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NanoTechnology, NanoBots, and Computer Manufacturing

January 24, 2012 Leave a comment Go to comments


In the early 1990’s, BASF televised a series of commercials touting their ability to make products stronger, brighter, better. [BASF Commercial on YouTube] BASF claimed this was made possible due to BASF chemical engineering. It turns out this was only partly accurate. In fact, BASF accomplished these feats by ahead-of-their-time product engineering incorporating early implementations of consumer product nanotechnology.

Nanotechnology provides for functional capability in the realm of atoms and contributes intrinsically to the strength, durability, and functional characteristics of molecular structures.

To understand the world of nanotechnology one has to come to an understanding of the units of measurement involved. One centimeter is one-hundredth of a meter, a millimeter is one-thousands of a meter and a micrometer is one millionth of a meter. As small as some of these measurements may seem, they are huge when compared to the nanoscale. A nanometer (nm) is one billionth of a meter which is even smaller than the wavelength of visible light and a hundred-thousandth the width of a human hair.

Wikipedia says this regarding nanotechnology: “Nanotechnology (sometimes shortened to  “nanotech”) is the study of manipulating matter on an atomic and molecular scale. Generally, nanotechnology deals with developing materials, devices, or other structures possessing at least one dimension sized from 1 to 100 nanometers. Quantum mechanical effects are important at this quantum-realm scale.

Nanotechnology is very diverse, ranging from extensions of conventional device physics to completely new approaches based upon molecular self-assembly, from developing new materials with dimensions on the nanoscale to investigating whether we can directly control matter on the atomic scale. Nanotechnology entails the application of fields of science as diverse as surface science, organic chemistry, molecular biology, semiconductor physics, microfabrication, etc.

There is much debate on the future implications of nanotechnology. Nanotechnology may be able to create many new materials and devices with a vast range of applications, such as in medicine, electronics, biomaterials and energy production. On the other hand, nanotechnology raises many of the same issues as any new technology, including concerns about the toxicity and environmental impact of nanomaterials, and their potential effects on global economics, as well as speculation about various doomsday scenarios. These concerns have led to a debate among advocacy groups and governments on whether special regulation of nanotechnology is warranted.”

It appears the field of nanotechnology promises to deliver as much for future product development excitement as it does for concerns about its possibilities and uses.

Graphene

Graphene is an allotrope of carbon, whose structure is exactly one-atom-thick planar sheets of bonded carbon atoms that are densely packed in a honeycomb crystal lattice. Graphene is most easily visualized as an atomic-scale chicken wire made of carbon atoms.

What graphene nanotechnology can do is that it can replace the silicon transistors which are now in your computer with transistors which are based on nanotubes. It has been discovered that carbon nanotubes can be used to produce smaller and faster components. The idea is that if the silicon in the channel is exchanged with a carbon nanotube then the transistors can be made smaller and faster. By its very nature, graphene contributes a perfect foundational structure for the construction of these nanotubes.

Most recently, nano-physicists in Copenhagen, Denmark have made a discovery which can change the way data is stored on computers. Using graphene slices as “nanotubes”, they have discovered that by placing nanotubes between magnetic electrodes the direction of a single electron spin caught on the nanotube can be controlled by an electric potential. Called “Spintronics”, this new development has already been hailed as the breakthrough sought to re-define the manner with which information is stored, manipulated, and retrieved in future computing devices.

This new discovery will make it possible to combine electricity and magnetism in a new transistor concept. In their experiments the nano-physicists use carbon nanotubes as transistors. This new nanoscale structure will speed up computers, exponentially.

Perhaps the most thrilling future possibility nanotechnology is the creation of the nanobot, a still-hypothetical molecular robot. These nanobots have several key properties. First, they can reproduce themselves. If they can reproduce once, then they can, in principle, create an unlimited number of copies of themselves; it will simply take creating the first. Second, they are capable of identifying molecules and cutting them up at precise points. Third, by following a master code, they are capable of reassembling these atoms into different arrangements. Once constructed, nanobots will provide a means for true automation of manufacturing processes. What will begin with the fabrication and manipulation of molecules will evolve into the replication of larger and larger organic and non-organic systems. Ultimately, nanobots will become the basis of most, if not all, product (including computing devices) manufacturing.

Nanobots do not exist now, and will not until sometime in the future, but once the first nanobot is successfully produced, it will most certainly and fundamentally alter society as we know it.

Whether the impact to society is minimal or substantial, there is no question that nanobot technology will completely transform all types of manufacturing including the manner in which computing devices are designed and built.

Moore’s Law

Moore’s law describes a long-term trend in the history of computing hardware. Simply stated, Moore’s Law asserts that the number of transistors that can be placed inexpensively on an integrated circuit doubles approximately every two years. The capabilities of many digital electronic devices are strongly linked to Moore’s law: processing speed, memory capacity, sensors and even the number and size of pixels in digital cameras. An inexplicable effect of the law is that all of these are improving at (roughly) exponential rates as well.This exponential improvement has dramatically enhanced the impact of digital electronics in nearly every segment of the world economy. Accordingly, Moore’s law describes a driving force of technological and social change at play in the global economy in the late 20th and early 21st centuries. Though there are those who see the effect of Moore’s Law as having negative consequences for various segments of the world’s environment, the positive effects of the technological, medical, and social engineering breakthroughs resulting from these advancements are legendary.But, we are closing in on the end of this technological watershed. The engineering sciences are in complete agreement: by the year 2020 (some predict as early as 2015), digital manufacturing will reach the point at which further miniaturization of transistors on integrated circuits becomes impossible. Capacity will be reached and exceeded.

Nanotechnology to the rescue! As renowned physicist Richard Feynman suggested in a speech he gave way back in 1959, “there’s plenty of room at the bottom”. Nanotechnology engineering experiments occurring today will take miniaturization to a scale thousands of times smaller than what is currently possible.As the invention of the transistor ushered in our current digital age, nanotechnology will bring about dramatic and far-reaching changes – changes to our technology, our products, and to the way we live.
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