Utility Fog
The Downside


Molecular Nanotechnology should allow us to:

  • Get essentially every atom in the right place.
  • Make almost any structure consistent with the laws of physics and chemistry that we can specify in atomic detail.
  • Have manufacturing costs not greatly exceeding the cost of the required raw materials and energy.
There are two more concepts commonly associated with nanotechnology:
  • Positional assembly.
  • Self replication.
It is difficult to achieve the first three without using the last two: some form of positional assembly (to get the right molecular parts in the right places) and some form of self replication (to keep the costs down).

Nanotech's goal is a device called a Universal Assembler (for positional assembly) that takes raw atoms in one side and delivers consumer goods out the other. They are robotic devices that are molecular both in their size and precision. These molecular scale positional devices are likely to resemble very small versions of their everyday macroscopic counterparts, such as robotic arms and the Stewart Platform (below) used as early as 1962 for tire testing.

Stewart Platform

The secret to self replication, biological or synthetic, is prefabricated building blocks. Biology uses atoms. Atoms are as new and squeaky clean as the instant they condensed out of pure energy of the Big Bang, come in 92 flavors (elements), each atom is identical (electronically) to any other atom in a flavor and have the remarkable attribute of sticking to each other. They are prefabricated building blocks. If we can design and build one such Universal Assembler the manufacturing costs for more such systems and the products they make (assuming they can make copies of themselves in some reasonably inexpensive environment) will be very low.

Ideally, these programmed assemblers, also referred to as nanites with atomic sized components could take any source of required atoms and energy, make copies of themselves, then grow things without traditional manufacturing techniques and without byproducts. No waste and no side reactions means this tech would be super green. Nanites could be programed and unleashed to clean up existing industrial pollution (and will within two decades).

If you combined microscopic motors, gears, levers, bearing, plates, sensors, power and communication cables etc., with powerful microscopic computers, you have the makings of a new class of materials called smart materials. Programmable smart materials could shape-shift into just about any desired object.

A fabulous type of smart material was invented by Rutgers University's Dr. J. Storrs Hall, computer scientist. He calls his brainchild, Utility Fog. But, more on this later...

Introduction | Background | Basics
Nano-Computing | Utility Fog | Nano-Medicine
The Downside | Comments | Sources
Valerie Brownrigg
Telecommunications Class
Santa Rosa Junior College
Section 5294
Spring 2000