12. Future Nanotechnology
12.a Molecular Manufacturing
Molecular nanotechnology (MNT) manufacturing can solve many of the world's current problems. For example, water shortage is a serious and growing problem. Most
water is used for industry and agriculture; both of these requirements would be greatly reduced by products made by molecular manufacturing. Computers and
display devices would become cheaper. MNT can provide cheap and advanced equipment for medical research and health care, making improved medicine widely available.
12.b Benefits of Molecular nanotechnology
- Cost-effictive greenhouses can save water, land, and food.
- Nanotech makes solar energy feasible.
- Homes can be greatly improved.
- Computers will be cheap enough for everyone.
- Nanotech can help the environment.
- Improved medicine can be widely available.
Cheap greenhouses can save water, land, and food
Moving agriculture into greenhouses can recover most of the water used, by dehumidifying the exhaust air and treating and re-using runoff. Additionally,
greenhouse agriculture requires less labor and far less land area than open-field agriculture, and provides greater independence from weather
conditions including seasonal variations and droughts. Greenhouses, with or without thermal insulation, would be extremely cheap to build with
nanotechnology. A large-scale move to greenhouse agriculture would reduce water use, land use, and weather-related food shortages.
Nanotech makes solar energy feasible
The main source of power today is the burning of carbon-containing fuels. This is generally inefficient, frequently non-renewable, and produces carbon dioxide and
other waste products into the atmosphere. Solar electricity generation depends on either photovoltaic conversion, or concentrating direct sunlight. Energy can
be stored efficiently for several days in relatively large flywheels built of thin diamond and weighted with water. Smaller energy storage systems can be
built with diamond springs, providing a power density similar to chemical fuel storage and much higher than today's batteries. Water electrolysis and
recombination provide scalable, storable, and transportable energy. There is cost associated with efficiency and complexity of technology to deal safely with
large-scale hydrogen storage or transportation.
Homes can be greatly improved
A person's living space has a significant effect on their quality of life. It is likely that high-tech gadgets like bacteria identifiers, insect killers, and
robots are made of nanotech, and used routinely in a household.
Computers will be cheap enough for everyone
Molecular manufacturing can make the computer fit in a pocket. Computers, PDAs, and cell phones can be cheap enough for everybody on earth to own.
Nanotech can help the environment
Nanotech, if used properly has the potential to decelerate environmental degradation. The factors that are causing environmental degradation include greenhouse gases,
de-forestation, excessive water use, and vehicular emissions. Since nanotech can produce several different materials by using simple abundantly available
material such as carbon and hydrogen, it is possible to significantly reduce mining operations. This will lead to soil conservation, and conservation of
energy. Manufacturing technologies that pollute can also be replaced with nanotech products, progressively. In general, improved technology allows
operations that pollute to be more compact and contained, and cheap manufacturing allows improvements to be deployed at lower costs. Improvements in
storage of solar energy with nanotech is likely to reduce ash, soot, hydrocarbon, and CO2 emissions.
Improved medicine can be widely available
Molecular nanotechnology will impact the practice of medicine in many ways. Medicine is highly complex, so it will take some time for the full benefits to be achieved,
but many benefits will occur almost immediately. The tools of medicine will become cheaper and more powerful. Research and diagnosis will be far more
efficient, allowing rapid response to new diseases, including engineered diseases. Small, cheap, numerous sensors, computers, and other implantable
devices may allow continuous health monitoring and semi-automated treatment. Several new kinds of treatment will become possible. As the practice of medicine
becomes cheaper and less uncertain, it can become available to more people.
12.c Molecular Manufacturing - The dis-advantage:
Molecular nanotechnology is a breakthrough technology that can potentially disrupt many aspects of today's life. Weapons and surveillance devices could be made small, cheap, powerful, and very numerous.
Cheap manufacturing and duplication of designs could lead to economic upheaval. Overuse of inexpensive products could cause widespread environmental damage.
Small nanofactories will be very easy to smuggle, and could become dangerous.
Risks are listed as follows:
- Economic disruption from an abundance of cheap products
- Risk from misuse by criminals
- Social disruption from new products/lifestyles
- Unstable arms race among countries
- Environmental damage from unregulated products
- Less time to react to a malicious virus that is produced due to un-intentiionally or intentionally.
Some of the dangers may threaten the continued existence of humankind. Others could produce significant disruption but not cause our extinction.
It's a proposed new appliance, something that might sit in a home. To build a nanofactory, start with a working fabricator, a nanoscale
device that can combine individual molecules into useful shapes. A fabricator could build a very small nanofactory, which then could build another one twice
as big, and so on.
Products made by a nanofactory will be assembled from nanoblocks, which will be fabricated within the nanofactory. Computer aided design (CAD) programs
will make it possible to create state-of-the-art products simply by specifying a pattern of predesigned nanoblocks.
Nanofactories can produce
- Robots that can perform surgeries with minimum incision.
- Weapons of mass destruction
- Miniature products that could be used for surveillance
- Miniature armaments, and more.