Molecular Machine Breakthrough: Solid State Synthetic Molecular Machine

In a major breakthrough for the field of molecular machines, Canadian chemists have created a self-assembling metallo-organic molecular wheel and axle. This is the first time scientists have proved that interlocked molecules can function inside solid materials. The lead author, a graduate student, said:

“Until now, this has only ever been done in solution,” explained Chemistry & Biochemistry PhD student Nick Vukotic, lead author on a front page article recently published in the June issue of the journal Nature Chemistry [abstract]. “We’re the first ones to put this into a solid state material.”

A molecular wheel and axle in a solid state material is proof of concept for simple solid state molecular machines. A wheel can in principle be developed into more sophisticated solid state molecular machines, such as power-transfer rods and other kinetic frameworks or elements in a solid state molecular computer. The predictability of the solid state environment relative to the environment of a solution is crucial for developing predictable molecular machine systems, and makes it easier to apply certain general principles …

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The Mundanity of Physical Enhancement

Although physical enhancement is what most people associate with transhumanism, it’s not particularly interesting. A man with tentacles and wings who can fly and breathe underwater is still just some dude. Humans are primitive beings, with conspicuously primitive minds — we just recently evolved from un-intelligent apes that used the same stone tools for millions of years.

Everything truly exciting about the transhumanist project lies in the mental realm. Only through opening up and intervening in the brain can we really change ourselves and the way the world works. Anything else is just the surface.

What approaches can we take to cognitive enhancement?

First, take brain surgery. It is extremely unlikely that cognitive enhancement will be conducted through conventional brain surgery as is practiced today. These procedures are inherently risky and only conducted under necessary circumstances, when the challenges of surgery outweigh the huge cost, substantial risk, and long recovery time of the procedures.

More subtle than brain surgery is optogenetics, regarded by some as the scientific breakthrough of the last …

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Foresight @ Google: 25th Anniversary & Reunion Weekend

Interested in emerging technologies? Fascinated by the potential in transformative nanotech? Come explore the future with…

FORESIGHT@GOOGLE 25th Anniversary Conference Celebration and Reunion Weekend Google HQ in Mountain View, CA June 25-26 2011

A rockstar lineup includes keynotes:

• JIM VON EHR – Founder/President of Zyvex, the world’s first successful molecular nanotech company • BARNEY PELL, PhD – Cofounder/CTO of Moon Express, competing for Google’s Lunar X PRIZE

With speakers and panelists including: • WILLIAM ANDREGG – Founder/CEO of Halcyon Molecular • MIKE GARNER, PhD – Chair of ITRS Emerging Research Materials • MIKE NELSON – CTO of NanoInk • LUKE NOSEK – CoFounder of Paypal, Founders Fund Partner • PAUL SAFFO, PhD – Wired, NYT-published strategist & forecaster • SIR FRASER STODDART, PhD – Knighted for creation of molecular “switches” and a new field of nanochemistry • THOMAS THEIS, PhD – IBM’s Director of Physical Sciences

For the full speaker roster, as well as information on our exclusive 25th Anniversary Banquet, see our conference website:

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Philip Moriarty Discusses Mechanosynthesis with Sander Olson

From Next Big Future:

University of Nottingham physicist Philip Moriarty is one of the few scientists who has been able to do extensive research into molecular mechanosynthesis. In 2004 Moriarty engaged in a debate with Chris Phoenix over the feasibility of molecular manufacturing. In 2008 Moriarty received a grant from the British Government to examine the viability of mechanosynthesis. In this Next Big Future interview with Sander Olson, Moriarty discusses the progress that has been made during the past decade, the challenges of working with diamond, and the prospects for building components out of silicon and diamond.

Question: You began the project for experimental work on molecular mechanosynthesis about five years ago. How is the project going?

Answer: The mechanosynthesis project has actually only been running for about 2.5 years now and the initial goal was to explore the possibility of atom-by-atom assembly on diamond surfaces , i.e. to test the viability of Drexler’s original vision of making components out of diamond. But as Drexler …

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Cyborgs Could Be Ten Thousand Times Stronger Than Humans

I’m still slowly going through Rob Freitas’ book chapter in the Future of Aging volume, there’s an interesting part where he lists the immense benefits of nanomedical robots. Since I am especially interested in materials science I thought this part on materials was interesting:

Superior Materials. Typical biological materials have tensile failure strengths in the 106-107 N/m2 range, with the strongest biological materials such as wet compact bone having a failure strength of ~108 N/m2, all of which compare poorly to ~109 N/m2 for good steel, ~1010 N/m2 for sapphire, and ~1011 N/m2 for diamond and carbon fullerenes (Freitas 1999aa), again showing a 103-105 fold strength advantage for mechanical systems that use nonbiological, and especially diamondoid, materials. Nonbiological materials can be much stiffer, permitting the application of higher forces with greater precision of movement, and they also tend to remain more stable over a larger range of relevant conditions including temperature, pressure, salinity and pH. Proteins are heat sensitive in part because much of the functionality of their structure …

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What Would it Cost to Develop a Nanofactory?

Here is Freitas’ latest estimate, from his “comprehensive nanorobotic control” article:

What will it cost to develop a nanofactory? Let’s assume research funds are spent in a completely focused manner toward the goal of a primitive diamondoid nanofactory that could assemble rigid diamondoid structures involving carbon, hydrogen, and perhaps a few other elements. In this case, we estimate that an ideal research effort paced to make optimum use of available computational, experimental, and human resources would probably run at a $1$ M/yr level for the first 5 years of the program, ramp up to $20-50 M/yr for the next 6 years, then finish off at a ~$100 M/yr rate culminating in a simple working desktop nanofactory appliance in year 16 of a ~$900 M effort. Of course the bulk of this work, after the initial 5 year period, would be performed by people, companies, and university groups recruited from outside the Nanofactory Collaboration. The key early milestone is to demonstrate positionally-controlled carbon placement on a diamond surface by the end of the initial 5 year …

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Comprehensive Nanorobotic Control of Human Morbidity and Aging

Robert Freitas’ book chapter for The Future of Aging compilation is now online. It looks very interesting. Freitas always produces fantastic work, that’s one of the reasons Kurzweil constantly cites him. Here’s the abstract:

Nanotechnology involves the engineering of molecularly precise structures and molecular machines, and nanomedicine is the application of nanotechnology to medicine, including the development of medical nanorobotics. Theoretical designs for diamondoid nanomachinery such as bearings, gears, motors, pumps, sensors, manipulators and even molecular computers already exist. Technologies required for the molecularly precise fabrication of diamondoid mechanical components and medical nanorobots, along with feasible strategies for the mass production of these devices, are the focus of active current research. This chapter describes a comprehensive solution to human morbidity and aging which will be attained when mankind has established control over all critical molecular events in the human body through the use of medical nanorobotics. Medical nanorobots can provide targeted treatments to individual organs, tissues, cells and even intracellular components, and can intervene in biological …

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Zyvex Labs: “Atomic Precision Fabrication Using Patterned Si Atomic Layer Epitaxy”

Here’s a description of what they’re doing. Zyvex is the best-funded group working towards molecular nanotechnology. There is good coverage of Zyvex at Next Big Future, including an interview with CEO Jim Von Ehr from May. Here’s an answer I thought had interesting details:

Question 6: Eric Drexler has advocated a DNA origami approach, but others favor a direct to diamondoid strategy. Which approach do you favor?

Answer 6: We actually have our own distinct approach which is neither DNA origami nor direct to diamondoid. The ease of programming a computer controlled milling machine, which could make all manner of macro-scale products out of metal or plastic simply by changing the program, makes our paradigm compelling if we can build something similar at the nanoscale. The DNA approach doesn’t lend itself to that flexibility very well. The diamondoid approach may be a great end point, but we simply don’t have that capability now. We lack the precision …

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Brian Wang: “Molecular Nanotechnology Was Explicitly Excluded from Funding… You Get What You Pay For”

A recent post on Next Big Future responding to Scott Locklin’s recent nanotech-smearing piece, Brian Wang explains why there has been almost no progress on molecular nanotechnology throughout the last 25 years — it hasn’t been funded:

Again there are people complaining that the vision of Eric Drexler was not realized after 25 years since he wrote Engines of Creation and other research papers on molecular nanotechnology.

However, almost no money was spent funding the research and development of molecular nanotechnology. Significant amounts of money were devoted to mostly relabeled chemistry starting in November, 2003.

Locklin (link to his site removed, since he is a flamebaiting troll) gets facts wrong and the target of his outrage is totally misdirected. The billions for NNI were hijacked for the falsely labeled nanotech starting in 2003. It is idiotic to blame Drexler, Merkle, Freitas when they did not get the money.

Locklin and people like him ignored what has been happening for eight years and allowed the funding to be hijacked for what they do …

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Nanowerk Links Selection 9/10/10

Nanowerk always has interesting news items closely related to the subject matter of this blog. Here’s some recent ones.

Gene-silencing nanoparticles may put end to mosquito pest

iGEM team helps prevent rogue use of synthetic biology

Nanotechnology coatings produce 20 times more electricity from sewage

Team designs artificial cells that communicate and cooperate like biological cells

NanoRidge Materials Signs Contract for New Defense Armor

Wear-a-BAN – Unobtrusive wearable human to machine wireless interface

Toward a new generation of superplastics

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Scott Locklin on Nanotechnology and Drexler

Some of you may have been following Scott Locklin’s “reality check” on nanotechnology, which was linked by CrunchGear and Hacker News.

My opinion of the post is that is confuses Drexlerian nanotech with nanotechnology “in general”, and makes many major errors, including denying the existence of micromachines and nano-sized elements that drive larger systems.

The article is also wrong because it claims that, in his book, Eric Drexler is just porting macroscale designs to the nano-world, but the entire work (Nanosystems) takes great pains to analyze the differences between the nanoscale and macroscale and introduce engineering innovations that could be a good starting point for true molecular manufacturing. Another error the article makes is suggesting that Drexler dismisses using biology as tools for nanomachines, which is ironic considering that Drexler advocates

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