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Home > News > Nanotech Grows Up: The Little Robots that Ate Civilization

December 29th, 2009

Nanotech Grows Up: The Little Robots that Ate Civilization

Abstract:
Nanotechnology and Civilization - by Mateo Cueva.

The manipulation of matter at the atomic level opens up the possibility of designing nanostructures with radically new properties. Applications include a system to remove pollution from soil and underground water, flat-screen televisions with carbon nanotubes, lightweight high-energy batteries and miniature medical laboratories ("lab-on-a-chip"). Researchers are already predicting the advent of a portable computer capable of a trillion operations per second, photovoltaic paint that can be applied to buildings and roads at a cost of a few pence per square meter, and solar power generators of 1 terawatt (1,000 gigawatts).

The military is ahead of industry in conquering this world "at the bottom [where] there is plenty of room," as physicist Richard Feynman put it. In the United States, the lion's share of the National Nanotechology Initiative's budget has for some time now been spent on military applications. The US defense department supports nanoscale research in chemistry, biology, electronics and energy. The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (Darpa), which first developed the internet, promotes research programs on mathematical modeling of the laws of biology, developing prosthetic devices controlled by the brain, and even creating an interface between insect and machine, where a moth could be transformed into a living drone.


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