This issue of NanoNews-Now covers Nanotechnology and the Military. Editor Rocky Rawstern interviews Mike Treder and Chris Phoenix of the Center for Responsible Nanotechnology, and Neil Gordon, President of the Canadian NanoBusiness Alliance.

Off the topic, we present a profile on the Nano-Network, in an interview with Mark Brandt.

Due to the hurricane in the Gulf Coast, several of the companies we interviewed were unable to respond in time to meet our deadline. As their answers come in we will add them to this report, and notify subscribers.

For those interested, there is a conference on Military Nanotechnology - An Opportunity for Defence Evolution, October 31 - November 01, 2005, in London.

And for those interested in reading the latest nanotech news from our Military Category, we introduce a new section to our report.

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Table of contents:
Treder & Phoenix
Neil Gordon
Mark Brandt
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Mike Treder
Mike Treder
Executive Director of CRN

Chris Phoenix
Chris Phoenix
CRN’s Director of Research

Rocky Rawstern - Editor Nanotechnology Now -
Rocky Rawstern
Editor, Nanotechnology Now

Considering Military and Homeland Security Applications of Advanced Nanotechnology


Mike Treder and Chris Phoenix have a powerful vision: to raise awareness of and assist in the preparation for advanced nanotechnology. Not "nanotechnology" as many have come to describe it today, as in the materials world, and where it's defined as taking advantage of the often unique properties that can be found in materials in the 1 to 100 nanometer range. Treder and Phoenix are focused on advanced nanotechnology, what used to be called nanotechnology, and today is labeled molecular nanotechnology (MNT) or molecular manufacturing (MM). Defined as "the ability to construct shapes, devices, and machines with atomic precision, and to combine them into a wide range of products inexpensively," MNT is simply "the projected ability to make complete, highly advanced products from the bottom up, using techniques and tools being developed today to place every atom and molecule in a desired place."

Skeptics notwithstanding, the technologies needed to deliver MNT are being developed, and the money (in billions of dollars per year) is being invested, right now, by governments and businesses, worldwide. This investment is in technologies that may be enabling to MNT, but is not directly related to MNT research. As Phoenix pointed out "We're moving forward, but blindly." MNT is going to happen; it's just a matter of when, and how prepared we are for the massive changes to society, including - and certainly not limited to - the military and homeland security implications.

Treder and Phoenix fervently believe, as do I, that the time is now to seriously consider the consequences of MNT. The humanitarian potential is enormous, as is the potential for misuse. As with any new technology, you can get both plowshares and swords, consumer goods and new weapons, beneficial and malicious applications. As a society that is currently bound to one tiny planet, we probably cannot spend too much time in preparation, which has - to a limited extent - begun, and needs to ramp up rapidly.

I'll close this introduction with a quote from CRN's home page:

Advanced nanotechnology may build machines that are thousands of times more powerful—and hundreds of times cheaper—than today's devices. The humanitarian potential is enormous; so is the potential for misuse. The vision of CRN is a world in which molecular manufacturing is widely used for productive and beneficial purposes, and where malicious uses are limited by effective administration of the technology.

CRN acts to raise awareness of the issues. We believe that even a technology as powerful as molecular manufacturing can be used wisely and well—but that without adequate information, unwise use will be far too common. The mission of CRN is to raise awareness of the issues presented by nanotechnology: the benefits and dangers, and the possibilities for responsible use.

In order to provide well-grounded and complete information, clear explanation, and workable proposals, CRN studies, clarifies, and researches the issues involved—political, economic, military, humanitarian, and technological. CRN presents the results for both technical and popular audiences, and works to supply the information as effectively as possible. The purpose of CRN is to investigate the ethical, legal, and social implications (ELSI) of molecular manufacturing, and to educate those who will influence its use or be affected by it.

Our interview:

NN: What are the main issues that CRN is considering regarding military and homeland security (M&HS) applications of advanced nanotechnology?

When nanotech-driven construction becomes able to build complete products, the resulting products will have vastly higher performance than today's versions. Combined with a sharp drop in cost and a substantial decrease in development time, this implies a flood of new and powerful weapons, as well as a flood of sensors, computers, and networks.

This could lead to a breakneck arms race that probably would be unstable. It could lead to a security nightmare in which criminals can run rings around police. It could lead to massive oppression, with ubiquitous surveillance enabled by cheap sensors and data processing. It could even lead to combinations of these problems -- they are not mutually exclusive, and all three could happen concurrently.

NN: What are some of the solutions that are being considered?

There are no good simple solutions. Surveillance sufficient to prevent crime would enable, and probably require, massive oppression. Making the technology widely available enough to prevent oppression would open the door to lawlessness.

Recently, we launched the CRN Global Implications and Policy Task Force to identify solutions that can avoid such tragic extremes. We do not expect the task to be easy.

North Carolina State University researchers conducted a survey last year designed to gauge U.S. public perceptions about nanotechnology. As we stated at the time, the results were encouraging. Public opinion about nanotech risks and preferred long-term goals seemed sensible and wise to us. Underestimating or, even worse, devaluing the ability of citizens to understand issues and offer useful insights is foolish and wrong.

On the other hand, it's equally wrong and foolish to rely solely on public opinion. Experts should be listened to. The idea that "science is too important to be left to scientists" is one we have challenged before.

Nanotech arms races, economic disruption, environmental destabilization, widening gaps between rich and poor, an unprecedented concentration of power -- these and more challenges await us in the near future. Citizens groups can and must take on these problems, with urgency.

—Mike Treder, from Conference of Citizens

NN: Are these all the M&HS issues, or is another issue the simple fact that we have likely not thought of all the issues?

There will certainly be other issues. For example, one possible outgrowth of an arms race is the use of increasingly automated weapons development and control. The implications of this need to be considered; unfortunately, science fiction got there first, so the topic is less respectable than it probably should be.

Until the technology is developed, we will not know everything it can do. Today, we do not even know whether offense or defense will be stronger -- a question that will have immense impact on the workability of important policies. We do not know whether surveillance and data-mining networks will be cheap enough for individuals or small groups to own, or whether only large groups and governments will be able to afford them.

So we need to start mapping out the plausible boundaries of the capabilities and their implications, creating scenarios, and designing societal structures that can be flexible enough and wise enough to react appropriately to rapidly developing problems.

NN: The M&HS issues already give us plenty to consider and plan for. But what are some of the other issues that society needs to be addressing now?

The issues described above may very well be the most important. It's possible that if we are not successful in preventing a nano-enabled arms race, war, or terrorism, then we will not be able to enjoy any benefits, or, indeed, even to deal with secondary problems. However, other issues still must be considered. To list them all would take too much space (and would necessarily be incomplete anyway), but we'll name a few of the top concerns beyond M&HS.

One is the trade off between privacy and security. Nanotech-built surveillance devices could be quite small; as numerous as dust motes; designed, improved, mass-manufactured, and deployed quickly and cheaply. All of this leads to the possibility of constant, ubiquitous, intrusive observation. Because it offers unprecedented levels of government (or commercial) awareness and "security," this seems likely to occur unless somehow prevented or counteracted.

Another issue is large-scale unemployment or job displacement caused by a revolution in manufacturing methods and capabilities. Severe economic disruption is a clear consequence, at least in the short-term, as is some level of resulting social chaos.

Beyond the important -- but comparatively minor -- risk of nanoparticle toxicity or contamination, major environmental concerns could be raised by planet-scale engineering projects that advanced nanotechnology will make possible.

One more issue that must be addressed is equitable distribution of benefits and/or fair access to the technology. If enough people are denied access to desirable products, conditions will be ripe for development of a black market, which in turn increases the threat of a nano arms race, crime, terrorism, war, and the availability of unsafe products.

Finally, there is a high-level danger of unwise or disproportionate reactions to the risks of nanotech. Total relinquishment is clearly not possible, nor even desirable. Some control will almost certainly be seen as necessary; however, an enforced monopoly on the technology could provide opportunity for the rise of nano-despotism. Tyranny and oppression in turn may lead to rebellion, against which even more drastic control measures may be tried -- and so on, in a vicious cycle.

Molecular manufacturing (MM) means the ability to build devices, machines, and eventually whole products with every atom in its specified place. Today the theories for using mechanical chemistry to directly fabricate nanoscale structures are well-developed and awaiting progress in enabling technologies. Assuming all this theory works—and no one has established a problem with it yet—exponential general-purpose molecular manufacturing appears to be inevitable. It might be become a reality by 2010, likely will by 2015, and almost certainly will by 2020. When it arrives, it will come quickly. MM can be built into a self-contained, tabletop factory that makes cheap products efficiently at molecular scale. The time from the first fabricator to a flood of powerful and complex products may be less than a year. The potential benefits of such a technology are immense. Unfortunately, the risks are also immense.

—CRN, from Timeline for Molecular Manufacturing

NN: What are some of the solutions that are being considered?

CRN has begun to explore solutions based on a cooperative, non-competitive international nanotechnology R & D program. This appears to offer the potential for safe development and responsible use of nano-based manufacturing. In addition, we believe that global agreements covering restrictions and distribution of the technology may be required. But we have only scratched the surface; many other options and contingencies must be analyzed. As mentioned above, the CRN Global Implications and Policy Task Force has been formed to do a more in depth study of the problems, identify workable solutions, and recommend effective policy.

NN: If you had the collective ear of world leaders, what would you tell them regarding strategies to improve the prospects for humanity in the coming age of advanced nanotechnology?

We stand at a hinge point in history. The development of advanced nanotech -- enabling exponential, atomically precise manufacturing -- could mark the beginning of a new era for humanity, or it could bring the end of life on Earth.

Nanotechnology offers unprecedented possibilities for progress -- defeating poverty, starvation, and disease, opening up outer space, and expanding human capacities. But it also brings unprecedented risks -- massive job displacement causing economic and social disruption, threats to civil liberties from ubiquitous surveillance, and the specter of devastating wars fought with far more powerful weapons of mass destruction.

No single approach will solve all problems or address all needs. Finding effective solutions may demand an historic collaboration: a global network of leaders from business, government, academia, and NGOs. Never before have we faced such a tremendous opportunity -- and never before have the risks been so great. We must begin building bridges that will lead to safety and progress for the entire world: bridges that develop common understanding, create lines of communication, and provide a stable structure so humankind can pass safely through the transition into the nano era.

Center for Responsible Nanotechnology

The Center for Responsible Nanotechnology is a non-profit think tank concerned with the major societal and environmental implications of advanced nanotechnology. CRN promotes public awareness and education, and the crafting and implementation of effective policy to maximize benefits and reduce dangers.

We engage individuals and groups to better understand the implications of molecular manufacturing and to focus on the real risks and benefits of the technology. Our goal is the creation and implementation of wise, comprehensive, and balanced plans for global management of this transformative technology.

Interview with Neil Gordon of the Canadian NanoBusiness Alliance

Neil Gordon
Neil Gordon
President, Canadian NanoBusiness Alliance

NN: What are your concerns regarding a nanotechnology-enabled military and/or homeland security department?

With all of the amazing progress made by humankind during the twentieth century in political, social, technological and economic endeavors, it is maddening to accept that military and homeland security must take such a prominent role in our society today. That being said, the nanotechnology community has a unique opportunity to help our government agencies develop technologies to better protect human life and dignity, along with the values we believe in. My biggest concern is the long time duration for characterizing the specifications to defend against new types of threats, then develop, test and deploy better systems that meet these unprecedented requirements.

NN: What is being done vs. what (in your opinion) should be done to prepare for advanced nanotechnologies and their use by the military and homeland security departments?

The technology and end-user communities along with their funders need to better coordinate new standards, specifications, development plans and investments to reduce the time for new solutions coming to market. One example where this coordination is taking place is CANEUS. CANEUS is a NASA-led initiative between multiple government agencies in the US and allied countries, and with the private sector that is coordinating “collaborative” investments and developments of Micro-Nano-Technologies (MNTs) for the aerospace industry.

Its mission is:

  1. To conduct worldwide surveys of MNT concepts that could have significant impact on the aerospace and defense industry,
  2. To transform promising MNT concepts into system level prototypes, and
  3. To transition prototypes and intellectual property into independent companies that commercialize technologies for multiple applications and leverage government funding with additional investment from the private sector.

MNTs such as materials, devices and sensors are the becoming the lowest common denominator in virtually every new high-tech aerospace and defense end product – from aircraft to satellites. As seen in the semiconductor industry, improved platforms have greatly improved the price and performance of computers, telephones and entertainment systems. Military and homeland security can make use of facilitators like CANEUS to more rapidly attain convergence between user requirements, technology plans and multiple rounds of investments needed for development and commercialization.

Canadian NanoBusiness Alliance

The Canadian NanoBusiness Alliance (CNBA) is a nanotechnology association and facilitator. Its dual mission is as follows:

  • To establish a Canadian National Nanotechnology Initiative including the creation of commercially-oriented nanotech hubs, the promotion of nanotechnology in Canada, and the promotion of Canadian nanotechnology capabilities internationally, and
  • To develop major nanotechnology initiatives across the globe.

Through a diverse representation of businesses, investors, researchers, academia and government agencies throughout Canada, the CNBA acts as a collective voice for Canada’s nanotechnology business community. In addition to working with various organizations throughout Canada to develop business opportunities, the CNBA has co-organized the Canadian Institutes of Health Research Nanoscience Workshop, the Canada/Europe/US (CANEUS) Micro/Nano Space Conference, and the Canadian Nanomaterials Crossroads Conference.

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Interview with Mark Brandt of the Nano-Network

Mark Brandt
Mark Brandt
Founder and Chair, the Nano-Network
Managing Partner, The Maple Fund

NN: Please talk about the Nano-Network, its goals and mission.

The Nano-Network was formed by scientists, entrepreneurs and financiers to improve and expand the nanotechnology research and commercialization activities in Northeast Ohio and throughout the nation. The group is headquarted in Cleveland, Ohio and has more than 200 active members interested and involved in the nanotechnology sector.

Our goal is to connect people using nanotechnology to improve their business and the industry. The group primarily focuses on business networking, advocacy for federal funding, and provides a link to capital investments for entrepreneurs to develop their ideas.

In 2005 and beyond, the Nano-Network is committed to bringing together scientists, business professionals, and academic researchers to forward the national and regional discussion on nanotechnology.

In October, the Nano-Network will host NANO Week, a five day exploration and celebration of how nanotechnology is changing our world. NANO Week first debuted in 2004 and this year it's back with a new theme. We will introduce the first-ever Nano-App Summit, the anchor event for NANO Week, with focus on nanotechnology applications in the Aerospace, Automotive and Consumer Products industries. Attendees will learn how discoveries in the lab turn into real products and applications to be commercialized and manufactured. This event promises to be the most applications focused nanotechnology conference of the year.

NN: Why did you form the group?

I felt Clevelanders involved in nanotechnology needed to get better connected with each other. The region also needed a greater appreciation of the role nanotechnology applications play in the traditional industries that dominate our economy, such as medicine, materials and manufacturing. I'm also a Cleveland native and believe nanotechnology is the stepping stone to our future. That's why I wanted to help bring this technology to my hometown.

At the same time I founded the Nano-Network, I saw a unique opportunity for a Midwest fund with more capabilities than typical coastal venture funds. The Maple Fund, a venture fund focused on emerging technologies, was born from my vision. Nanotechnology seemed to be a very promising and exciting field and I believed creating the Nano-Network and the Maple Fund at the same time would compliment each other. (I was very busy forming both groups and would not recommend this task to others!) I knew forming these organizations would provide me with a better understanding of the emerging nanotechnology sector and help me to better recognize a good business plan.

NN: What is your personal background and interest in the field of nanotechnology?

I have experience with corporate business development and can recognize emerging growth trends. As a graduate of Cornell University I witnessed their commitment to nanotechnology research. I could see nanotechnology on the horizon as being a "disruptive technology" that would take us places previously unknown. It was my natural inclination to get involved in the nanotech space and work toward commercializing nano-enabled products.

In fact, the Maple Fund recently invested in Nanofluidics, a spin-off from Cornell University working with nanoscale gene sequencing techniques.

NN: You have gathered together a diverse group of people to form the Nano-Network. What are your strengths?

Northeast Ohio is home to world-class innovators and technologies. From the scientists working at research labs of our Fortune 500 companies and the clinicians at the Cleveland Clinic and Case to the entrepreneur working in the garage or over at one of our many technology incubators, Northeast Ohio continues its long history of using technology to create economic growth.

We have specific regional technology strengths that can be exploited and grown including Nanotechnology, Polymers and Advanced Materials, Instruments and Controls, Biotechnology, and Fuel Cells.

One of our biggest strengths is not just what is resident here, but the fact we have connections all over the world to get us the best and brightest minds. I personally believe you are only as good as who you can get to help you solve an issue - we're lucky to have some of the worlds leading experts at our disposal from NASA Glenn, Case or the Cleveland Clinic. Many of us also have very strong national networks which also helps us bring resources to region.

The truth is Northeast Ohio is an untapped resource full of possibilities and most people are unaware of the high caliber of individuals and technologies that stem from this region.

NN: In 2005, the focus of your educational and networking sessions is on nanotechnology applications in aerospace, automotive and consumer products. What do you hope will come of this year's event, and how will it move your agenda forward?

We really want to differentiate the Nano-App Summit from just another nanotech conference. I'm telling you up front, this entire event is focused on applications. There has been a significant amount of venture capital and federal funding put into nanotechnology research over the years and now we will be able to see and hear about the fruits of our labor.

Nanotech is being used by all the companies presenting at this year's conference. It will be amazing to hear speakers from Boeing, Ford, General Motors and Procter and Gamble discuss how they are currently incorporating nanotechnology into their products and business plans.

If we are able to help startups launch their products to tier one buyers, help existing suppliers better understand the value of nanoscale technologies, assist universities to focus their research on unmet needs, help startups find partners, and get new suppliers for attending companies-then this conference will be a smashing success.

NN: How is Nano Week 2005 important on the local and national levels?

NANO Week 2004 was a complete success because we organized a world-class, high-quality program that drew regional and national attention to our efforts to promote nanotechnology.

For example, last year Case hosted the first-ever $75,000 International NanoBusiness Idea Competition and the winner recently received $6.2 million from tier one funding sources in Boston. That success was covered by Small Times Magazine. And the Cleveland Clinic NanoMedicine Summit also made headlines in the New York Times. So call me crazy, but I think we're already having a national impact.

This year we want to generate even more momentum for nanotechnology through a variety of events at NANO Week. The week includes: the Nano-App Summit, Nanotechnology Manufacturers' Forum, MEMS Economic Summit, and the Emerging Technology Forum focused on liquid crystals and nano-polymers in advanced displays.

Also new this year, Case has introduced a $75,000 award for a NanoBusiness Idea contest winner from Northeast Ohio or an individual willing to relocate to the area. We did this to encourage our local researchers and entrepreneurs to enter the business competition. I believe contests get scientists to step up and take things to the next level by focusing on applications and what it takes to get from the lab to the marketplace.

My belief is that if we organize world class programs, the local region will respond. We have a number of nanotech startups here in this region in a variety of application areas. We have world-class nanotechnology research in nanopolymers, advanced displays and medical devices. We have one of the top materials economies in the U.S. All of this points toward Northeast Ohio becoming one of the "hotbeds" for nanotechnology over the next few years, and its effects on our technology economy here will be huge.

NN: What is your vision for the commercialization of nanotech-enabled products in Cleveland and NE Ohio?

My dream is to see a nano applications focus develop in Cleveland and have leading researchers come to the area to understand how to enter the marketplace. I believe that all innovation comes from either a market need or a science capability. The challenge is getting the two to meet in the middle. It takes funding, engineering, and market knowledge. With the Nano-Network, Case and the Cleveland Clinic leading the way here locally - and we now partner with Cornell University, The Ohio State University, Purdue University, University of Pittsburgh and many others - we can bring name research here and apply it to our local technology industries.

We have identified more than ten companies locally, both large and small, using nanotechnology in their product development and solutions to for their customers needs. We want to forge closer connections among those companies, suppliers, startups and university researchers to keep them focused on getting new products and applications to market. I see the process in motion and it's just fascinating

NN: In general, what are your hopes and concerns regarding a nanotech-enabled future?

Let's be honest with ourselves. We are innovators in America - we come up with a great idea, we engineer it really well and then it gets commoditized in some other country like India for software or China for manufacturing. America is, more than anything else, a center for innovation. That being the case, we need to lead not follow. This happens by really holding scientists up as the Rock Stars.

I want to see nanotechnology drive innovation in all sectors of our economy and those that figure out how to innovate, gain the most customers, and market share will win!

Cleveland with its manufacturing roots, entrepreneurial history and deep roots in medicine can play a major part in driving this next nano revolution. Nanotechnology is capable of things that no science has been able to accomplish before in our history. Every region of this country should be asking what they can do to bring nanotechnology to the innovation culture of their local economy.

When we look back in 20 years, we will see the areas that invested in and fostered nanotech. Sustainability, energy, genomics, computing, personalized medicine, heath and nutrition all get a big boost from nanotech research. Those who structure their economic development around this will be happy later. -I do know that if we keep exporting jobs, and just sit back and complain about it - we loose. We must keep moving forward.

The Nano-Network is a hub for the awareness, development and commercialization of nanotechnology.

The Nano-Network was formed by scientists, entrepreneurs and financiers to improve and expand the nanotechnology research and commercialization activities and capacities in Northeast Ohio and throughout the nation.

The Nano-Network hosts regular educational and networking sessions. In October 2005, the Nano-Network will host Nano Week 2005, which will feature a series of programs highlighting nanotechnology research, applications and products. In 2004, the focus of Nano Week was Nano-Medicine, for 2005, the focus is on real nanotechnology applications in aerospace, automotive and consumer products.

Nano Week will conclude with the $150,000 International and North Coast Nanotechnology Business Idea Competition. Twenty-five semi-finalists will invited to Case Western Reserve University to present their business ideas. Learn about the winning teams from 2004.

For a complete list of 2005 NANO-Week activities, please visit

For more information on the Nano-App Summit, visit

For more information on the Maple Fund, visit


The industries that nanotechnology will likely have a disruptive effect on in the near term include the following:
(Amounts are Billions of US Dollars)




Long Term Care








U.S. Chemical












Hospitality / Restaurant


US Insurance




Corrosion Removal


US Steel




Diet Supplement


















Blue Jeans




Fluorescent Tagging

Figures are from:

The Next Big Thing Is Really Small: How Nanotechnology Will Change the Future of Your Business. J Uldrich & D Newberry. March 2003
Read our review

NANO - John Robert Marlow. Hardcover January 2004
Our Review
The Superswarm Interview
The Superswarm Option
Nanoveau - This column will cover the science, the speculation, and (occasionally) the politics of nanotechnology and related topics. If you want to know what nanotech is about, and how and why it will change everything we know-Nanoveau is for you.

Got Nanotechnology?
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Our Molecular Future: How Nanotechnology, Robotics, Genetics, and Artificial Intelligence Will Transform Our World.
Douglas Mulhall, March 2002
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Development of molecular manufacturing appears inevitable for two reasons. The first is its immense value. Even if public pressure prevented it from being used in consumer goods, various militaries would not hesitate to develop it as a tremendous aid to military capability. In conventional conflicts, the improvements in logistics, miniaturization, development and cost would give an overwhelming advantage to the possessor of such technology, both in preparation and in actual combat. The second reason is the increasing ease of development. Enabling technologies are improving each year. New families of structural chemicals are being discovered. New fabrication technologies, new nanoscale imaging technologies, and increased computer power for mechanochemical simulation will rapidly decrease the difficulty of building a fabricator—and thus a nanofactory. Today, a successful program might require billions of dollars and several years. A decade from now it might be possible for only $100 million, within the reach of many corporations and nations. At that point, if molecular manufacturing is not already widely available, it will be developed in multiple labs around the world—and will be almost impossible to control. —Chris Phoenix Molecular Manufacturing: Start Planning

Mark A. Gubrud, a physicist at the University of Maryland remarks in a report titled Nanotechnology and the Military: Strategic Issues, "In approaching the development of nanotechnology for military applications, there is an urgent need to consider strategic issues as well as tactical opportunities. Expectations for the capabilities of nanosystems suggest that their development will affect the foundations of national security: deterrence, preparedness, balance-of-power relationships and alliance cohesion. Arms race and crisis stability, paths to escalation, novel opportunities for aggression, arms control, verification and world order are some of the issue areas that need to be addressed."

First will come a blending of the information revolution with ongoing changes in engineering and manufacturing leading to dramatically improved robotics, "brilliant" machines capable of complex decisionmaking, and nanotechnology in which the ability to manipulate and manufacture individual molecules allows the construction of tiny but complex machines. Eventually this may fuse with a concomitant biological revolution arising from the science of genetic engineering leading to manufactured entities that are part machine, part living organism. Cyborgs - once relegated to science fiction - are now conceivable. A biotechnological revolution of this form will have immense political, social, and ethical implications and could dramatically shake the foundation of human beliefs and perceptions. —Steven Metz Strategic horizons: the military implications of alternative futures.

"MNT development appears inevitable for two reasons. The first is the immense utility of MNT. Even if public pressure prevented it from being used in consumer goods, various militaries would not hesitate to develop it as a tremendous aid to military capability. In conventional conflicts, the improvements in logistics, miniaturization, development and cost would give an overwhelming advantage to the possessor of such technology, both in preparation and in actual combat." —Chris Phoenix Molecular Manufacturing: Start Planning

"Nanotech opens a broad spectrum of possible military uses that both expand and extend existing systems and define radical new applications. A three-dimensional assembly of nanostructures can yield much better versions of most conventional weapons (for example, guns can be lighter, carry more ammunition, fire self-guided bullets, incorporate multispectral gunsights, or even fire themselves when an enemy is detected). In unconventional terms, bionanobots might be designed that, when ingested from the air by humans, would assay DNA codes and self-destruct in an appropriate place (probably the brain) in those persons whose codes had been programmed. Nanobots could attack certain kinds of metals, lubricants, or rubber, destroying conventional weaponry by literally consuming it." —John L. Petersen and Dennis M. Egan Small Security: Nanotechnology and Future Defense

Recent U.S. planning and policy documents foretell "how wars will be fought in the future," and warn of new or re-emergent "global peer competitors" in the 2005-2025 time frame. It is generally appreciated that this period will be characterized by rapid progress in many areas of technology. However, assembler-based nanotechnology and artificial general intelligence have implications far beyond the Pentagon's current vision of a "revolution in military affairs."

Whereas the perfection of nuclear explosives established a strategic stalemate, advanced molecular manufacturing based on self-replicating systems, or any military production system fully automated by advanced artificial intelligence, would lead to instability in a confrontation between rough equals. Rivals would feel pressured to preempt, if possible, in initiating a full-scale military buildup, and certainly not to be caught behind. As the rearmament reached high levels, close contact between forces at sea and in space would give an advantage to the first to strike. —Mark A. Gubrud Nanotechnology and International Security.

"Nanotech" is not a magic bullet. But it is another, perhaps penultimate dive into the science of how the world around us, and "we," work. Yet caution is also in order -- as we've seen throughout history, each great advance in understanding also brings the potential for both great good and great evil (recall Nobel's dynamite). Especially in nanotech, the need for early significant ethical discussion and caution is imperative.

But NOT pursuing nanotechnology isn't a viable option, because even if one country doesn't, another will. And that country will then be the "big winner." Those who master nanotech's treasure trove of possibilities will be able to, literally, rebuild the world around us and even "us." While those who do not... —Jeffrey R. Harrow

In the Winter 2004 issue of IEEE's Technology and Society magazine, there is an article by Jürgen Altmann and Mark Gubrud titled "Anticipating Military Nanotechnology." In their article, Altmann and Gubrud make the following predictions:

More specific military applications include new propellants and explosives of higher energy density, and miniaturized guidance systems for small munitions. Nanostructured material could bring improved armor penetrators and some strengthening of light armor. Firearms could gain range and accuracy at reduced weight. Small missiles could become practicle even against human targets.

Nanotechnology and microsystems technology would permit vehicles and mobile robots of decimeter down to millimeter size, some using biomimetic forms of propulsion. One variant would be to use small animals controlled by implanted electrodes. Although the munitions payload would be limited, they could attack at senstive spots, or act in swarms to achieve a mass effect.

Small, highly accurate and lethal weapons may encourage offensive uses. Deterrence would be weakened if strategic forces could be attacked by non-nuclear means such as stealthy, precision-guided weapons or miniaturized systems covertly infiltrated in advance of an attack. Autonomous systems of confronting powers operating at close mutual range at sea or in space would need to detect and react quickly to any attack, creating potentials for accidental war and uncontrolled escalation.

If international limits can be agreed to, including verification and enforcement mechanisms, it is reasonable to expect that they can be implemented. All technological societies already take measures to reduce toxic emissions, improve safety, and otherwise balance costs and benefits; new measures are introduced every year as technology evolves.

Unfortunately, the article is no longer available online for free, but can be purchased at IEEE.

We may not like it, but it's true: Many existing technologies were advanced by war. Anyone taking antibiotics, or undergoing cranial surgery, must acknowledge WWII for his or her increased chance of survival. H. sapiens is a vermin species in every sense - fecundity, intelligence, adaptability, utter lack of morals - and one of the defining characteristics of us vermin is our propensity to devour one another. Like it or lump it, war seems here to stay.

So how will nanotech affect future conflict? Only in every conceivable way, and in many ways not yet conceivable. I'll let others address the direct stuff: weapons, surveillance, communications and the like. But since (pace von Clauswitz) war is merely the advancement of diplomacy by other means, let me take a minute for some informed speculation about the support activities without which elegantly blowing your opponents' brains out would be impossible. —William Illsey Atkinson

For judging potential new military technologies from a viewpoint of international security (as opposed to a narrow concept of national security through military strength), one can consider the criteria of dangers to arms control and the international law of warfare, dangers for stability (military situation, arms race, proliferation) and dangers for humans, society, and the environment.

Some potential military NT applications (e.g. computers) will be so close to civilian uses that limits are impractical. Others (e.g. sensors for biological-warfare agents) could contribute to better protection against terrorist attacks or to better verification of compliance with armscontrol treaties. —Jürgen Altmann Military Nanotechnology and Preventive Arms Control (PDF)

Nanotechnological devices for military use also raise the issue that they do the work of chemical and biological weapons, but - at least arguably - do not fall within treaties regulating chemical and biological weapons. The argument that nanotechnological weapons - at least those of destructive, rather than surveillance, type—would be functional equivalents of chemical and biological weapons would be a strong one, and indeed destructive nanoweapons would probably achieve their effects through chemical action, though it would be mechanically initiated. Nonetheless, as the Reagan Administration’s efforts to reinterpret the ABM Treaty illustrate, national governments do not require much encouragement to advance novel or disingenuous interpretations of the law where doing so serves their interests.

Controlling these military applications will be difficult. Military interest in nanotechnology is already high, and an unknown, but large, amount of military nanotechnology research is going on at present; this is sure to increase as the actual application of nanotechnology becomes more feasible. It is not too early, however, to look at updating the chemical and biological warfare conventions, and other related instruments, and to explore ways in which employment of destructive nanotechnology is constrained by the laws of war. —Glenn Harlan Reynolds Environmental Regulation of Nanotechnology: Some Preliminary Observations (PDF)

The nanotechnic era will be fundamentally different from the era in which nuclear weapons were developed and came to dominate the possibilities for global violence.

The bombed-out cities of the Second World War, and the nuclear holocausts of our imagination, have persuaded rational minds that there can be no expectation of a meaningful victory in total war between states armed with hundreds of deliverable nuclear weapons. From that point of view, war is obsolete, at least direct and open war between great powers.

Nanotechnology will carry this evolution to the next step: deterrence will become obsolete, as it will not be possible to maintain a stable armed peace between nanotechnically-armed rivals. The implications of this statement stand in sharp contradiction to the traditions of a warrior culture and to the assumptions that currently guide policy in the United States and in its potential rivals. —Mark A. Gubrud Nanotechnology and International Security.


Nanocerox expects $4 million for combat armor August 30, 2005 The money is expected to be used for developing opaque and transparent armor systems for combat vehicles, aircrafts and missiles, as well as face and body shields for troops.

Nanocoating could eliminate foggy windows and lenses
ACS August 29, 2005 Foggy windows and lenses are a nuisance, and in the case of automobile windows, can pose a driving hazard. Now, a group of scientists at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) may have found a permanent solution to the problem. The team has developed a unique polymer coating — made of silica nanoparticles — that they say can create surfaces that never fog.

These 'bots are made for walkin'
Howard Lovy's NanoBot August 28, 2005 Howard Lovy: Do you remember the "DNA walker" that made headlines last year?

I hadn't gone through recent nanotech patents and applications in a while, so when I was browsing through them yesterday I was pleased that New York University chemist Nadrian Seeman and his colleague William Sherman had filed a patent application in June.

Iran to focus on missiles, air defences August 23, 2005 The speech by Najjar, who like President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is a veteran of the elite Revolutionary Guards, also outlined the development of "nanotechnology, information, developing modern ammunitions ... and equipment for electronic warfare" as priorities for the defence sector.

Lowell again center of industrial revolution August 15, 2005 There is a new industrial revolution happening in Lowell, a change that some say will rival the one born in the textile mills along the Merrimack River. Inside some of the very same mills that revolutionized the textile industry as the American Industrial Revolution began, a new kind of fabric is being made by a new kind of company.

Nano Invades BioMEMS August 12, 2005 Tim Studt: Recently, BioMEMS has become something of a misnomer as many of the latest technologies are increasingly being designed and developed based on nanoscale-level technologies, rather than just micro-scale technologies. While current devices are manufactured mostly on the micro-scale level, the functioning parts and the materials they operate on are at the nanoscale level. Such is the speed of nanotechnology development.

Armor maker hopes for contract August 11, 2005 TAL Materials, a local company developing ceramics for transparent armor in military vehicles, is hopeful it soon will receive another multimillion-dollar infusion of federal funding.

Technology holds promise for infrared camera
Northwestern University August 11, 2005 Technology has the potential for broad application in the detection of terrorist activities

Study War or Study Peace?
Responsible Nanotechnology August 11, 2005 Mike Treder: A central question of our time -- perhaps the central question -- should be: Can humanity survive entry into the Nano Era?

Not only must we ask if we can avoid destroying ourselves with nano-built weaponry, we also must ask if we can preserve human rights, human values, and human dignity at the same time. The challenge is not as easy as it sounds, if indeed it does sound easy.

Nanotechnology for Defense 2005 August 09, 2005 Raymor Industries Inc. is proud to announce that the 2005 Nanotechnology for Defense conference, held from July 25th to July 27th, 2005, in Washington DC, was a great success for the company, confirming the very strong, immediate need for Raymor's single-walled carbon nanotubes (C-SWNT) .

Bully Beef and Antimatter
TNTlog August 09, 2005 While some may be concerned about global dominance, a couple of army logistics researchers, somewhat closer to the front describe the RAMP (Revolution in Atoms, Molecules, and Photons) project in an article entitled “Nanotubes and Antimatter: Energy Resupply for the Future Battlefield.”

Tiny infrared laser holds promise as weapon against terror
Northwestern University August 05, 2005 Researchers have demonstrated a specialized diode laser that holds promise as a weapon of defense in both civilian and military applications

Nano-Proprietary Announces New SBIR Grant
Nano-Proprietary August 03, 2005 Grant is to design and build a high current density electron source

Nanotechnology paves way for new weapons August 01, 2005 Andrew Oppenheimer: Nanotechnology has great potential in the fields of biotechnology and medicine. While bio-nanotechnological products are seen as around 10 years off, medical application is promising, with intense research being conducted in disease diagnosis, drug delivery and molecular imaging.

As with many technologies, the medical applications may be adapted for offensive purposes. Manipulation of biological and chemical agents using nanotechnologies could result in entirely new threats that might be harder to detect and counter than existing CBW.

From Our Molecular Future: How Nanotechnology, Robotics, Genetics, and Artificial Intelligence Will Transform Our World, by Douglas Mulhall:

  • What happens to the monetary system when everyone is able to satisfy his own basic material needs at very low cost?
  • How would we use cash when digital manufacturing makes it impossible to differentiate a counterfeit bill or coin from the real thing?
  • What happens to fiscal policy when digital information, moving at light speed, is the major commodity?
  • How fast will monetary cycles move compared to, say, the ten- or twenty-year cycles of the late twentieth century, when products and patents go out of date in a matter of months instead of years?
  • What happens when we don't have to worry about trade or social services for our basic needs, because most of what we need is provided locally with digital manufacturing, and the biggest trade is in information?
  • How do we control the excesses of the ultrarich, the overabundance of the molecular assembler economy, and the challenge to intellectual property laws created by intelligent, inventive machines?
  • What happens if half of all jobs are made redundant every decade?
  • What happens to the War on Drugs when there's no import, export, or transport of contraband because drugs can be manufactured in a desktop machine using pirated software downloaded from the Internet?
  • What happens to democratic controls when individuals can get as rich as small governments in a year or so?
  • What's the relevance of insurance if many things are replaceable at very low capital cost, but liabilities from software are potentially unlimited?
  • How should organized labor react when molecular assemblers and intelligent robots eliminate most manufacturing jobs?
  • What is the nature of work going to be?
  • What happens to land prices when an individual can build a tropical farm under a bubble in North Dakota, and get there from New York in an hour?
  • What happens when everyone can go everywhere, whenever they want, and work from wherever they want?

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Useful Links

The best links in this report are found in the Quotes section, above. Here are a few others:

Nanotech Arms Races

Military Reloads with Nanotech

Space, Nanotechnology, and Techno-Worries (PDF)

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Issue #28 will cover Materials. It will land in your mailbox October 3rd, 2005.

Infamous Quotes:

"This 'telephone' has too many shortcomings to be seriously considered as a means of communication. The device is inherently of no value to us." Western Union internal memo, 1876
"Heavier-than-air flying machines are impossible." - Physicist and mathematician Lord Kelvin, President of the British Royal Society, 1895
"Everything that can be invented has been invented." - Charles H. Duell, Director of U.S. Patent Office, 1899
"There is no likelihood man can ever tap the power of the atom." - Robert Milikan, Nobel Laureate in Physics, 1923
"Theoretically, television may be feasible, but I consider it an impossibility-a development which we should waste little time dreaming about." - Lee de Forest, inventor of the cathode ray tube, 1926
"I think there is a world market for maybe five computers." IBM's Thomas Watson, 1943
"Landing and moving around on the moon offer so many serious problems for human beings that it may take science another 200 years to lick them." - Science Digest, August 1948
"Computers in the future may weigh no more than 1.5 tons." Popular Mechanics, 1949
"There is no reason anyone would want a computer in their home." Ken Olsen, Digital Equipment Corp, 1977

And the lesson is? It's a tough game to call.

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