotechnology to a few decades, and it will have a major impact on the "wet" side as well. [Rice University]
Computronium: A highly (or optimally) efficient matrix for computation, such as dense lattices of nanocomputers or quantum dot cellular automata. [Eugene Leitl]
Contelligence: (Consciousness + intelligence) The combination of awareness and computational power required in an Artificially Intelligent network before we could, without loss of anything essential, upload ourselves into them. [Timothy Leary] [AS]
Convergent Assembly: "...rapidly make products whose size is measured in meters starting from building blocks whose size is measured in nanometers. It is based on the idea that smaller parts can be assembled into larger parts, larger parts can be assembled into still larger parts, and so forth. This process can be systematically repeated in a hierarchical fashion, creating an architecture able to span the size range from the molecular to the macroscopic." [Ralph C. Merkle]
FUTURE SHOCK: "A sense of shock felt by those who were not paying attention." Alvin Toffler, 1970
THE FERMI PARADOX: "If there are other intelligent beings in the Universe, why aren't they here?" Since it appears to be quite possible for a technological species to spread across the galaxy in less than 10 million years (using von Neumann machines) or otherwise change things on such a large scale that it would be very visible (see Kardaschev types), the lack of such evidence is puzzling or implies that other technological civilizations doen't exist. There have been many attempts to explain this, for example the "Wildlife Preserve" idea (the aliens doesn't want to interfere with younger civilizations), that they transcend and become incomprehensible, that they hide or that they are actually here, hidden on the nanoscale, but the problem with these attempts is that most of them just explain why some aliens would not be apparent. [E. Fermi]
DYSTOPIA: often used to describe a society where people lead dehumanized, fearful, and technology-restricted lives. In other words, a totalitarianism or theocracy, where books are burned, reading of dangerous ideas is proscribed, and the state controls science.
MEME: Self-reproducing idea or other information pattern which is propagated in ways similar to that of a gene. [Richard Dawkins, 1976]
NOOTROPIC: A cognition-enhancing drug that has no significant side-effects. [C. Giurgea]