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Current Results of Our Research

These pages, marked with GREEN headings, are published for comment and criticism. These are not our final findings; some of these opinions will probably change.   LOG OF UPDATES 

CRN Research: Overview of Current Findings   

bulletTimeline for Molecular Manufacturing   
bulletProducts of Molecular Manufacturing
bulletBenefits of Molecular Manufacturing
bulletDangers of Molecular Manufacturing  
bulletNo Simple Solutions
bulletAdministration Options
bulletThe Need for Early Development
bulletThe Need for International Development
bulletThirty Essential Nanotechnology Studies
bulletStudy #13     YOU ARE HERE

Thirty Essential Nanotechnology Studies - #13

Overview of all studies: Because of the largely unexpected transformational power of molecular manufacturing, it is urgent to understand the issues raised. To date, there has not been anything approaching an adequate study of these issues. CRN's recommended series of thirty essential studies is organized into five sections, covering fundamental theory, possible technological capabilities, bootstrapping potential, product capabilities, and policy questions. Several preliminary conclusions are stated, and because our understanding points to a crisis, a parallel process of conducting the studies is urged. 

CRN is actively looking for researchers interested in performing or assisting with this work. Please contact CRN Research Director Chris Phoenix if you would like more information or if you have comments on the proposed studies.

Study #13 What is the probable capability of the manufacturing system?
  How much product per hour? How many features per hour? How much input, and what kind? How much waste? These questions will be answered for diamondoid systems based on the Phoenix nanofactory design.
Subquestion Does the system require human supervision or intervention while operating?
Preliminary answer No. The (calculated) extremely high reliability of mechanosynthesis should allow completely autonomous operation; see Drexler, Nanosystems. Convergent assembly can use very simple robotics. With a reasonably low error rate in each fabrication unit permitting a reasonably low degree of unit-level redundancy, the nanofactory can take units offline permanently at any failure, and so would not need repair.
Subquestion How many features per second (complexity) will the system produce?
Preliminary answer Each fabrication unit might produce 1,000 to 10,000 features per second: 10 to 100 atoms per feature, 100,000 atoms placed per unit per second. A less primitive design might place a million or more atoms per second. Each unit would be independently addressable with any of several thousand or million program streams. Basically, the product complexity is limited by the information that can be downloaded into the factory over a fast network in the few-hour fabrication time. This could easily amount to several terabytes—far more complexity than would be needed for most products. (For comparison, human DNA is several gigabytes.)
Subquestion What error rate will be built into the product components?
Preliminary answer With primitive mechanochemical hardware, fewer than 1 in 108 atoms should be out of place. Better designs should be able to achieve 1 in 1015. At this point, damage from environmental radiation becomes a bigger concern.
Subquestion How many grams per hour will the system produce?
Preliminary answer A small-scale manufacturing system with no redundancy and external computer control might fabricate its mass in several hours. Scaled to tabletop size, it could take the better part of a day, but might be much quicker with more advanced designs. A single box massing a few kg could produce ~1 kg/hr in the reference design.
Subquestion What raw materials will the system require?
Preliminary answer Some small carbon-rich molecule, not yet specified.
Subquestion What waste will it produce?
Preliminary answer Not yet specified. Ideally it would produce harmless or useful molecules such as water and hydrocarbons. The reference design also uses ~250 kWh/kg energy.
Conclusion The reference design would be easy and cheap to use, producing its mass in probably less than a day. Its products could be quite complex—limited by design capabilities rather than limitations inherent in the nanofactory architecture.
Other studies 1. Is mechanically guided chemistry a viable basis for a manufacturing technology?
2. To what extent is molecular manufacturing counterintuitive and underappreciated in a way that causes underestimation of its importance?
What is the performance and potential of diamondoid machine-phase chemical manufacturing and products?
4. What is the performance and potential of biological programmable manufacturing and products?
5. What is the performance and potential of nucleic acid manufacturing and products?
6. What other chemistries and options should be studied?
What applicable sensing, manipulation, and fabrication tools exist?
8. What will be required to develop diamondoid machine-phase chemical manufacturing and products?
9. What will be required to develop biological programmable manufacturing and products?
10. What will be required to develop nucleic acid manufacturing and products?
11. How rapidly will the cost of development decrease?
12. How could an effective development program be structured?
14. How capable will the products be?
15. What will the products cost?
16. How rapidly could products be designed?
Which of today's products will the system make more accessible or cheaper?
18. What new products will the system make accessible?
19. What impact will the system have on production and distribution?
20. What effect will molecular manufacturing have on military and government capability and planning, considering the implications of arms races and unbalanced development?
21. What effect will this have on macro- and microeconomics?
22. How can proliferation and use of nanofactories and their products be limited?
23. What effect will this have on policing?
24. What beneficial or desirable effects could this have?
25. What effect could this have on civil rights and liberties?
26. What are the disaster/disruption scenarios?
27. What effect could this have on geopolitics?
28. What policies toward development of molecular manufacturing does all this suggest?
29. What policies toward administration of molecular manufacturing does all this suggest?
30. How can appropriate policy be made and implemented?
Studies should begin immediately. The situation is extremely urgent. The stakes are unprecedented, and the world is unprepared. The basic findings of these studies should be verified as rapidly as possible (months, not years). Policy preparation and planning for implementation, likely including a crash development program, should begin immediately.

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