Foresight Update 25

Page 6

A publication of the Foresight Institute

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Web Watch

ORNL Site Discusses
Laser-Driven Motor and Nanotechnology Piston Concepts

The research team of Dr. Don W. Noid, Dr. Bobby G. Sumpter and Robert Tuzun at Oak Ridge National Laboratory have posted their work on a Nanotechnology Laser-Driven Motor (by all three researchers) and Nanotechnology Pistons (Noid and Sumpter) on the Web at The site includes an illustration of the graphite nanoscale motor, a 3.7 megabyte MPEG animation of the motor's performance, and discussion of design concepts. The Nanotechnology Pistons page includes several illustrations, including a closeup of a buckeyball interrupting flow of helium atoms in a graphite nanotube and several views of a simple nano-piston.

Foresight Update 25 - Table of Contents


Engines of Creation on the Web

  Russel Whitaker, internal webmaster for Silicon Graphics, put Engines of Creation on the Web.

Thanks to Russell Whitaker (aided by earlier work of John Quel, John Cramer, and Jim Lewis), the full text of
Engines of Creation is now available on the Web at A special introduction to this version has been provided by the author, Eric Drexler:

The ten years since Engines of Creation was first published have brought us far along the path to the development of molecular nanotechnology and molecular manufacturing. Advances have been faster than I had expected.

The basic concepts have also been more controversial than I had expected. Even now, after (for example) the US Science Advisor has called for the development of molecular manufacturing, segments of the science establishment are still having difficulties with some quite simple ideas.

It seems obvious that gaining thorough control of matter at the molecular level will enable major technological advances, and our progress toward this ability is likewise obvious. The molecular machinery found in nature provides an existence proof for enormous capabilities. Research advances in building such machines are reported in journals every week. Perhaps the short time horizons common in US and European science provide the excuse for neglecting the consequences of what we already know to be possible.

Engines of Creation projected the development of hypertext publishing systems; now it is at last appearing on one. While the Web lacks several important features, it nonetheless provides many of the benefits described in Engines.

It's gratifying to see Engines made available in this new medium. My thanks to Russell Whitaker for putting it into html, and to John Quel, John Cramer, and Jim Lewis for scanning in the text for an earlier HyperCard version.

There's not much I'd change in Engines if rewritten today (that is, I'd fiddle all the details and make it worse, but change little of the substance). The technological work keeps evolving and expanding in scope and analytical detail, but the basic concepts have survived critical examination, on the net and elsewhere.

To keep in touch with developments in nanotechnology, contact Foresight Institute or see Foresight's Web site [] and the Institute for Molecular Manufacturing site now under development.

Eric Drexler, Research Fellow
Institute for Molecular Manufacturing
Palo Alto, California
April 1996

Foresight Update 25 - Table of Contents


Recent Events

NASA Ames Hosts Workshop on Computational Nanotechnology

The Numerical Aerodynamic Simulation (NAS) Systems Division at NASA Ames Research Center sponsored a two-day workshop on computational molecular nanotechnology in March. Participants included scientists and engineers from academia, industry, and government. Technical presentations described current state-of-the-art computer simulations and future requirements for computational nanotechnology applications. Discussion sessions explored possibilities for joint research work in this area involving NASA scientists and facilities.

"The development of nanotechnology will require massive amounts of computation and the most powerful computers available will be required, including the teraflop/second and even petaflop/second systems of the future," said event organizer Al Globus of MRJ at NASA. "Even today, simulations on high performance computer systems can be used in conjunction with laboratory demonstrations to point the way to the most promising paths of nanotechnology development."

"Although massive computations will be required, they will not be enough. Substantial algorithm, database, user interface, and visualization work will be required to meet the challenges of computational nanotechnology. Entirely new software concepts may be required to realize the promise of molecular nanotechnology."

Every field needs a key goal, Globus said. "Physics has the unified field theory and computer graphics has had reproducing the visual world we live in. What should computational nanotechnology's goal be?" Globus asked participants in one session. Suggested candidates included:

It was also mentioned that safety is a major issue and should be addressed early on.

Speakers (a partial list) included Ralph Merke of Xerox, speaking on his concept of a simple assembler, Don Brenner of North Carolina State University on Nanoscale Engineering, Donovan Chin of Harvard University on "Computational and Physical-Organic Approaches Towards Nanotechnology," William Goddard of Caltech on "Molecular Dynamics Simulations in Nanotechnology," Gustavo E. Scuseria of the Center for Nanoscale Science and Technology and Chemistry Department at Rice University on "Electronic Structures Tools for Computational Nanotechnology" and Robert Tuzun of Oak Ridge National Laboratory, on the work of Tuzun and his colleague on "Molecular Dynamics Simulation of Nanomachine Components."

A more complete report on the conference is available on the Web at

Two Texas Presentations on Molecular Nanotechnology

Roger Duncan made a presentation on molecular nanotechnology to the Sustainable Energy Development Council (SEDC). The SEDC was created by Texas Governor Ann Richards to write a plan for the development of renewable energy and energy efficiency for Texas. Nanotechnology was included in the group's final plan, both as a goal and an objective.

Duncan also made a presentation to the Urban Consortium, a group of representatives from the 50 largest cities in the U.S., formed as a committee of Public Technology Inc. PTI has asked Duncan to write a short article for their publication to gauge the level of interest in the subject among municipal leaders. Duncan seeks input from Foresight members on the impact of nanotechnology on municipal planning being done within the next ten years.

European Nanotechnology Initiative Conference Followup

Update 24 reported plans for a European Nanotechnology Initiative (ENI) Conference April 9-11 in Copenhagen. The event organizers, BioSoft, report 45 participants attended, who concluded that "if we fail to invest in the European research in nanotechnology, we invite foreign dominance of this strategic technology as previously experienced in the microtechnologies. One crucial activity in the next few years will be to develop new tools that permit observation and manipulation of nano sized objects." A number of organizations in Europe are "positioned to play a strong role in this field provided that nanotechnology in general obtains the requested support," the final report said.

Following the conference, organizers presented the group's findings to the European Union Parliament on April 22. They described the potentials of nanotechnology, sought funding, and proposed the creation of Ph.D. or post-doctoral nanotechnology programs. Organizers are now seeking to formalize the structure of the group brought together for the conference, and to create a Web site to facilitate exchange of information.

Table of Contents - Foresight Update 25

Foresight Update 25 - Table of Contents


Upcoming Events

Workshop on Computational Nanotechnology, July 11-13, Colorado Springs Marriott. Contact Dr. Sally Meyer, tel 719-389-6437,

Fullerenes (C60 and related), July 21-26, Gordon Research Conference, tel 401-783-4011, fax 401-783-7644, email

The Minnesota Molecular Nanotechnology Study Group will be hosting Dr. Donald Noid from Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) on July 31, 1996, from 7-9 PM at the Science Museum of Minnesota. Dr. Noid will describe the process of designing, implementing, and simulating a large molecular dynamics problem. The solution of one or more actual problems will be described from beginning to end, including computer-generated videos of the simulation results. Dr. Noid leads a group of researchers at ORNL making significant contributions to MD, and to nanotechnology in general. Contact: Steven C. Vetter,, Molecular Manufacturing Enterprises, Inc. 9653 Wellington Lane, Saint Paul, MN 55125,, voice/fax: (612) 288-0093

4th International Conference on Nanometer-Scale Science and Technology, Sept. 8-12, Beijing. Includes supramolecules, molecular recognition, SPM fabrication of devices, self-assembly, self-assembled molecular nanostructures. Contact Prof. Shijin Pang, fax 86-10-255-6598, email

Micro- and Nano- Engineering 96, Sept. 23-25, Glasgow, Scotland. Contact Dr. Carol Clugston, fax 0141-330-4907, email

German Conference on Bioinformatics, Sept. 30-Oct. 2, University of Leipzig. Includes molecular modeling, molecular recognition, self-organization, DNA computing. Contact GCB '96, tel 49-341-9716100, fax 49-341-9716109, email

Nanometer-Scale Science and Technology Division meeting, American Vacuum Society, Oct. 14-18, Philadelphia. Includes session NS7 on "Nanofabrication: Manipulation of Atoms and Molecules." Contact AVS, tel 212-248-0200, fax 212-248-0245, email, Web

Senior Associate Gathering, Oct. 18-20, 1996, Palo Alto. Foresight and IMM Senior Associates meeting covering technical, entrepreneurial, applications, social topics related to nanotechnology. Contact Foresight, tel 415-917-1122, fax 415-917-1123, email

Foresight 10th Anniversary Celebration, evening of Oct. 19, 1996, Palo Alto. Contact Foresight, tel 415-917-1122, fax 415-917-1123, email

Fifth Foresight Conference on Molecular Nanotechnology, Nov. 5-9, 1997, Palo Alto, CA. Enabling science and technology, computational models. Contact Foresight, tel 415-917-1122, fax 415-917-1123, email, Web

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From Foresight Update 25, originally published 15 July 1996.