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Last Updated: Monday, 20-Apr-2015 19:51:36 PDT

This Nanotechnology Glossary is a work-in-progress, and will be updated very frequently, so check back. Please email us with any missing terms, and we will include them. Any definition that can be attributed to an author will be, unless we get a quote sent to us without one. If you see one for which the author is not shown, and you know who it is, please let us know and we will make the update. Thanks! [brackets] indicate author and copyright holder

Last Updated: Monday, 20-Apr-2015 19:51:36 PDT

A - C | D - F | G - I | J - M | N | O - R | T | U | V - Z

SAMFET: (self assembled monolayer field effect transistor). Where a few molecules act as FETs, exhibiting both very strong gain, and extraordinarily rapid response. [Mark Ratner & MT 5(2) p. 20]

Scanning Capacitance Microscopy: A method for mapping the local capacitance of a surface. [NTN]

Scanning Electron Microscopy: see Virtual Scanning Electron Microscopy [Fl St U]

Scanning Force Microscope (SFM) An instrument able to image surfaces to molecular accuracy by mechanically probing their surface contours. A kind of proximal probe. .... A device in which the deflection of a sharp stylus mounted on a soft spring is monitored as the stylus is moved across a surface. If the deflection is kept constant by moving the surface up and down by measured increments, the result (under favorable conditions) is an atomic-resolution topographic map of the surface. Also termed an atomic force microscope. [FS]

Scanning Near Field Optical Microscopy: A method for observing local optical properties of a surface that can be smaller than the wavelength of the light used. [NTN]

Scanning Thermal Microscopy: A method for observing local temperatures and temperature gradients on a surface. [NTN]

Scanning Tunneling Microscope (STM): An instrument able to image conducting surfaces to atomic accuracy; has been used to pin molecules to a surface. [NTN]

Sealed Assembler Laboratory: A work space, containing assemblers, encapsulated in a way that allows information to flow in and out but does not allow the escape of assemblers or their products. [NTN]

Self-assembly: In chemical solutions, self-assembly (also called Brownian assembly) results from the random motion of molecules and the affinity of their binding sites for one another. Also refers to the joining of complementary surfaces in nanomolecular interaction. [ZY] See MITRE Nanosystems Research Task: Self-Assembly of Nanosystems and Microsystems

Self-repair: indicating ability to heal itself without outside intervention.

Self-replication: More accurately labeled "exponential replication," self-replication refers to the process of growth or replication involving doubling within a given period. [ZY] Examp[le: create one assembler. Program it to create another, and program that one likewise, etcetera, until you have a speficied amount [which is the important part -- how to make them STOP].

Sentience Quotient: In the article "Xenopsychology" by Robert Freitas in Analog of April 1984 there is an interesting index called "Sentience quotient". It is based on: The sentience of an intelligence is roughly directly related to the amount of data it can process per unit time and inversely to the overall mass needed to do that processing. This would be something like baud/kilograms. And since that would rapidly turn into a real big number, base 10 logs are used. The "least sentient" would be one bit over the lifetime of the universe massing the entire known universe, or about -70. The "most sentient" is claimed to be +50. Homo sapiens are around +13, a Cray I is +9, a venus flytrap is a peak of +1 with plants generally -2. [AS]

Single-walled carbon nanotubes (SWNT) See Nanotubes and buckyballs

Shape Memory Alloys: (SMA's) are a unique class of alloys which are able to "remember" their shape and are able to return to that shape even after being bent. The ability is known as the shape memory effect. ... This property has lead to many uses of SMA from orthodontics and coffee makers to methods of controlling aircraft and protecting buildings from earthquake damage. ... The first SMA to be discovered and the most commonly used is called Nitinol. [Texas A&M SMART lab] See also Introduction to Shape Memory and Superelasticity and Shape Memory Alloy Database

Singularity: Defined by Vernor Vinge as the "postulated point or short period in our future when our self-guided evolutionary development accelerates enormously (powered by nanotechnology, neuroscience, AI, and perhaps uploading) so that nothing beyond that time can reliably be conceived. ...a future time when societal, scientific and economic change is so fast we cannot even imagine what will happen from our present perspective, and when humanity will become posthumanity." Another definition is the singular time when technological development will be at its fastest. A grand evolutionary leap.

Sky Hook: A long, very strong, cable in orbit around a planet which rotates around its center of mass in such a way that when one end is closest to the ground, its relative velocity is almost zero. It would function as a kind of space elevator; shuttle craft would anchor to the end and then be lifted into orbit where they would be released. It is closely related to the idea of a beanstalk. [Originally described by Y Artsutanov in 1969. The name was propbably coined by Hans Moravec in Moravec, Hans, "A Non-Synchronous Orbital Skyhook," Journal of the Astronautical Sciences, Vol. 25, No. 4, October-December 1977, pp 307-322 ] [AS]

Smartdust: also "Smartdust Motes" "...tiny, bottle-cap-shaped micro-machines fitted with wireless communication devices - that measure light and temperature [among other things, such as environmental monitoring, health, security, distributed processing and tracking - ed]. When clustered together, they automatically create highly flexible, low-power networks with applications ranging from climate-control systems to entertainment devices that interact with handheld computers." [ What 'Smart Dust' Could Do for You By Zillah Bahar. 06/2001]

Smart Materials: Here, materials and products capable of relatively complex behavior due to the incorporation of nanocomputers and nanomachines. Also used for products having some ability to respond to the environment. [NTN] If you combined microscopic motors, gears, levers, bearing, plates, sensors, power and communication cables, etc., with powerful microscopic computers, you have the makings of a new class of materials: "smart materials." Programmable smart materials could shape-shift into just about any desired object. A house made of smart materials would be quite useful and interesting. Imagine a wall changing color at your command, or making a window where their was none before. [Bill Spence]

Space Fountain: A vertical stream of magnetically accelerated pellets reaching out into space, where a station held aloft by its momentum reverses the direction and directs it towards a receiver on the ground. Essentially a simpler version of a Lofstrom loop. [I'm not sure who originated the idea, judging from Robert Forward's Indistinguishable from Magic it was a collaborative effort. A paper about the idea can be found in Hyde, Roderick A., "Earthbreak: Earth to Space Transportation," Defense Science 2003+ Vol. 4, No. 4, 1985, pp 78-92 ] [AS]

Spike, The: Another term for the singularity, suggested by Damien Broderick since the growth curves look almost like a spike as it is approached. [Damien Broderick, The Spike 1997] [AS]

Spintronics: AKA: Quantum Spintronics, Magnetoelectronics, Spin Electronics. Electronic devices that exploit the spin of electrons as well as their charge. Unlike conventional electronics which is based on number of charges and their energy, and whose performance limited in speed and dissipation, spintronics is based on the direction of electron spin, and spin coupling, and is capable of much higher speed at much lower power. See our page on Spintronics. Also see Electronics and the single atom for a collection of articles (12 June 2002).

Star Trek scenario: Someone builds potentially dangerous self-replicating devices that spread disastrously. [FS] Again, "BAD" goo.

Stewart Platforms: A positional device. John Storrs info and links See also A New Family of Six Degree Of Freedom Positional Devices

Superconductor: An object or substance that conducts electricity with zero resistance. [NTN]

Superintelligence: An intellect that is much smarter than the best human brains in practically every field, including scientific creativity, general wisdom and social skills. This definition leaves open how the superintelligence is implemented: it could be a digital computer, an ensemble of networked computers, cultured cortical tissue or what have you. It also leaves open whether the superintelligence is conscious and has subjective experiences. [Bostrom]

Superlattice Nanowire Pattern (transfer): [SNAP] a technique for producing "Ultra High Density Nanowire Lattices and Circuits". See Researchers Discover How to Make the Smallest, Most Perfect, Densest Nanowire Lattices-And It's a SNAP

Superposition: A quantum mechanical phenomena in which an object exists in more than one state simultaneously. [NTN]

Superlattices: Artificial metallic superlattices are multilayered thin films, prepared by alternately depositing two elements using vacuum deposition or sputtering techniques. A wide spectrum of elements and compounds are suitable for deposition into superlattice structures, and the range of properties displayed by the resulting superstructures is greatly dependent upon the properties of both individual lattices as well as the interaction between them. [see The Superlattice Collection for images.]

Superlattice Nanowire interwoven bundles of nanowires using substances with different compositions and properties.

Synthespian: An artificial actor, for example a 3D model animated by motion capture from a real actor or a computer program. [AS]

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Technocyte: A nanoscale artificial device (especially a nanite) in the human bloodstream used for repairs, cancer protection, as an artificial immune system or for other uses. [AS 1995]

Technofobics: Those who have a phobia to technology, and/or to advances in technology.

Terraform: To change the properties of a planet to make it more earthlike, making it possible for humans or other terrestrial organisms to live unaided on it, for example by changing atmospheric composition, pressure, temperature or the climate and introducing a self-sustaining ecosystem. This will most probably be a very long-term project, probably requiring self-replicating technology and megascale engineering. So far Venus and especially Mars looks as the most promising candidates for terraforming in the solar system. [Jack Williamson 1938] [AS] Speculation exists that with the advent of mature MNT that we should be able to accomplish Terraforming a planet such as Mars in years, rather then decades [editor]

Thermal Noise: the vibration and motion of atoms and molecules caused by the fact that they have a temperature above absolute zero. [RCM] Once used as an argument on why MNT could not work. Since refuted: See Thatís impossible! How good scientists reach bad conclusions

Top Down Molding: [AKA: mechanical nanotechnology] Carving and fabricating small materials and components by using larger objects such as our hands, tools and lasers, respectively. [NTN] Opposite of Bottom Up.

Transhuman: someone actively preparing for becoming posthuman. Someone who is informed enough to see radical future possibilities and plans ahead for them, and who takes every current option for self-enhancement. [Term: FM-2030 Def.: Max More]

Transhumanism: Philosophies of life (such as Extropianism) that seek the continuation and acceleration of the evolution of intelligent life beyond its currently human form and human limitations by means of science and technology, guided by life-promoting values. [Max More 1990]

Transistor: the basic element in an integrated circuit. An on/off switch (consisting of three layers of a semiconductor material) that consists of a source (where electrons come from), a drain (where they go) and a gate that controls the flow of electrons through a channel that connects the source and the drain. There are two kinds of transistor, the bipolar transistor (also called the junction transistor), and the field effect transistor (FET).

Tribology: study of friction, wear and lubrication of interacting surfaces. [BNL]

Tubeologist: Someone who knows their nanotubes inside and out, such as David Tom·nek [uhf]

Turing Test: Turing's proposed test for whether a machine is conscious (or intelligent, or aware): we communicate via text with it and with a hidden human. If we can't tell which of our partners in dialogue is the human, we say the computer is conscious. [AS]

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ÐBERGOO: A related term to grey goo, used (jokingly) to refer to the mistaken idea that during the singularity powerful technologies would decimate non-transhumanists, and that some transhumanists would see this as desirable (which is clearly against theTranshuman Principles). [Dale Carrico 1996]

Ubiquitous Computing: Also known as "embodied virtuality", "smart environment" and "ambient intelligence". Computers that are an integral, invisible part of people's lives. In some ways the opposite of virtual reality, in which the user is absorbed into the computational world. With ubiquitous computing, computers take into account the human world rather than requiring humans to enter into the computer's methods of working. [AS] See our Smartdust page.

Universal Assembler: Uses raw atoms and molecules to construct consumer goods, and is pollution free. Can be programmed to build anything that is composed of atoms and consistent with the rules of chemical stability. Eric Drexler talks about these assemblers as nanorobots with telescoping manipulator arms that are capable of picking up individual atoms, and combining them however they are programmed.

Universal Constructor: A machine capable of constructing anything that can be constructed. The physical analog of a "universal computer", which can perform any computation. [AS]

Uplift: To increase the intelligence and help develop a culture of a previously non- or near-intelligent species. [From the Uplift novels by David Brin] [AS]

Upload: (a) To transfer the consciousness and mental structure of a person from a biological matrix to an electronic or informational matrix (this assumes that the strong AI postulate holds). The term "Downloading" is also sometimes used, mainly to denote transferring the mind to a slower or less spacious matrix. (b) The resulting infomorph person. [The origin of the term is uncertain, but obviously based on the computer technology term 'uploading' (loading data into a mainframe computer).] [AS]

Utility Fog: [AKA: Polymorphic Smart Materials] Objects formed of "intelligent" polymorphic (able to change shape) substances, typically having an octet truss structure. Concept concieved by Dr. J. Storrs Hall.

Single Foglet
utility foglet
Foglets Holding Hands
utility foglets holding hands

Click to enlarge

"Imagine a microscopic robot. It has a body about the size of a human cell and 12 arms sticking out in all directions. A bucketfull of such robots might form a 'robot crystal' by linking their arms up into a lattice structure. Now take a room, with people, furniture, and other objects in it -- it's still mostly empty air. Fill the air completely full of robots. The robots are called Foglets and the substance they form is Utility Fog, which may have many useful medical applications. And when a number of utility foglets hold hands with their neighbors, they form a reconfigurable array of 'smart matter.'" Copyright Dr. J. Storrs Hall Research Fellow of the Institute for Molecular Manufacturing.

See Nanotech Utility Fog, and On Certain Aspects of Utility Fog, & Utility Fog: The Stuff that Dreams Are Made Of, by J. Storrs Hall, and Polymorphic Smart Materials.

"Here's a short list of the powers you'd have or appear to have if embedded in fog: Creation--causing objects to appear and disappear on command. Levitation--causing objects to hover and fly around. Manipulation--causing forces (squeezing, hitting, pulling) on objects (real ones) at a distance. Teleportation--nearly any combination of telepresence and virtual reality between fog-filled locations." [Dr. J. Storrs Hall]

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Key to Abbreviations for Original Authors

 Blank - our definition
 AS - Anders Sandberg
 Bostrom - Dr. Nick Bostrom
 BNL - Brookhaven National Laboratory Center for Functional Nanomaterials
 CA-B - Christopher Anderson-Beatty
 CP - Chris Phoenix
 CMP - CMP Científica
 DCBE - Department of Chemical and Biochemical Engineering, Toyama University
 FR - Fractal Robots
 FS - Foresight Institute
 KED - K. Eric Drexler
 LBL - Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory
 MT - Materials Today
 NTN - NanoApex [formerly NanotechNews]
 RCM - Ralph C. Merkle
 Encyclopedia Nanotech - Steve Lenhert
 Wid - Widener University
 ZY - Zyvex
 (p) - paraphrased. Occasionally necessary for contextual purposes.
 [ed] - editor
 [uhf] - used here first. In other words, we coined it.
 .... - a paragraph has been condensed, and portions left off [while still attempting to maintain context].

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Other Future Sciences, Nanotech and Nanoscience glossary sites





Nanotechnology Part One: Taxonomy Codesta

Nanomedicine Book Glossary R A Freitas Jr.

JPK Instruments NanoBiotechnology Glossary (click NanoResources/Glossary)

Nanoword Steve Lenhert

Lextropicon: Extropian Neologisms Max More

Transhuman Terminology Anders Sandberg

Accelerating Future Lexicon Michael Anissimov

Terminology From The Omega Point Theory List

Orion's Arm Glossary M.Alan Kazlev, et al

Russian Society of Scanning Probe Microscopy and Nanotechnology.

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