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Molecular manufacturing can be clean, efficient, and inexpensive

Molecular manufacturing can be clean because its basic productive mechanisms will control every change in every molecule that it handles. Today’s industry lacks this control and hence produces unwanted byproducts. Molecular manufacturing can return unused input materials (chiefly surplus hydrogen from small feedstock molecules) in whatever form is most useful or least harmful (for example, pure water).

Molecular manufacturing can be energy-efficient because the key feature of its basic productive mechanisms — guiding the motion of molecules using mechanical systems — imposes no great energy cost. All molecular processes, whether in biological systems or chemical processing plants, move molecules to bring them together in new patterns, and molecular machine systems can move molecules more efficiently than systems that subject them to fluid drag. Molecular manufacturing can be resource-efficient as well, because its products will typically contain far less material than would the products of conventional technologies. Resource efficiency, in turn, will contribute to energy efficiency.

Finally, molecular manufacturing can be inexpensive because it uses small amounts of material, modest amounts of energy, and has small environmental costs, and because its costs of capital, land, and labor will be low. Capital will be inexpensive because molecular manufacturing systems can quickly be used to build additional molecular manufacturing systems. Land and labor will add little to costs because little of either will be needed. Setting aside such external costs as licensing, taxes, insurance, litigation, and advertising, the intrinsic cost of products made by molecular manufacturing should typically be little more than the cost of the required raw materials and energy. The required raw materials will typically be small amounts of inexpensive compounds of sorts that even now cost only tens of cents per kilogram. (The required energy can often be generated via oxidation of hydrogen that is part of the input compounds, but not required in the product.)

Some products (such as gold bars) require costly materials (such as gold). Most products (such as computers, solar photovoltaic cells, cars, medical equipment, spacecraft,...) can be made chiefly from such cheap and abundant elements (carbon, nitrogen, oxygen, hydrogen, silicon, sulfur, aluminum,...) supplied in the form of common, inexpensive compounds (acetone, urea, sodium silicate, alum,...).

An analysis of the cost of molecular manufacturing:

Drexler, K. E. (1992) Nanosystems: Molecular Machinery, Manufacturing, and Computation. Wiley/Interscience, pp.432–434.

Why our unconscious expectations regarding reliability, precision, and complexity make the characteristics of molecular manufacturing surprising:

Tipping Points by Chris Phoenix