Personal nanofactory design raises prepardness concerns

October 27, 2003 | Source: KurzweilAI

Center for Responsible Nanotechnology (CRN) has published a landmark design study for a personal-size nanofactory that could rapidly manufacture a wide array of advanced products, including more nanofactories, while using minimal resources.

Design of a Primitive Nanofactory” by CRN Director of Research Chris Phoenix appeared in the peer-reviewed Journal of Evolution and Technology. The 84-page technical paper is the most comprehensive examination of nanofactory architecture yet produced, according to a CRN statement.

“We’ve shown that large-scale molecular manufacturing could be easier and faster to develop than many people think,” said Chris Phoenix. “One or more nations may soon find it worthwhile to begin developing this technology. This leads to the concern that the capability might arrive before adequate means for controlling it are in place. Issues of environmental safety, military conflict, and economic disruption must be addressed well ahead of time.”

A nanofactory will make use of the principles of molecular manufacturing, building products from the bottom up, molecule by molecule. Tiny machines, called fabricators, would manipulate atoms and molecules to make small parts and then join them together. A single fabricator cannot build large items, so a nanofactory must include numerous fabricators and perform multiple steps to assemble products.

“Others have considered one or more of these steps, but this paper represents the first time anyone has described a complete factory system in detail,” CRN said.

“Every aspect of nanofactory design other than the fabricator mechanism is well within the capability of today’s engineering practice,” said Phoenix. “Building a fabricator entails chemical design, which will require significant research and development. But there is no known reason why a basic fabricator can’t be built–and then a nanofactory soon after.”