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Home > News > Who Stole My Nanotech?

March 7th, 2010

Who Stole My Nanotech?

Abstract:
By: John Mauldin, Millennium Wave Advisors

Ralph Merkle regaled us with the promise of nanotechnology to make anything and everything. Very tiny molecular machines would assemble all manner of things, from roads and homes to furniture to computers. The problem is that this was pretty much the same speech he was giving ten years ago. Not much progress has been made in the ensuing decade. This was perhaps the most disappointing note at the conference for me.

Let me differentiate between nanotech and nanoscale. Nanotech is the ability of very small machines to build useful objects one atom and molecule at a time. Nanoscale is the technology that creates very small objects to do useful things. An example would be carbon nanotubes, which are proving to have all sorts of useful properties.

There is very little money being put into actual nanotech research. We are at least two decades and hundreds of billions away from Merkle's (and Freitas' and others') vision, if even then. It is still in the arena of pure research, far from any potential commercial application. And there does not seem to be a lot of research in the field.

Nanoscale, however, is a different story. Batteries made from carbon nanotubes hold tremendous promise for better storage (by 400 times less weight per watt output). Filtering of seawater to produce fresh water, increased computer speed and power - there is a long and rapidly growing list of nanoscale advances.

If we ever do get actual molecular nanotech, it may look more like biotech, as we slip in on nanotech from the side. After all, combine a few cells and you eventually get a human being. For some, this is the path to robust nanotech.

Source:
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