$3 million grant awarded to build ‘digital matter’
August 10, 2008 | Source: KurzweilAI
Research in diamond mechanosynthesis (DMS) — building diamond nanostructures atom by atom using scanning probe microscopy — just received a major boost with a $3 million grant from the U.K. Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council, awarded to Professor Philip Moriarty at the University of Nottingham for a “Digital Matter” project, the Nanofactory Collaboration plans to announce Monday.
The Nottingham work grew out of continuing discussions since 2005 on DMS between Moriarty and Robert A. Freitas Jr., a Senior Research Fellow at the Institute for Molecular Manufacturing (IMM).
“Diamond mechanosynthesis is the key technology that will let us fabricate atomically precise diamond products, including molecular computers, microbivores, and a host of other molecular machines,” said IMM Senior Fellow Ralph Merkle in an email interview. Merkle co-founded the Nanofactory Collaboration with Freitas in 2001 to pursue molecular manufacturing via DMS.
“There’s a body of theoretical work that says diamond mechanosynthesis is feasible, including specific computational chemistry analyses of specific reactions and specific reaction pathways. Now we have to make it happen in the lab, and Moriarty’s work is the first step along this path.”
In April 2008, Freitas and Merkle published the results of a comprehensive three-year project to computationally analyze a complete set of DMS reaction sequences and an associated minimal set of tooltips that could be used to build basic diamond and graphene (e.g., carbon nanotube) structures. These structures include all of the tools themselves, along with the necessary tool recharging reactions.
Moriarty is interested in testing the viability of positionally controlled atom-by-atom fabrication of diamondoid materials as described in the Freitas-Merkle minimal toolset theory paper. Moriarty’s efforts will be the first time that specific predictions made by sophisticated computational chemistry software in the area of mechanosynthesis will be rigorously tested by experiment.
His work also directly addresses the requirement for “proof of principle” mechanosynthesis experiments requested in the 2006 National Nanotechnology Initiative (NNI) review, in the 2007 Battelle/Foresight nanotechnology roadmap, and by EPSRC’s Strategic Advisor for Nanotechnology, Richard Jones (Physics, Sheffield University, U.K.).