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  1. Atomic force microscope
  2. Atomic nanoscope
  3. Atom probe
  4. Ballistic conduction
  5. Bingel reaction
  6. Biomimetic
  7. Bio-nano generator
  8. Bionanotechnology
  9. Break junction
  10. Brownian motor
  11. Bulk micromachining
  12. Cantilever
  13. Carbon nanotube
  14. Carbyne
  15. CeNTech
  16. Chemical Compound Microarray
  17. Cluster
  18. Colloid
  19. Comb drive
  20. Computronium
  21. Coulomb blockade
  22. Diamondoids
  23. Dielectrophoresis
  24. Dip Pen Nanolithography
  25. DNA machine
  26. Ecophagy
  27. Electrochemical scanning tunneling microscope
  28. Electron beam lithography
  29. Electrospinning
  30. Engines of Creation
  31. Exponential assembly
  32. Femtotechnology
  33. Fermi point
  34. Fluctuation dissipation theorem
  35. Fluorescence interference contrast microscopy
  36. Fullerene
  37. Fungimol
  38. Gas cluster ion beam
  39. Grey goo
  40. Hacking Matter
  41. History of nanotechnology
  42. Hydrogen microsensor
  43. Inorganic nanotube
  44. Ion-beam sculpting
  45. Kelvin probe force microscope
  46. Lab-on-a-chip
  47. Langmuir-Blodgett film
  48. LifeChips
  49. List of nanoengineering topics
  50. List of nanotechnology applications
  51. List of nanotechnology topics
  52. Lotus effect
  53. Magnetic force microscope
  54. Magnetic resonance force microscopy
  55. Mechanochemistry
  56. Mechanosynthesis
  57. MEMS thermal actuator
  58. Mesotechnology
  59. Micro Contact Printing
  60. Microelectromechanical systems
  61. Microfluidics
  62. Micromachinery
  63. Molecular assembler
  64. Molecular engineering
  65. Molecular logic gate
  66. Molecular manufacturing
  67. Molecular motors
  68. Molecular recognition
  69. Molecule
  70. Nano-abacus
  71. Nanoart
  72. Nanobiotechnology
  73. Nanocar
  74. Nanochemistry
  75. Nanocomputer
  76. Nanocrystal
  77. Nanocrystalline silicon
  78. Nanocrystal solar cell
  79. Nanoelectrochemistry
  80. Nanoelectrode
  81. Nanoelectromechanical systems
  82. Nanoelectronics
  83. Nano-emissive display
  84. Nanoengineering
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  86. Nanofactory
  87. Nanoimprint lithography
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  91. Nanomaterial based catalyst
  92. Nanomedicine
  93. Nanomorph
  94. Nanomotor
  95. Nano-optics
  96. Nanoparticle
  97. Nanoparticle tracking analysis
  98. Nanophotonics
  99. Nanopore
  100. Nanoprobe
  101. Nanoring
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  103. Nanorod
  104. Nanoscale
  105. Nano-Science Center
  106. Nanosensor
  107. Nanoshell
  108. Nanosight
  109. Nanosocialism
  110. Nanostructure
  111. Nanotechnology
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  113. Nanotechnology in fiction
  114. Nanotoxicity
  115. Nanotube
  116. Nanovid microscopy
  117. Nanowire
  118. National Nanotechnology Initiative
  119. Neowater
  120. Niemeyer-Dolan technique
  121. Ormosil
  122. Photolithography
  123. Picotechnology
  124. Programmable matter
  125. Quantum dot
  126. Quantum heterostructure
  127. Quantum point contact
  128. Quantum solvent
  129. Quantum well
  130. Quantum wire
  131. Richard Feynman
  132. Royal Society's nanotech report
  133. Scanning gate microscopy
  134. Scanning probe lithography
  135. Scanning probe microscopy
  136. Scanning tunneling microscope
  137. Scanning voltage microscopy
  138. Self-assembled monolayer
  139. Self-assembly
  140. Self reconfigurable
  141. Self-Reconfiguring Modular Robotics
  142. Self-replication
  143. Smart dust
  144. Smart material
  145. Soft lithography
  146. Spent nuclear fuel
  147. Spin polarized scanning tunneling microscopy
  148. Stone Wales defect
  149. Supramolecular assembly
  150. Supramolecular chemistry
  151. Supramolecular electronics
  152. Surface micromachining
  153. Surface plasmon resonance
  154. Synthetic molecular motors
  155. Synthetic setae
  156. Tapping AFM
  157. There's Plenty of Room at the Bottom
  158. Transfersome
  159. Utility fog


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Molecular assembler

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia


A molecular assembler has been defined as a machine of atomically precise construction capable of assembling molecular moieties according to specific instructions to construct a desired product. Some biological molecules such as ribosomes fit this definition, since while working within a cell's environment, it receives instructions from mRNA and then assembles specific sequences of amino acids to construct protein molecules. However, the term "molecular assembler" usually refers to theoretical man-made or synthetic devices. They are thought to be highly desirable since they have been theorized to manufacture products with absolute precision and thus without any pollution. However, others have warned that the such a powerful technology might get out of control and begin to compete with natural forms of life on earth.

Since synthetic assemblers have never been constructed a lot of controversy exists as to whether they are possible or simply science fiction. Confusion and controversy has also stemmed from their classification as nanotechnology, which is a broadly defined terminology. Nanotechnology is an active area of research which has already been applied to the production of real products; however there are currently no research efforts into the actual construction of "molecular assemblers". A primary criticism of the computational research into "molecular assemblers" is that the structures investigated are thought to be impossible to synthesize.

Production through self replication

The nanoscale size of a "molecular assembler" requires an extremely large number of such devices in order to produce a practical quantity of a desired product. However, if one were able to construct a single "molecular assembler" then it might be programmed to self-replicate, constructing many copies of itself, allowing an exponential rate of production. Then after sufficient quantities of the molecular assemblers were available, they would then be re-programmed for production of the desired product. However, if self-replication of "molecular assemblers" were not restrained then it might lead to competition with naturally occurring organisms.

Drexler and Smalley debate

A major influence in the discussion of “molecular assemblers” is K. Eric Drexler founder of the Foresight Institute, who has advocated the position that the introduction of “molecular assemblers” would transform the world in his book "Engines of Creation: The Coming Era of Nanotechnology," He believes that they would be capable of building anything allowed by the laws that govern the universe with absolute precision and thus without any pollution. He has also stressed that there are great potential dangers from such technology, such as the destruction of life on earth. He asserts that such general assemblers are inevitable and that we need to develop protocols to ensure that their implementation remains benevolent.

Since artificial “molecular assemblers” remain strictly theoretical Drexler’s position is quite controversial. One of the most outspoken critics of Drexler’s futuristic vision of “molecular assemblers” is Professor Richard Smalley who won the Nobel prize for his contributions to the field of nanotechnology. Smalley believes that such assemblers are not physically possible and introduced scientific objections to them. One of his main objections he has termed the “fat fingers problem" and the "sticky fingers problem” that he believes excludes the possibility of precision picking and placing of individual atoms. He also believes that Drexler’s speculations about apocalyptic dangers of “molecular assemblers” threaten the public support for development of nanotechnology.

To address the debate between Drexler and Smalley regarding “molecular assemblers” Chemical & Engineering News published a point-counterpoint consisting of an exchange of letters that addressed the issues.[1]

Influence on the regulation of nanotechnology

Speculation on the power of artificial “molecular assemblers” has sparked a wider political discussion on the implication of nanotechnology. This is in part due to the fact that nanotechnology is a very broad term and could include “molecular assemblers.” Discussion of the possible implications of fantastic “molecular assemblers” has prompted calls for regulation of current and future nanotechnology. There are very real concerns with the potential health and ecological impact of nanotechnology that is being integrated in manufactured products. Greenpeace for instance commissioned a report concerning nanotechnology in which they express concern into the toxicity of nanomaterials that have been introduced in the environment.[2] However, it makes only passing references to “assembler” technology. The UK Royal Society and UK Royal Academy of Engineering also commissioned a report entitled “Nanoscience and nanotechnologies: opportunities and uncertainties”[3] regarding the larger social and ecological implications on nanotechnology. This report does not discuss the threat posed by potential “molecular assemblers.”

Grey Goo controversy

Speculation about the potential dangers of artificial “molecular assemblers” has led some to envision apocalyptic scenarios. Drexler of the Foresight Institute and others state that artificially created molecular assemblers could represent a competitive threat to all natural life. One scenario suggested danger to life could arise in the form of grey goo which consumes carbon to make more of itself. If unchecked such mechanical replication could potentially consume whole ecoregions or the whole Earth (ecophagy), or it could simply outcompete other natural lifeforms for necessary resources such as carbon, ATP, or UV light (which some nanomotor examples run on). It is worth noting that the 'grey goo' scenario like synthetic molecular assemblers are only based upon speculation.

See also

  • Bioethics
  • Biosafety
  • Biosecurity
  • Biotechnology
  • Biohazard response
  • Ecocide
  • Ecophagy
  • Grey goo
  • Nanofactory
  • Nanosocialism
  • Nanotechnology
  • Santa Claus machine
  • Technological singularity

In fiction

Molecular assemblers are a popular topic in science fiction. See e.g. the matter compiler in The Diamond Age. The replicator in Star Trek might also be considered a molecular assembler. A molecular assembler is also a key element of the plot of the computer game Deus Ex (called a "universal constructor" in the game).

External links

  • Nano-Hive: Nanospace Simulator free software for modeling nanotech entities
  • Foresight Institute proposes guidelines for responsible development of molecular manufacturing technologies
  • Center for Responsible Nanotechnology
  • Molecular Assembler website
  • Rage Against the (Green) Machine article originally in Wired
  • Biosafety discussion on assembler risk
  • Government launches nano study UK EducationGuardian, 11 June 2003
  • Disinfopedia: dangerous technology
  • Disinfopedia: pro-technology propaganda
  • "Unraveling the Big Debate over Small Machines"
  • Paper on assembly
  • Kinematic Self-Replicating Machines ( online technical book: first comprehensive survey of molecular assemblers (2004) by Robert Freitas and Ralph Merkle
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