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Posted: Jan 27, 2006
Nanofactories: Glimpsing the future of process technology
(Nanowerk News) Nanofactories-manufacturing systems that work on the atomic scale-are gradually moving from science fiction to science fact and one day could be used to build all manner of items such as drugs, semiconductor chips and even cell-sized robots that patrol the human body. But researchers first need to learn how to build a nanofactory, which means learning how to build the molecular components that will power it. With mounting theoretical and experimental evidence, proponents say these goals are within reach and will usher in a revolution in high-technology manufacturing.
Precise placement of atoms using an external mechanism. An ATM tip places second generation silsesquioxane (G2S) cubes in the desired location, at which time an activating signal causes the captured cube to bond to the growing product. (Source: CleanRooms Magazine)
A special report titled "Nanofactories: Glimpsing the future of process technology" is the cover article for the January 2006 issue of CleanRooms Magazine. The lengthy article, subtitled "Making sense of the molecular machine shop," concludes that, while the promise of medical nanorobotics and nanoscale factories and their products is still far off, the principle of molecular manufacturing already has been demonstrated in the laboratory and the next step, nanoscale systems that make other nanoscale systems, currently has a strong theoretical foundation. So for most observers, the question of nanoscale manufacturing is not if but when. The consensus among molecular manufacturing researchers is that most of us in the workforce now will see some manifestation of this work in our lifetimes, that for children currently in grade school, nanoscale manufacturing will touch their lives in numerous ways.