Will open source work for nanotechnology?

Will open source work for nanotechnology?

Can Open source methodology, with its promise of spreading benefits through new varieties of intellectual property, and which has played a major role in software development, also play a role in nanotech development? At least one MIT researcher, Stephen Steiner, thinks so. He is working on a web site for “open source nanotech”. Among other content, software he wrote for controlling nanotube furnaces would be available for download. The following article includes a link to a video from a BBC documentary that shows Steiner showing Michio Kaku how to grow carbon nanotubes. From “Making Nanomaterials Better, Faster And More Accessible” on Wired Science, from Wired.com, written by Loretta Hidalgo Whitesides”

Stephen Steiner wants to make nanotechnology more accessible to speed up the innovation process.

The inclination to think big goes back to Steiner’s teenage years when he vowed to never drive a car as motivation to solve the world’s energy problem. Now 26, he is a graduate student at MIT working to bring the world next-generation nanomaterials, like nanotubes that can make airplane wires lighter than copper, carbon aerogels that use electrolysis to pull hydrogen from water, and as announced yesterday, nanoparticles that can make super high density batteries.

Steiner’s first task at the MIT lab was to get the nanotube furnaces working manually, but he knew that to really get his lab breakthrough-ready, the furnaces needed to be automated. So he wrote a software program that automates a nanotube furnace using natural English syntax and fuzzy logic to help get us there faster.

…Steiner calls the new program “Ansari” after private space explorer and X Prize sponsor Anousheh Ansari. Her work to open up space flight for all inspired Steiner to try to do the same for nanotech. He is working on a website that he calls “open source nanotech,” where people will be able to download his automation software and learn about DIY nanotech.


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  1. […] Will open source work for nanotechnology? […]

  2. Stefan Noack October 5, 2008 at 10:20 am - Reply

    I am an open source developer. I’m currently studying Computational Science at the university of Chemnitz, Germany. I do this because i think that — whatever the breakthrough technology of the future will be — it will need the help of computers. Software will be the key to future’s key technologies. That’s why open source is the only way to provide maximum benefit for both, the technology and the community. As far as I know open source has a long tradition in the field of research, especially at universities, and if nanotechnology is the technology of the future, it must rely on open source.

  3. Robert Bradbury October 6, 2008 at 12:53 am - Reply

    I don’t understand the post. In the first place software to produce nanomaterials is of little relevance to the general open source problem. In the second place there are many open source fans that are part of the core nanotechnology community (I’m not talking about the commercial or academic nanotech wanabees — I’m talking about the people who really understand nanotech). In the third place there are perhaps 4-5 paths to nanoassembly. Even if a couple of them go down the proprietary/patented path that simply gives more incentive to open source the others. Fourth, patents only last ~20 years — unless patents go down the path that copyright is trying to follow (50-100 years) then within a reasonable time frame all of the designs, methods and technologies become royalty free.

    A better question might be whether an open source or proprietary path will accelerate or hinder the development of robust molecular nanotechnology? (Begs the issues of “proving it can be done” vs. the “investment required to do it”.)

  4. CHAN Lam, GORDON October 14, 2008 at 5:25 pm - Reply

    Hi, I am looking foreward for the chance to get involved. As I am interested in science filed.
    open source will certainly make it fast. but ppl here should know that the growth of software depends on various factors especially, the processing devices and the user requirements. we are playing YO-YO on these two boundaries. the open source plays the tricks – the art of playing. it will be amazing if it’s source opened.

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