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January 19th, 2008
The scientist many regard as the father of nanotechnology has backed away from his famous claim that nanomachines could turn the planet into "grey goo".
Eric Drexler now says nanomachines that self-replicate exponentially are unlikely ever to enter widespread use.
In the journal Nanotechnology, he stresses that tiny machines would need close control in order to be efficient.
Dr Drexler says when he made the statement in the 80s, he underestimated the impact it would have on the field.
Nanotechnology is an umbrella discipline concerned with engineering objects and working devices from individual atoms and molecules.
"What I did not expect was that efforts to quiet concerns over grey goo would lead to false scientific denials of feasible technologies," Dr Drexler, chairman emeritus of the Foresight Institute in Palo Alto, US, told BBC News Online.
"I also underestimated the popularity of depictions of swarms of tiny nanobugs in science fiction and popular culture."
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