Re: why atomic precision assemblers?

From: Robert Bradbury (
Date: Sat Jan 22 2000 - 18:59:24 MST

On Sat, 22 Jan 2000, gary tripp wrote:

> Why must we have assemblers that pick and place each atom?

Well, for things like electronic circuits and multi-wavelength,
highly efficient lasers, we are starting to get to the point where
atomic placement accuracy *is* required.

> Wny couldn't we create molecular parts through the methods of bulk
> chemistry and then use drexlarian type assemblers to fuse these larger
> molecular parts into structures that have some use.

We can, of course (kanyeshna). I believe that Ralph Merkle's current
approach is primarily based on using macro-scale chemistry to produce
the "molecular" assembly units and then using AFM-like assemblers
to put those units in their correct position. However you could
expand the scale up to the level of "bulk" atomic parts and MEMS
scale assemblers.

> We wouldn't be able to make everything but we might be able to make
> useful machines nontheless.

Absolutely true. Self-assembling and self-replicating machines
(two of the three parts of the trinity) do not require atomic assembly.

> We could make probes for nanomedicine out of these.

Hmmmm.... I'll only grant this a "maybe". Medicine fundamentally
happens at the atomic or very small molecule scale. If you want
probes at that level you are dealing with thousands to millions of
atoms. This is much smaller than the typical IC & MEMS scales.

> Moreover, we may only require few types of standard parts to truly useful
> structures.

True. Nano-bricks that can self assemble and are built at a very
high rate in macroscale factories (or self-sub-assemble using bulk
chemistry) are very very useful. You could extrapolate this to
screws that screw themselves, active velcro hooks that "release", etc.


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