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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 #15     YOU ARE HERE

Thirty Essential Nanotechnology Studies - #15

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 #15 What will the products cost?
  How many dollars per feature? Per kilogram? These questions will be answered for products of diamondoid systems based on the Phoenix nanofactory design. (Note: If the system can duplicate itself completely, the cost may drop by orders of magnitude.)
Subquestion How much will environmental maintenance cost? Labor? Raw materials? Energy? Waste disposal?
Preliminary answer The personal nanofactory is designed to operate in a shirtsleeve environment, with access to less than a megawatt of energy and comparable cooling capacity. Labor is negligible. Raw materials are likely to be cheap chemicals, though purification may add somewhat to the cost. (Some filtration/molecular sorting is inherent in the chemical uptake mechanism.) Energy (in a very primitive, inefficient design, the Phoenix nanofactory) is perhaps $20/kg at today's rates (note that one early product of the nanofactory system could be very cheap solar cells). The waste should be highly pure, small organic molecules, at the worst requiring incineration.
Subquestion How much will post-processing cost?
Preliminary answer Nothing.
Subquestion How much will product design cost?
Preliminary answer This depends largely on the functionality of the product. As a first estimate, the cost of most products will be dominated by the cost of software engineering to implement the product's functions.
Subquestion How much will the non-autoproduced components of the system cost (amortized)?
Preliminary answer All components can be autoproduced.
Subquestion How much will the autoproduced components of the system cost (amortized)?
Preliminary answer Nanofactories will probably be limited by policy rather than utility, so the degree of use can't be estimated. But they should be good for at least several trillion US$ worth of product per year, and the development cost probably won't go above $20 billion (and could be much less), so development cost should contribute pennies on the dollar of value.
Subquestion What will be the total product cost, per feature and per kilogram?
Preliminary answer A primitive design may cost $10-100 per kg, based on costs for energy (as estimated in Phoenix nanofactory paper) and highly pure chemicals. However, the Phoenix design is deliberately crude: a lower bound, not a best-guess estimate. With the use of more efficient mill-type mechanosynthesis, and the use of nano-constructed filters/purifiers, cost may drop to pennies per kg.
  Per feature: Since fabrication is automated and bottom-up, details don't cost any extra. One kg of product can include 1020 features; cost per feature is negligible. Note that the superior material properties of diamond should allow products to be orders of magnitude lighter than metal, plastic, or even carbon-fiber versions; most large human-scale products will be inflatable and will require tiny fractions of a gram per cubic centimeter to maintain their shape.
Conclusion Product cost will be highly competitive with current high-tech products: not just semiconductors, but entire telephones, computer monitors, and aerospace hardware. Present calculations indicate it will even be competitive with cheap materials in structural applications ($/strength though perhaps not $/mass).
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?
What is the probable capability of the manufacturing system?
14. How capable will the products be?
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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