How Feasible is a Nanofactory?

The next ExtroBritannia event is scheduled for Saturday October the 18th 2008; 2:00pm - 4:00pm. Venue: Room 538, 5th floor (via main lift), Birkbeck College, Torrington Square, London WC1E 7HX. The event is free and everyone’s welcome.

Lead speaker: Professor Philip Moriarty, School of Physics and Astronomy, University of Nottingham

Nanotechnology, and in particular the molecular manufacturing and nanoassembler concepts first put forward by K Eric Drexler [1] in the eighties, have been lauded as key enabling technologies to advance the human condition. At the core of Drexler's approach is the manipulation of single atoms and molecules using computer-controlled actuators or probes, which he argues will enable the assembly of "virtually anything" from basic raw materials [2]. Widely decried in both the academic scientific community and in a variety of popular science publications and media [3], this "Drexlarian" molecular nanotechnology approach has thus yet to be explored or tested experimentally. Nevertheless, at the core of Drexler's approach there is a demonstrably valid idea: the controlled positioning and manipulation of single atoms and molecules using, for example, scanning probe microscopes. The talk will critically assess Drexler's approach to nanotechnology from the perspective of an experimental nanoscientist [4], focussing in particular on the aims and objectives of a recently-funded programme of work [5] on computer-controlled assembly of diamond nanostructures.

1. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/K._Eric_Drexler
2. http://pubs.acs.org/cen/coverstory/8148/8148counterpoint.html
3. http://cohesion.rice.edu/NaturalSciences/Smalley/emplibrary/SA285-76.pdf
4. http://www.softmachines.org/wordpress/?p=70
5. http://crnano.typepad.com/crnblog/2008/08/building-digital-matter.html

The venue: Room 538, 5th floor (via main lift), Birkbeck College, Torrington Square (which is a pedestrian-only square). Torrington Square is about 10 minutes walk from either Russell Square or Goodge St tube stations. MAP.

Discussion is likely to continue after the event, in a nearby pub, for those who are able to stay. There's also the option of joining some of the UKTA regulars for lunch beforehand, starting c. 1pm at The Marlborough Arms, 36 Torrington Place, London WC1E 7HJ. To find us, look out for a table where there's a copy of Eric Drexler's "Engines of Creation" displayed.

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