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September 18, 2007

Where is mechanosynthesis? In progress but underfunded.

IEEE Spectrum asks where is my mechanosynthesis?

Richard Smalley proposed a carbon nanotube energy grid back in 1995


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Where is this carbon nanotube energy grid ?
Where is there even one test of commercial carbon nanotube quantum wiring ?
They received at least $11 million to work specifically on this project. Billions have been spend working on carbon nanotube research and development.

Billions of dollars and thousands of people have been spent decades working on commercially viable nuclear fusion. Where is the first commercially purchased watt of power from nuclear fusion ? Is this science supposed to be believed ?

I know that there are difficult challenges that are worth doing, that take a lot of time and money. The question is what is the best plan to achieve goals. The questions that I posed against tokomak nuclear fusion and a carbon nanotube energy grid are unfair, but they are less unfair than the questions posed about mechanosythesis. Also, narrowing the concept of molecular manufacturing to only mechanosynthesis is also unfair.

The focus on mechanosynthesis is like someone predicting powered flight with the eventual superiority of jet engines, but also mentioning powered blimps and prop planes. When the other things are developed and dominate for some decades, the question comes in 1920 where are the jet planes ?
1. It is still coming
2. Get a well funded project together and if that has cost overruns or delays or has development issues then more informed questions can be made about the end goal.

The IEEE Spectrum article discusses head scratching about the less than expected progress towards molecular manufacturing. It is obvious why it has not developed further. There has not been enough direct funded effort made to try to develop it.

The conference presentations and liveblogging transcript show very little discussion about the topic of the events of the last two decades pace of progress.

The IEEE article asks has not James Von Ehr spent $100 million towards developing mechanosynthesis ? No he has not. Von Ehr has a lot of money but he did not use it all to fund a direct to MNT effort. He has created Zyvex which provide tools, instrumentation, and applications to serve the semiconductor and advanced research markets.

Zyvex has an atomically precise manufacturing effort, but it has been a fraction of the overall funding and effort. Going forward it will be focused on atomic layer deposition for the next few years.

Zyvex plan: start with hydrogen passivated silicon surface, depassivation, self-limited deposition, despassivation, repeat. We want to make this more engineering-oriented, repeatedly, with higher yields. We have a few products in mind for single-probe operations. We can make money even with this, with the right products. Next: MEMS arrays.

Atomically precise manufacturing will lead to “digital matter” which will deliver similar benefits as digitization of information.

It is a prudent plan given the resources available to Zyvex and Von Ehr.

Also, molecular manufacturing can and should be achieved through means other than mechanosynthesis (at least initially). Please look at the conference paper from
Toth Fejel on the various ways to reach the goal.


FURTHER READING:
Here are the technical challenges still to be overcome to mechanosynthesis

Here is the theoretical and experimental work that shows that it should work

Donations to support the work towards mechanosynthesis can be made here.

How to donate to the IMM Freitas Research Fund:

Phone 650-917-1120 with Visa/Mastercard info
Fax 650-917-1120 with same
Email admin@imm.org with same (not secure)
Mail info or check to Institute for Molecular Manufacturing, 555 Bryant Street, Suite 354, Palo Alto, CA 94301 USA

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