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Chemical Nanotechnology

  • Date Submitted: 11/23/2012 10:00 PM
  • Flesch-Kincaid Score: 24.8 
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Chemical Nanotechnology:
        Molecular Electronics



                        Introduction
The ability to build products by molecular manufacturing would create a radical improvement in the manufacture of technologically advanced products. Everything from computers to weapons to consumer goods, and even desktop factories, would become incredibly cheap and easy to build. If this is possible, the policy implications are enormous.
Richard Smalley, a prominent nanotechnologist, has tried for several years to debunk this possibility. Most recently, he participated in apublished exchange with Eric Drexler, another prominent nanotechnologist, who has been the primary proponent and theorist of molecular manufacturing (also called molecular nanotechnology, or MNT).
This paper examines the arguments presented by each side and concludes that Smalley has failed to support his opinion that MNT cannot work as Drexler asserts. Much of Smalley's discussion is off-topic, and his assertions about the limitations of enzyme chemistry are factually incorrect—a fatal weakness in his argument. He therefore does not provide a useful criticism of MNT. Trying to bring the debate back on topic, Drexler spends most of his time restating his earlier positions.   Despite these problems, the current exchange represents a significant advance in the debate, since Smalley's new focus on realistic chemistry (instead of the earlier “magic fingers”) permits detailed analysis of the technical merits of his claim.
The answer to the question of MNT’s capabilities will have a large effect on nanotechnology policy, and further research is urgently needed to find this answer. Smalley's factual inaccuracies and continued failure to criticize the actual chemical proposals of MNT strongly suggest that his denial of the possibility may be unfounded. In view of this, while we agree with Smalley that some scenarios of molecular manufacturing are worrisome, we reject his conclusion that the...

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