The Potential of Nanotechnology for Molecular Manufacturing

by Max Nelson, Calvin Shipbaugh


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Nanotechnologies are tools that measure and manipulate phenomena and objects at the nanoscale. Molecular manufacturing is the willful use of these two activities to create new objects or phenomena. The question of whether it is possible to achieve a stage in the foreseeable future when molecular manufacturing using nanotechnologies might be viable, and if so how to develop the field, is a point of contention in both scientific and policy circles. A framework for understanding the scope of this topic — possible benefits, development risks, and policy options — is presented, but it is not the intention of the authors to provide a definitive road map for future scientific and technological development; nor is it believed by the authors that such a detailed analysis would at present yield a fully credible road map given the immature nature of the field. Rather, it is the contention of this report that though important breakthroughs have been realized, much significant basic and applied research remains to be undertaken to realistically assess the far-term viability of many of the emerging concepts. However, a careful and objective technology feasibility assessment could help stimulate near-term interim achievements of great merit while preventing technological surprises from foreign players.

Table of Contents

  • Chapter One


  • Chapter Two

    Trends and Goals

  • Chapter Three

    Developing Incremental Checkpoints

  • Chapter Four

    National and International Research Efforts

  • Chapter Five

    Conclusions and Recommendation

  • Appendix

    Research Centers in Nanotechnology and Related Areas by Nation

  • Bibliography

This research in the public interest was supported by RAND, using discretionary funds made possible by the generosity of RAND's donors and the fees earned on client-funded research.

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