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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 #7     YOU ARE HERE

Thirty Essential Nanotechnology Studies - #7

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 #7 What applicable sensing, manipulation, and fabrication tools exist?
  Development efforts will be aided by the ability to directly interact with the nanoscale, to manipulate nanoscale objects and to sense nanoscale structures. In particular, a combination of sensing and manipulation in the same platform will be very helpful.
Subquestion What nanometer or angstrom-level sensing modalities exist or can be developed for off-the-shelf use? In particular, can sub-wavelength nanometer-scale optical non-proximal video imaging be developed?
Preliminary answer Sensing at the nanoscale has been difficult, because traditional optics can't 'see' smaller than a few hundred nanometers. However, a variety of sub-wavelength technologies do exist. For example, two-part fluorescent systems can detect nanometer displacements. Electron microscopes can image down to angstrom levels. Scanning proximal near-field technologies can bypass the diffraction limit. Other scanning technologies can reach atomic resolution (AFM, STM, even MFM). Most interestingly, it appears that near-field effects can be extracted and detected, allowing parallel (video-like) 3D non-proximal imaging of nanometer-scale features. AngstroVision claims to have developed a system that can detect 12x12x4 nm at 1-3 frames per second. NASA has also published theoretical work leading to a sub-wavelength non-proximal imaging system using incoherent light.
Subquestion What manipulation technologies exist or can be developed for off-the-shelf use?
Preliminary answer For positioning: piezo-driven probes; optical tweezers. For gripping: antibodies; recent work on engineering RNA to grip arbitrary shape; perhaps EBD-fabricated tweezers.
Subquestion What combinations of sensing and manipulation can be integrated?
Preliminary answer Piezo probes have been placed inside a SEM and integrated with EBD in Denmark. AngstroVision claims their system will work in a shirtsleeve environment; possibly in conjunction with optical tweezers.
Subquestion What environments can be supported by the various techniques and combinations? High temperature, room temperature, low/cryogenic temperature? High vacuum? Solvated? Micro environments (e.g. droplets)?
Preliminary answer Detailed engineering studies are needed here.
Subquestion What nano-fabrication technologies exist or can be developed for off-the-shelf use? (Special attention should be given to technologies that produce rapid and low-cost results.)
Preliminary answer Direct-write lithography: laser, e-beam, dip-pen nanolithography (DPN). Gel deposition, possibly with glass precursor coating/baking for further miniaturization. 3D Inkjet? Chemistry plus self-assembly: a very large field with lots of possibilities. Nanotube welding. Electron beam deposition (EBD). Et cetera.
Subquestion What are compatible combinations of nano-fabrication and real-time sensing? What nano-fabrication technologies are well enough modeled for reliable CAD-to-product workflow?
Preliminary answer EBD and nanotube welding with SEM. Chemistry with fluorescence and maybe with non-proximal near-field imaging as described above. DPN with scanning tactile probe. Unknown what technologies are compatible with CAD-to-product; to some extent this depends on the required product characteristics. But note that a major DPN manufacturer is now selling text-writing software.
Subquestion What handling technologies exist for moving samples between environments and/or locations efficiently?
Preliminary answer Unknown.
Subquestion Which of these technologies is compatible with automation and/or high throughput?
Preliminary answer Unknown. Probably most are compatible with automation. Chemistry plus self-assembly is generally compatible with high throughput.
Conclusion Many relevant fabrication and sensing tools exist off-the-shelf. Single-nanometer optical open-air video imaging is a strong possibility. Chemistry and lithography (bottom-up and top-down) have already met in the middle.
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?
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?
What is the probable capability of the manufacturing system?
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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