October 09, 2007

Productive Nanosystems conference first two talks

The Foresight Productive Nanosystems conference has started.

Chris Phoenix at the Center for Responsible Nanotechnology is liveblogging the event.

Here is his introductory article about the conference

The first speaker is Alex Kawczak, VP, Nanotechnology & BioProducts, Battelle, who talks about some aspects of the Technology Roadmap for Productive Nanosystems

There are several Atomically Precise things in the Roadmap: Manufacturing, Atomically Precise Productive Nanosystems (APPN), Atomically Precise Technologies. Now he's talking about the nanotech market as a whole ($1 trillion by 2015), most of which is not atomically precise. He says atomic precision can improve nanotech.

Atomically Precise Structures are a definite arrangement of atoms. Self-assembled DNA, engineered proteins, nanotube segments, etc. But atomically precise technology will increase scale and complexity.

Atomically Precise Manufacturing (APM) lets you build atomically precise structures under programmable control.

Atomically Precise Productive Nanosystems are functional nanosystems that implement APM. This is nano-building-nano - the high-impact stuff.

So this sounds like the roadmap defines a spectrum of AP technologies, working from self-assembly of engineered AP structures, up to nano building nano.

Two strategies in the roadmap: 1) Develop AP technologies for energy; 2) Develop AP technologies for medicine. Hm, no emphasis on productive nanosystems in that slide.

They're hoping that the Roadmap will help a broad range of industries to develop nano capabilities. They want to develop a broad technology base for APT, apply this to develop APM, APPNs, and spinoff APT applications. They want to "treat atomic precision as an essential criterion for research." So the roadmap encompasses self-assembly as well as APPN.

The roadmap recommends hybrid manufacturing technology approaches at several points.

So it sounds like the Roadmap does talk, at least some, about molecular manufacturing, which they call APPN. This could be a very interesting conference. And it looks like the Roadmap does explicitly endorse molecular manufacturing.

Post-talk comment from Jim Von Ehr (today's moderator): Comparison to semiconductor roadmap: That was developed after they'd been going for a while. Our roadmap is developed in advance, so it's a bit speculative; you'll be amazed at how many different things were pulled together.

Chris Schafmeister talked about Productive Nanosystems: Abiotic Biomimetic Roadmap

Productive nanosystem definition: "A closed loop of nanoscale components that make nanoscale components."

Schafmeister has built 14 building blocks - some of them, they can make tens of grams at a time. They've built one with a functional group and they're working on other functional groups - some not found in natural amino acids.

They attach a building block to a plastic bead, then add other building blocks one at a time. This is not self-assembly: it is programmed assembly. They want to build molecules containing 20-50 blocks. That's a lot of reaction steps! Once they've built a chain, they double-link it, making it rigid. They've synthesized over 100 molecules; most are very water-soluble; the most building blocks so far is 18.

He wants to "create many artificial catalysts that approach the capabilities of enzymes." No one has made an enzyme yet - he wants to make thousands of them, engineered. He wants to make 60,000 enzymes as rapidly as he can write 60,000 lines of code. This may be achievable because enzymes carry out catalysis (accelerating chemical reactions) by changing the mechanism of the reaction. It does this via functional groups arrayed around the substrate. "If we can position multiple functional groups in three-dimensional space in all the right places," then we may be able to implement enzymes. So if functional groups (found in databases) were positioned in space correctly, you'd have the enzyme

How long do the chemical operations take? A: Seconds, maybe minutes. Not hours. Right now, we do one per hour (10^17 molecular copies).

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