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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 #11     YOU ARE HERE

Thirty Essential Nanotechnology Studies - #11

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 #11 How rapidly will the cost of development decrease?
  How long will it be before development of molecular manufacturing becomes attractive to large corporations? How long before it can be done in a garage or a developing nation? How long before it falls off the radar of any reasonable detection effort? It is crucial that we learn the answers to these questions.
Subquestion How rapidly is the cost of computer time falling? How much additional advantage could be gained by innovative computation (distributed computing, special-purpose logic, etc.)?
Preliminary answer In general, computer costs fall according to Moore's Law. Additionally, new ways of using existing resources such as distributed computing (SETI@Home) and massive clusters of cheap computers (Google) may reduce the cost for big projects. Special-purpose hardware may improve price/performance by multiple orders of magnitude.
Subquestion What software is being developed (commercial as well as Open Source) for physics simulation, chemical simulation, and CAD?
Preliminary answer Lots.
Subquestion How quickly are sub-nanometer or even sub-angstrom sensing and manipulation technologies becoming cheap, simple, readily available, and well understood?
Preliminary answer A group in Russia has developed an SPM with angstrom resolution that sells for US$30,000. SPMs have been available for over a decade and are not hard to use. New tools are generally computer-controlled, making it possible to design intuitive interfaces. The Russian system deserves special attention because it combines several capabilities that appear targeted at atomically precise mechanosynthesis: gas flow-through (for deposition); STM (for imaging and surface modification); and equipment for rapid sample changing.
Subquestion How rapidly is the cost of top-down nanofabrication falling, the resolution shrinking, and the lag time decreasing?
Preliminary answer We need more numbers on cost. Resolution is down to ~50 nm or better for optical litho, ~20 nm for e-beam and two-photon polymerization, ~15 nm for DPN. Some litho technologies have lag time of hours.
Subquestion Can the increasing size, functionality, and programmability of molecules be plotted or projected? (E.g. dendrimers, precise polymers, nucleic acids)
Preliminary answer Good question. Metrics can be developed for assessing recent trends.
Subquestion How rapidly are these techniques and capabilities filtering down to postdocs and other readily available workers?
Preliminary answer Our impression is that postdocs can easily learn these technologies.
Subquestion How rapidly is the cost of mechanical design, including CAD software, decreasing?
Preliminary answer To some extent, this depends on computer power. To some extent, on writing new software, which will probably remain the same—but probably won't be a significant expense. To some extent, on creativity, which is very hard to quantify. But it should be noted how much has been accomplished by just a few unfunded researchers over the past decade.
Conclusion Computer and lab resources are becoming rapidly less expensive. The speed will surprise anyone not familiar with the computer industry. Although it's hard to quantify, our current estimate (based also on tracking previous difficulty estimates) is that the cost will decrease exponentially more or less like the cost of computers: falling by half every two years or so.
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?
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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