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1.5.3. Overview of Part III

Chapter 15 describes current capabilities for the design and fabrication of multinanometer scale molecular objects (by chemical and biochemical means) and discusses approaches for combining and extending these capabilities to enable the construction of larger and more complex systems. The major approaches considered are (1) protein engineering, (2) the engineering of proteinlike molecules designed to fold more predictably and stably, and (3) the development of mechanosynthetic systems that make use of atomic force microscope (AFM) technologies. The first two approaches would construct large molecular systems by ° Brownian assembly (self assembly) of smaller units; the AFM approach would construct them directly from small monomers. This chapter concludes that means can be developed for constructing molecular mechanical systems containing 105 monomers, operating in a solution environment.

Chapter 16 describes a development pathway leading from small molecular mechanical systems operating in solution, through larger and better-isolated systems, to ~100 nm scale mechanisms able make complex diamondoid structures by means of mechanosynthesis. It proposes the use of externally generated pressure fluctuations to provide power and control to these intermediate-technology devices, and the use of optically probed, environmentally modulated fluorescent molecules to enable prompt sensing of the results of attempted mechanosynthetic operations. This chapter concludes that accessible (though not necessarily easy) development paths lead from present capabilities to advanced molecular manufacturing.

  • Part II begins and ends with long-term technologies, but Part III begins with current technologies. Readers more interested in short-term developments and practical foundations may wish to start with Part III. It is relatively independent of the rest, although it occasionally cites results from previous chapters.

1.5.4. Overview of Appendices

Appendix A discusses methodologies appropriate to the study of technological possibilities, comparing and contrasting them to the methodologies appropriate to the study of natural phenomena (i.e., standard scientific problems) and to the design of products for immediate implementation (i.e., standard engineering problems).

Appendix B discusses related work by other researchers. It returns to the fields of mechanical engineering, microtechnology, chemistry, and molecular biology (adding protein engineering and proximal probe technology), focusing on the work in these fields that has advanced furthest toward engineering complex molecular systems.

1.5.5. Open problems

Many chapters end with a discussion of open problems. These range from developing specific examples and analyses to developing major software systems and laboratory research programs. The discussions are not exhaustive, but are intended to highlight useful directions for research.

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