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Nanotechnology as a method of general-purpose manufacturing, making powerful products with revolutionary implications -- that concept received a significant boost this week with publication of a long-awaited US government report. CRN believes this calls for a new level of urgency in preparing for molecular manufacturing.
Nanotechnology as a method of general-purpose manufacturing, making powerful products with revolutionary implications -- that concept received a significant boost this week with publication of a long-awaited US government report.
A congressionally-mandated review of US nanotechnology policy conducted by the National Materials Advisory Board (NMAB) includes a study of "the feasibility of manufacturing systems capable of building, with molecular precision, complex systems that consist of multiple components." The Center for Responsible Nanotechnology (CRN) expects that the NMAB report will accelerate research toward the development of molecularly-precise manufacturing. However, without adequate understanding and preparation, exponential atom-by-atom construction of advanced products could have catastrophic results. Conclusions published in this report should create a new level of urgency in preparing for molecular manufacturing.
Future generations of nanotechnology will use advanced nanoscale machinery to construct powerful products with molecular precision. Molecular construction will lead to advanced capacities, including tabletop fully-automated factories capable of constructing duplicate factories in less than a day. The economic, security, military, and environmental implications of molecular manufacturing will be extreme. Vicious cycles in any of these areas could spiral quickly out of control unless the problem has been studied and understood in advance. Extreme or hasty responses to developing problems could easily make things worse.
According to the NMAB report, "the important task before the committee was to assess the feasibility of sophisticated manufacturing processes...not usually considered to be examples of self-assembly" in order "to produce more complex materials, devices, and, perhaps even entire complex systems from molecular components in a bottom-up fashion." The report concluded that although some parameters and capabilities cannot be predicted with certainty at this time, "[r]esearch funding that is based on the ability of investigators to produce experimental demonstrations that link to abstract models and guide long-term vision is most appropriate to achieve this goal." CRN expects this finding, as well as the more detailed reviews in the body of the report, to strengthen a growing acceptance of molecular manufacturing concepts.
Increased funding of research leading toward exponential construction of atomically-precise products is now a strong possibility. The Center for Responsible Nanotechnology urgently recommends equivalent funding and priority for research into the profound societal and environmental implications of molecular manufacturing, including consideration of the most aggressive potential timelines and powerful capabilities.
NMAB Report: " A Matter of Size: Triennial Review of the National Nanotechnology Initiative" - http://www.nap.edu/catalog/11752.html - (see pages 106-108)
"Thirty Essential Nanotechnology Studies" - http://www.crnano.org/studies.htm - Covers many topics, from technical issues to organizational responses to problems.
"Molecular Manufacturing: What, Why and How" - http://wise-nano.org/w/Doing_MM - A roadmap from today's capabilities to advanced molecular manufacturing systems.
About Center for Responsible Nanotechnology
The Center for Responsible Nanotechnology (www.CRNano.org), a non-profit think tank concerned with the major societal and environmental implications of advanced nanotechnology, is headquartered in New York. CRN is an affiliate of World Care, an international, non-profit, 501(c)(3) organization. The opinions of CRN do not necessarily represent those of World Care.
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