Nanotechnology roadmap for atomically-precise manufacturing

An article in Small Times by Paul Burrows of Pacific Northwest National Laboratory covers the Technology Roadmap for Productive Nanosystems (TRPN) aimed at Atomically-Precise Manufacturing (APM), a joint project of Foresight Nanotech Institute and Battelle, funded by the Waitt Family Foundation and by Sun Microsystems. Some excerpts:

The Foresight-Battelle roadmap aimed to address this “vision gap,” suggesting incremental steps from what we can do now to the improvements that are required to enable macroscopic APM. So what has changed to justify the considerable expenditure of effort that went into the TRPN?

Presentations at the workshop made a convincing case…APM is steadily being achieved now, at ever greater levels of integration, using both bottom-up and more traditional top-down technologies.

…Prof. Stoddard’s molecules and the DNA-based self assembly techniques developed by Rothemund et al. point to a rapid increase in the complexity of molecules that we can assemble in high volume. Simultaneous improvements in top-down manipulation using atomic probe tips is one method of arranging such molecular building blocks into higher order structures…

As pointed out by the introductory speakers, the roadmap must be an evolutionary document…The usefulness of a roadmap, however, is that it gives confidence to a researcher in one area that other necessary parts of the technology will be invented. In that sense, this effort may be enabling. There is ample reason to try: The TRPN includes a call for government agencies to fund specific research aimed at APM with applications in clean energy and advanced healthcare and an extensive Appendix includes contributions from experts on how APM could revolutionize a plethora of applications in these and other areas.

The Technology Roadmap for Functional Nanosystems needs to be read, discussed, criticized, and (as many speakers at the workshop pointed out) repeatedly revised. But it should not be ignored. The Foresight Institute expects to make it publicly available soon; watch the organization’s website in the coming weeks.

Just today I saw the final graphic for this first version of the Roadmap — bravo, Damian Allis — so the final document should be available quite soon. —Christine

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