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Physics-based modeling and engineering analysis provide a basis for understanding a limited but powerful range of advanced nanotechnologies

We can catch a glimpse of future technologies because we sometimes can understand things that we can’t yet build. Chemistry, biology, engineering, and applied physics all provide useful perspectives.

Chemistry shows that new structures can form when reactive molecules meet. By using molecular machinery to guide reactive molecules, objects with similar molecular structures can be built at larger scales. The resulting products can be stronger, tougher, and more capable than the delicate structures found in living cells — 100 times stronger than steel, and working with a speed and efficiency made possible only by precise molecular systems operating free of fluid drag.

Biology shows that molecular machines can exist, can be programmed with genetic data, and can build more molecular machines. Biology shows that the products of molecular machine systems can be as cheap as potatoes. Molecular manufacturing will make a far wider range of products for similarly low costs.

Engineering shows that strong, precise parts can be combined to make computers, robots, and a host of useful gadgets. Applied physics, aided by computer modeling, shows that these sorts of devices can be built from atomically precise parts of nanometer scale. These glimpses of future technologies are enough to establish the potential for molecular manufacturing.