November 02, 2006

Diamond Mechanosynthesis may need cooling to 80K

From the Lifeboat Foundation and Robert Freitas is a proposal for grant to study if free roaming grey goo is impossible because of problems operating at room temperature. Any working grey goo may need to supply its own refridgeration.

Recent research by Freitas (using the methods of computational chemistry including Density Functional Theory) examining specific reaction pathways for diamond mechanosynthesis (DMS) has hinted at the possibility that this assumption might be unwarranted. DMS appears to be extremely reliable at liquid nitrogen temperatures (~80 K).

However, there appear to be a number of competing reactions for several of the critical steps in building diamond structures that might become accessible to the tooltip chemistry at room temperature (~300 K) - the temperature at which ecophages would be expected to operate. If any of these competing pathways were taken during a DMS reaction sequence, the result would be the creation of a pathological molecular structure in the partially-completed product object (i.e., the daughter ecophage). That is, an irreversible structural error would be created during fabrication that could not be corrected, thus ruining the product object.

The research is an early release of information from this paper which is in preparation.

Robert A. Freitas Jr., Ralph C. Merkle, A Minimal Toolset for Positional Diamond Mechanosynthesis, J. Comput. Theor. Nanosci. 4(2007). In preparation.

NOTE: if DMS is made to work at liquid nitrogen temperatures that would still be huge in terms of being able to build the large scale and world changing things that we hope to make.

NOTE: Also even if the initial difficulties at room temperature prove to be non-trivial, it does not mean that they cannot be overcome with more work or creative approaches.

This is early but important work.


Jonathan Pugh said...

I have read many articles by you, Frietas, Phoenix and others that put a pretty strong prediction of 2020 for DMS.

Ok great, I say to myself, sounds neat. But these changes we are talking about are bigger than the industrial revolution, smashed down within a decade or so.

Can we all be deluding ourselves? I certainly hope not.

If you guys are right the next few decades will show humanity the biggest changes in history.


bw said...

Just progress from the material revolution that is already well established and whose progress is not in any doubt (carbon nanotube fibers several centimeters long and able to transfer 50 GPA strength to bulk material), superconductors, nanotube wire conductors, aluminum and metals with consistent nanograins -which are 10 times stronger than regular, reel to reel polymer solar panels, reel to reel ovonic computers, synthetic biology, $1000 genome sequencing, DNA nanotechnology will revolutionize the world. Large scale quantum computers, continued rapid progress with regular computers, optical computers and all optical communication, genetic engineering etc...

I think historians will view the time from 1970 to about 2005 will mostly viewed as period when there was a large lull in major progress. When big changes were shaping up and foundation technologies were put in place from which the big tech emerged. Also, when bad choices were made and opportunities were missed or wasted. Advanced technology could have happened faster (not going nuclear in a big way, not using Project Orion etc...)