Advanced Nanotechnology: The future as heralded by Science Fiction Visionaries begins to become a reality.

Eric Drexler from Nanorex began by re-emphasizing the challenge that humanity faces from climate change particularly emphasizing the immense persistence of CO2 Atoms. Averting catastrophic change will require the bleeding edge innovation and entirely new ways of making things promised by the Nanotech evangelists.

Nano materials, although intriguing is not the operation of (very) small machines which is what Eric is talking about. Just to clarify, the Nano small car produced by TATA of India does NOT count as Nanotechnology, it is small but not small enough. No, Nanotech refers to the combination of Molecular machinery with factory style organisation a la Henry Ford.

“The ‘APM’ revolution (atomically precise control) is based on discrete atoms, small high-frequency devices and programmable control with the result of the ability to create material products.”

It is clear that the molecular sciences have come a very long way leading to the ability to create genuinely complex structures and machines at a nano-level. We are not there yet though…Actually creating the APM revolution will require: Engineering Design, a focus on capabilities and the deployment of the platforms that will create the material outputs of the nano-manufacturing process.

It was nice to hear that a systems-approach is needed to make nano-tech a reality as understanding sustainability frontiers and the transformation towards a sustainable future will require an understanding of complex systems and the interactions between all the different actors, organisations and initiatives involved.

Although I want to believe Eric when he states that Nano-tech is largely safe and that environmental and health risks can be avoided IF people make the right decisions and regulatory oversight is adequate I am not entirely convinced. Needless to say nano-tech needs to be monitored very closely to prevent a potential disaster involving little machines eating molecules that we would really rather they did not eat!


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