Nanofactory

From Academic Kids

A nanofactory is a proposed system in which hypothetical nanomachines (resembling molecular assemblers, or industrial robot arms) combine reactive molecules via mechanosynthesis to build larger atomically precise parts. These, in turn, are assembled by positioning mechanisms of assorted sizes to build macroscopic (visible) but still atomically-precise products.

A typical nanofactory would fit in a desktop box, in the vision of K. Eric Drexler published in Nanosystems: Molecular Machinery, Manufacturing and Computation (1992), a notable work of exploratory engineering. In 2004, a visual image (http://www.foresight.org/NanoRev/nanofactory.html) of this concept was created by John Burch (http://www.lizardfire.com), a professional artist. During the 1990s, others extended the nanofactory concept, including an analysis of nanofactory convergent assembly by Ralph Merkle, a systems design of a replicating nanofactory architecture by J. Storrs Hall, Forrest Bishop's "Universal Assembler", the patented exponential assembly process by Zyvex, and a top-level systems design (http://www.jetpress.org/volume13/Nanofactory.htm) for a 'primitive nanofactory' by Chris Phoenix (Director of Research at the Center for Responsible Nanotechnology (http://crnano.org)). Such visions have been the subject of much debate, on several intellectual levels. No one has discovered an insurmountable problem with the underlying theories and no one has proved that the theories can be translated into practice. The debate continues, with some of it being summarized in the Molecular nanotechnology article.

If nanofactories can be built, severe disruption to the world economy is one of many possible negative impacts (http://crnano.org/dangers.htm). Great benefits (http://crnano.org/benefits.htm) are also anticipated. Various works of science fiction have explored these and similar concepts. The potential for such devices was part of the mandate of a major UK study led by mechanical engineering professor Ann Dowling. The report is complete. (http://www.nanotec.org.uk/)

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