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
Dendrimers: From the Greek word dendra - tree, a dendrimer is polymer that branches. [Encyclopedia Nanotech] "...a tiny molecular structure that interacts with cells, enabling scientists to probe, diagnose, cure or manipulate them on a nanoscale." Invented by Professor Donald Tomalia from Central Michigan University. [SmallTimes] See this article for a great explanation Dendrimers: Branching out into new realms of molecular architecture.
Design Ahead: The use of known principles of science and engineering to design systems that can only be built with tools not yet available; this permits faster exploitation of the abilities of new tools. [NTN]
Design Diversity: A form of redundancy in which components of different design serve the same purpose; this can enable systems to function properly despite design flaws. [NTN]
Diamondoid: Stuctures that resemble diamond in a broad sense, strong stiff structures containing dense, three dimensional networks of covalent bonds, formed chiefly from first and second row atoms with a valence of three or more. Many of the most useful diamondoid structures will in fact be rich in tetrahedrally coordinated carbon. [NTN] Materials with superior strength to weight ratio, as much as 100 to 250 times as strong as Titanium, and much lighter. Possibly used to build stronger lighter rockets and space components, or a variety of other earth-bound articles for which weight and strength are a consideration.
Directed-Assembler: A specific type of assembler that makes use of directed-assembly, such that the assembly process requires external energy or information input. [Encyclopedia Nanotech]
Disassembler: An instrument able to take apart structures a few atoms at a time, recording structural information at each step. This could be used for uploading, copying objects (with an assembler), a dissolving agent or a weapon. [FS]
Disasterbation: Idly fantasizing about possible catastrophes (ecological collapse, full-blown totalitarianism) without considering their likelihood or considering their possible solutions and preventions. [David Krieger, 1993]
Disruptive Technology: Technology that is significantly cheaper than current, is much higher performing, has greater functionality, and is frequently more convenient to use. Will revolutionize markets by superseding existing technology. "Paradigm shifting" is a well-worn connotation. Although the term may sound negative to some, it is in fact neutral. It is only negative when businesses who are unprepared for change fail to adapt, only to fall behind and fail. The results are not evolutionary, they are revolutionary.
Distributed Intelligence: An intelligent entity which is distributed over a large volume (or inside another system, like a computer network) with no distinct center. This is the opposite to the strategy of Concentrated intelligences. Distributed intelligences have much longer communications lags, but are more flexible in their structure and can survive damage to their parts. [AS]
DNA Chip: also: Gene Chip and DNA Microchip. A purpose built microchip used to identify mutations or alterations in a gene's DNA. See DNA Chip Technology
Dopeyballs: Superconducting Buckyballs (they) have the highest critical temperature of any known organic compound. see The Buckyball Collection [Florida St U]
Dry Nanotechnology: derives from surface science and physical chemistry, focuses on fabrication of structures in carbon (e.g. fullerenes and nanotubes), silicon, and other inorganic materials. Unlike the "wet" technology, "dry" techniques admit use of metals and semiconductors. The active conduction electrons of these materials make them too reactive to operate in a "wet" environment, but these same electrons provide the physical properties that make "dry" nanostructures promising as electronic, magnetic, and optical devices. Another objective is to develop "dry" structures that possess some of the same attributes of the self-assembly that the wet ones exhibit. [Rice University]
DumbSizing: apealing to the least common denominator by explaining difficult concepts in such a manner so they loose meaning. Also, talking down to someone less informed or learned. [uhf]
Dyson Scenario, the: Life expands into the universe, which is open. As the universe cools, life stores energy to survive (do information processing). It waits until the universe is cool enough, performs some processing with part of its energy stores, then waits until the universe has cooled so much that the remaining energy can be used to do an equal amount of computation, and so on. Essentially life has to adapt as the universe grows older, changing itself to be able to survive when the stars grow cold. If the universe is open, there will be plenty of time to work in, but energy will become very scarce. Dyson has shown that a finite amount of energy is enough to guarantee infinite survival if it is spent sufficiently slowly. [The Omega Point and the Final Fate of Life AS]
Dyson Sphere: A shell built around a star to collect as much energy as possible, originally proposed by Freeman Dyson (although he admits to have borrowed the concept from Olaf Stapledon's novel Star Maker (1937)). In the original proposal the shell consists of many independent solar collectors and habitats in separate orbits (also known as a Type I Dyson Sphere), but later people have discussed rigid shells consisting of only one piece (called a Type II Dyson Sphere). The latter construction is unfortunately both unstable (since it will experience no net attraction of the star), requires super-strong materials and have no internal gravity. The Dyson Sphere is a classic example of mega-technology and common in Science Fiction. See also The Dyson Sphere FAQ. [AS]
Ecophagy: (or Global Ecophagy) Consuming the biological environment. Coined and defined by Robert A. Freitas Jr. (Research Scientist Zyvex Corp). Frequently associated with "gray goo," as ecophagy (uncontrolled self-replication) is its main prupose. See "Some Limits to Global Ecophagy by Biovorous Nanoreplicators, with Public Policy Recommendations" where Dr. Freitas said "Perhaps the earliest-recognized and best-known danger of molecular nanotechnology is the risk that self-replicating nanorobots capable of functioning autonomously in the natural environment could quickly convert that natural environment (e.g., "biomass") into replicas of themselves (e.g., "nanomass") on a global basis, a scenario usually referred to as the 'gray goo problem' but perhaps more properly termed 'global ecophagy.'"
Ecosystem protector: A nanomachine for mechanically removing selected imported species from an ecosystem to protect native species. [FS]
Electrical Bistability: a phenomenon in which an object exhibits two states of different conductivity at the same applied voltage. [UCLA]
Emergence: a complex whole created by simple parts, as in the brain where billions of neurons work individually, but collectively make up our consciousness and give us the ability to think, rationalize, and create.
EI - Emergent Intelligence: An intelligent system that gradually emerges from simpler systems, instead of being designed top down. [AS]
Emulation: An absolutely precise simulation of something, so exact that it is equivalent to the original (for example, many computers emulate obsolete computers to run their programs). [AS] The Star Trek replicator is an example.
Enabling science and technologies: Areas of research relevant to a particular goal, such as nanotechnology. [FS] Also, technology that "enables" other technology to advance, such as the transistor enabled the computer chip revolution, as did photolithography.
Entanglement: From quantum mechanics, entanglement is a relationship between two objects in which they both exhibit superposition but once the state of one object is measured, the state of the other is also known. [NTN]
Entropy: A measure of the disorder of a closed system. The second law of thermodynamics states that the entropy (and disorder) increases as time moves forward. [Encyclopedia Nanotech]
Evolution: A process in which a population of self-replicating entities undergoes variation, with successful variants spreading and becoming the basis for further variation. [NTN]
Exploratory engineering: Design and analysis of systems that are theoretically possible but cannot be built yet, owing to limitations in available tools. [FS]
Exponential assembly: a manufacturing architecture starting with a single tiny robotic arm on a surface. This first robotic arm makes a second robotic arm on a facing surface by picking up miniature parts ó carefully laid out in advance in exactly the right locations so the tiny robotic arm can find them ó and assembling them. The two robotic arms then make two more robotic arms, one on each of the two facing surfaces. These four robotic arms, two on each surface, then make four more robotic arms. This process continues with the number of robotic arms steadily increasing in the pattern 1, 2, 4, 8, 16, 32, 64, etc. until some manufacturing limit is reached (both surfaces are completely covered with tiny robotic arms, for example). This is an exponential growth rate, hence the name exponential assembly. [ZY] See Exponential Assembly
Exponential Growth: inaccurately referred to as "self-replication," exponential growth refers to the process of growth or replication involving doubling within a given period. [ZY]
Femtometer: [abbr: fm] a unit suitable to express the size of atomic nuclei. One quadrillionth (10 to minus 15) of a meter.
Femtosecond: is one quadrillionth of a second, and is to a second what a second is to 32,700,000 years. At 186,000 miles per second, in one femtosecond light travels only far enough to traverse about 1,000 silicon atoms. When used to time a laser pulse, it allows for ultra-precise micromachining, with virtually no damage to surrounding material.
Femtotechnology: the art of manipulating materials on the scale of elementary particles (leptons, hadrons, and quarks). [CA-B] The next step smaller after picotechnology, which is the next step smaller after nanotechnology.
Fluidic Self Assembly: A novel technique for accurately assembling large numbers of very small devices. The small size, planarity, and accuracy of the assembly also result in very low parasitic interconnects, comparable to on die traces. This massively parallel assembly process combines the capability and flexibility of assembly with the cost effectiveness of integration. [MIT EECS]
Invented by Mr. Mark Hadley and was part of his Ph.D. dissertation while he was studying at University of California, Berkley. The FSA process became the foundation for the origins of a new company named Alien Technology Corporation. In the FSA process, specifically shaped semiconductor devices ranging in size from 10 microns to several hundred microns are suspended in liquid and flowed over a surface which has correspondingly shaped "holes" or receptors on it and into which the devices settle. The shape of the devices and of the holes is designed so that the devices fall easily into place and are selfaligning. Alien has successfully demonstrated the assembly of tens of thousands of devices in a single process step.
Foglet: A mesoscale machine. A discreet component of utility fog. [J. S. Hall 1994]
Fractal Mechatronic Universal Assembler: (or Fractal Assembler) is a machine that is capable of assembling any chemical from a generic descriptions of the properties required of the chemical. The machine comprises of test tube arrays and software linked to robotic cubes and sensor arrays to implement automated mixing and testing to conduct materials research activity. [FR] See Fractal Mechatronic Universal Assembler
Fractal Robots: AKA: Fractal Shape Shifting Robots and Programmable "Digital Matter", are programmable machines that can do unlimited tasks in the physical world, the world of matter. Load the right software and the same "machines" can vacuum the carpet, paint your car, or construct an office building and later, wash that building's windows. This is the beginning of "Digital Matter".
Fractal Shape Shifting Robots look like "Rubic's Cubes" that can "slide" over each other on command, changing and moving in any overall shape desired for a particular task. These cubes communicate with each other and share power through simple internal induction coils (or surface contacts in some models), have batteries, a small computer and various kinds of internal magnetic and electric inductive motors (depending on size) used to move over other cubes.
When sufficiently miniaturized (below 0.1mm) and fabricated using photolithography and E-Beam methods, the machines may exceed human manual dexterity and could then be programmed to assemble complex fractal aggregates or even to maintain the photolithographic and E-Beam equipment itself! The ultimate goal is self sustaining systems and "self-assembly" features that can drop cost dramatically and enable successive generations of robots exhibiting greater utility and value, to be built along the way. [Bill Spence]
FUD: Fear, Uncertainty, Doubt.
Fullerenes: Fullerenes are a molecular form of pure carbon discovered in 1985. They are cage-like structures of carbon atoms, the most abundant form produced is buckminsterfullerene (C60), with 60 carbon atoms arranged in a spherical structure. There are larger fullerenes containing from 70 to 500 carbon atoms. [Wid] See What are fullerenes?