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C-R-Nanotechnology Glossary

Assembler: A nano-robotic device controlled by an onboard computer that can use available chemicals to manufacture nanoscale products. It has been proposed that advanced designs could communicate, cooperate, and maneuver to build macroscale products. Assemblers are much more complex, and probably less efficient, than fabricators.

Autoproductivity: The ability of a system, under external control, to automatically produce an identical copy of itself.

Convergent assembly: A process of fastening small parts to obtain larger parts, then fastening those to make still larger parts, and so on; convergent assembly can be used to build a product from many, much smaller, components.

Diamondoid: Structures that resemble diamond in a broad sense, strong stiff structures containing dense, three dimensional networks of covalent bonds; diamondoid materials could be as much as 100 to 250 times as strong as titanium, and far lighter.

Fabricator: A small nano-robotic device that can use supplied chemicals to manufacture nanoscale products under external control. Fabricators could work together to build macroscale products by convergent assembly. Similar to assemblers, but less complex, easier to build, and probably more efficient.

Grey goo: The name given to free-range self-replicating miniature machines that could, in theory, run out of control and cause severe damage to the biosphere. The actual threat is generally overrated, as we explain here.

LMNT: An abbreviation for limited molecular nanotechnology; a narrowly specified type of MNT, using only diamondoid reactions; much easier to achieve than general MNT, but with nearly equivalent appeal and impact. 

MNT: An abbreviation for molecular nanotechnology; refers to the concept of building complicated machines out of precisely designed molecules. To avoid confusion between this and today's nanoscale technologies, CRN generally favors the term 'molecular manufacturing'.

Macroscale: Larger than nanoscale; often implies a design that humans can directly interact with; too large to be built by a single assembler (one cubic micron of diamond contains 176 billion atoms).

Mechanochemistry: Chemistry accomplished by mechanical systems directly controlling the reactant molecules; the formation or breaking of chemical bonds under direct mechanical control.  [See How does 'mechanochemistry' work?]

Micron: One millionth of a meter, or about 1/25,000 of an inch.

Millimeter: One thousandth of a meter, or about 1/26 of an inch.

Molecular manufacturing (MM): The building of complex structures by mechanochemical processes.

Molecular nanotechnology (MNT): The ability to construct shapes, devices, and machines with atomic precision, and to combine them into a wide range of products inexpensively.  [See Introduction to Nanotechnology]

Nanofactory: A self-contained macroscale manufacturing system, consisting of many molecular manufacturing systems feeding a convergent assembly system.

Nanomechanical: Being mechanical and very small; for example, a robot that can manipulate single molecules. 

Nanometer: One billionth of a meter; approximately the length of three to six atoms placed side-by-side, or the width of a single strand of DNA; the thickness of a human hair is between 50,000 and 100,000 nanometers.

Nanoscale: Significantly smaller than a micron; on the scale of large molecules; capable of interacting with molecules; capable of being built by a single assembler.

SNT: An abbreviation for structural nanotechnology; refers to integration of nanotech features into non-MNT products, also called nanomaterials.

Also see the Nanosystems Glossary.


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