Any human activity that is not understood by the majority immediately becomes overgrown with myths. Naturally, this also affected nanotechnology, the main modern scientific and technological project. Everyone has heard about this, but few realize the essence of the direction.
Most believe that nanotechnology is the manipulation of atoms and the assembly of micro-objects from them. But this is the main myth. Myths are born because of a lack of knowledge or lack of information, another option is the deliberate implantation of delusions in order to attract attention, and hence investment.
In the case of the nanotechnology project, myths even helped launch the process. However, delusions have a surprising property – they are born, they continue to live their lives.
Real same nanotechnology is so contrary to myths that create confusion in the minds of people, their rejection and even the denial in general of the existence of this direction. Therefore, we will consider the basic myths about nanotechnology.
The founder and ideologist of nanotechnology is Richard Feynman.
This myth is perhaps the most innocuous. It arose in 1992 during the speech of one of the prophets of nanotechnology Eric Drexler before the Senate Commission. For the project to be perceived and advanced, the lecturer referred to the statements of Richard Feynman, a specialist in elementary particle physics and quantum field theory. The fact is that the scientist was a Nobel laureate and was an unshakable authority in the eyes of politicians. However, Feynman died in 1988 and could not refute this statement. Most likely, he would have simply laughed, since he was a famous joker. The famous speech of the scientist, during which the legendary phrase was uttered: “The known principles of physics do not forbid us to create objects” atom by atom “was generally perceived by colleagues as one big joke, but the idea that manipulation of atoms is possible was heard. creatively developed this idea, which formed the basis of the main myths of the industry.
Nanotechnology is wasteless.
It would seem that creating an object atom by atom, there can be no waste.However, this thinking is inherent in people who review for the manipulation of atoms only in pictures.There are no smoking pipes and sinks.It would seem that to drag an atom to a distance of nanometers and energy is practically not required.The question of where the atom will take the assembly is almost indecent. people are poorly represented by the technology of production, but after all, the atoms do not lie in the warehouse in anticipation of their turn? Consuming industrial products, we do not focus on their connection with such a harmful chemical industry. It is she who consumes oil, gas, ores for her needs. But for nanotechnology, according to many, all this is not required – only individual atoms are needed. However, this is just an idyll, atoms in themselves exist only in a vacuum, with the exception of inert gases. In other cases, they enter into interaction and form new chemical compounds – this is the nature of things. In addition, any technology requires the appropriate tools, with the help of which production will be carried out. Power and tunnel microscopes, sterile laboratories in general, amaze imagination, presenting objects from the future. However, all this, as well as the walls, the roof and the foundation will be assembled in the usual way, and not from non-waste atoms. Someday, mankind, perhaps, will create a waste-free and environmentally friendly production, but it will be created with the help of other technology and on other principles.
The existence of nanomachines.
Initially, it was a different technique. Obviously, to design at the nanoscale it is necessary to have an appropriate manipulator. It would seem that one can proportionally reduce their size, organizing miniature plants that would drill and stamp details. However, this approach is straightforward.At the micro level, it still works, which is microelectromechanical devices used in cars, printers, air conditioners, sensors and indicators. If you look at them under a microscope, you can find the usual shafts and gears, pistons, valves and mirrors. However, nanoobjects have properties that are different from macro and microobjects. You can not. For example, to proportionally reduce the size of transistors from the current 45 nm to 10, since they can not work – the electrons will tunnel through the insulator layer. And the connecting wires can not be thick in an atom, the current will not be conducted through them. Such a design either disintegrates due to thermal motion, or collides in a pile, breaking the electrical contact. Similarly, with the mechanical properties of objects. With a decrease in their size, the ratio of area to volume increases, and friction increases. As a result, nanoobjects begin to literally adhere to each other or to other surfaces that appear to be flat due to smallness. If you have to walk on a vertical wall, but it can be useful, but if the device needs to slide or walk – then the opposite is true. To move requires too much energy. Even nanomyatnik immediately stop – for him a significant barrier will be the air itself. Nanoobjects have high sail, even a particle of 1 μm in size feels the force of small molecules, what about 10-nm elements that weigh less in a million times and weight-to-area ratio is 100 times smaller? However, in the media there are always descriptions of nanokops of nuts, gears and other mechanical parts, of which it is intended to create operating machines. Such projects can not be taken seriously. Physicists realize that to create nanomechanical or electromechanical devices, other principles are needed that differ from macro- and even microanalogues. And in this will help nature, which for billions of years of evolution has created a great variety of molecular machines. It takes dozens of years to understand how they work, how they can be adapted to their needs and even improve. The most famous example of a natural molecular motor is the flagellar motor of bacteria. Biological machines also provide muscle contraction, transport of nutrients and ion transport through cell membranes. At the same time, such molecular machines have a high efficiency – almost 100%. They are very economical, so only about 1% of the energy of the cell is spent on the work of the electric motors providing the movement of the cell. Therefore, scientists come to the conclusion that the most realistic way to create nanodevices is the cooperation of physicists and biologists.
The existence of nanorobots.
Suppose that a certain sketch of the nanodevice is created. But how would it be assembled, or better in several copies? Following Feynman’s logic, you can create tiny machines and miniature manipulators that would assemble finished products. However, they must be managed by a person, there must be some snap-in or a program for management. In addition, it is necessary to observe all processes, for example, using a microscope. An alternative idea was put forward by Eric Drexler in his fantastic book “Machines of Creation” in 1986. The author, who grew up on the writings of Azimov, suggested using nanoscale machines for the production of nanodevices. In this case, it was no longer about stamping or drilling, the robots had to collect the device directly from the atoms, they were called pickers. However, even here the approach remained mechanical. Manipulators of the collector had to be several tens of nanometers in length, the engine for moving the robot and an autonomous energy source should be realized. So it turns out that the nanorobot itself must consist of many small details, each of which is 100-200 atoms in size. The most important node of the nanorobot was an on-board computer, which determined which molecule or atom should be captured and where to put it.However, the linear dimensions of such a computer should not exceed 40-50 nm, whereas today’s technology can create only one transistor of this size. Then Drexler addressed the book in the distant future, at that time scientists have not even confirmed the possibility of manipulation of individual atoms. This happened later, when a tunnel microscope was created, controlled by a powerful computer with billions of transistors. However, the dream of nanorobots was so enticing, that the discovery only added to her persuasiveness. Not only the author himself believed in the project, but also journalists, senators and the public. And only the scientists intelligibly explained that such an idea is not possible in principle. The simplest explanation is that the manipulator that captures an atom will connect with it forever, as chemical interaction takes place. Is it possible to disagree with the Nobel laureate in chemistry Richard Smalley? However, the idea and nanorobots continues to live up to now, becoming more complex and growing with new applications.
The existence of medical nanorobots.
This myth is very popular in recent times – millions of nanobots must be darting around the human body, diagnosing changes, repairing the smallest breakdowns with nanoscaleps, scraping plaques with nano-lobules, while reporting something about the work done. However, where is the guarantee that the message will not be received not only by the doctor, but by someone else? There is a disclosure of private information. Will robots become spies then? Especially the belief in nanoscience is strong. Surprisingly, much of what is presented in this plan has already been created. There are invasive diagnostic systems that report changes in the body. Created and drugs that act only on certain cells, there are systems for cleaning the vessels from plaques and build-up of bone tissue. And in terms of espionage, there are great successes – cleaning up memories, “smart” dust and invisible tracking systems. Only such systems of the future have nothing in common with the Drexler nanorobots, except for the dimensions. Such achievements will become possible through the joint work of physicists, chemists and biologists working in the field of synthetic science, nanotechnology.
Presence of a physical method of synthesis of substances.
Once Richard Feynman involuntarily betrayed the old dream of physicists, said that in the matter of manipulating atoms, physical synthesis is possible. Like, chemists will turn to physicists with orders for the synthesis of the intended molecule with certain properties. However, chemists are not interested in synthesis of the molecule, they work with the substance, its production and transformation. The molecule is not just a group of atoms, laid in a certain order, they are also connected by chemical bonds. After all, a liquid in which two atoms of hydrogen have one oxygen, does not necessarily have to be water. Perhaps this is just a mixture of liquid oxygen and hydrogen. Suppose we managed to fold a pile of eight atoms – two carbon and six hydrogen. For a physicist, this compound is C2H6, and the chemist will indicate at least two more possibilities for combining the atoms. And how to assemble such a molecule? First, shift two carbon atoms or add a hydrogen atom to the carbon? Scientists are able to manipulate atoms, but so far only heavy and non-reactive. Complex structures of gold, iron, and xenon atoms have been created. But how to work with light and active atoms of oxygen, hydrogen, carbon and nitrogen – is unclear. Thus, the assembly of proteins and nucleic acids is not such a simple matter, as many try to imagine. There is one more nuance that limits the prospects for physical synthesis. Chemists get a substance in which a huge number of molecules. In a milliliter of water, they are billions of billions. How long will it take to collect a cube like this?Now work on an atomic-force or tunnel microscope is like art, without a special qualitative education you can not do – after all, all manipulations must be done manually, evaluating the intermediate results. The process can be compared with the laying of bricks. Even if you mechanize such work and manage to stack one million atoms per second, then the reproduction of a cube of water in 1 cm3 will take two billion years! That is why millions of plants do not solve the problem of synthesis, like a million nanorobots scurrying inside a person, will not solve his problems. We simply do not have the time to wait for the results of their work. Therefore, Richard Smalley also urged publicly Drexler to remove from his speeches the mention of “machines of creation”, so as not to mislead the public. However, the idea of such a receipt of matter and materials should not be immediately put a cross. First of all, it is possible to manipulate not by atoms, but by substantially larger blocks, for example, carbon nanotubes. In this case, the problem of light and active atoms will disappear, and the productivity will immediately increase by several orders of magnitude. Thus already today scientists in laboratories receive the simplest and single copies of nanodevices. In addition, it is possible to think up such situations when the introduction of an atom, or simply the external influence, initiates the process of self-organization or transformations in the medium. As a result, high-precision surface scanning and repeated exposure can help create extended objects with a regular nanostructure. Yes, and this method can create unique pattern templates for further cloning. Nature can create multiple identical clones of molecules and organisms. Many have heard of the polymerase reaction when a single DNA fragment extracted from a biological material is artificially propagated by chemical means. But why not create similar machines for cloning other molecules? The known principles of chemistry do not prohibit this, the multiplication of molecules is quite realistic and corresponds to the laws of nature.
The possibility of the appearance of “gray mucus”.
In his works Drexler introduced into the concept two types of devices. The first are demounters, their functions are back to the assemblers. Such mechanisms had to study the structure of a new object, keeping its nanomaterial structure in the memory of a nanocomputer. Such a device would be a dream for chemists – because now science can not see all the atoms, for example, in the protein. An exact definition of the structure of a molecule is possible only if it enters the crystal composition, together with millions of similar ones. Then, using the expensive X-ray diffraction method, one can determine the position of all atoms in space. The second type was the creators, or replicators. Their main task was to be the on-line production of both collectors and similar replicators, that is, in fact, the reproduction of nanorobots. Drexler suggested that replicators should be much more complex mechanisms than simple assemblers and consist of hundreds of millions of atoms. If the duration of replication will be measured in minutes, then following the geometric progression, over a trillion new creators will be recreated per day, which will produce new collectors. This myth says that there may be a situation when the system will only go into the regime of unrestrained cloning, and all the activities of replicators will be aimed only at increasing their own population. It will look like a rebellion of nanomachines. It would seem that for our own construction, nanorobots need only atoms that can be obtained from the environment, so all around will fall into the tenacious manipulators of the diggers, as a result all matter on the planet, and with it we will turn into “gray slime” – a cluster of nanorobots. The myth of the end of the world is not new, it’s no wonder that it reappeared with the advent of this new technology.Fantasies about gray mucus are directly related to nanotechnology, this scenario was greatly loved by filmmakers, only strengthening the general error. However, such a course of events is impossible. Even if you still believe in the possibility of assembling something essential of atoms, think about this. First of all, Drexler replicators will not have enough difficulty to create their own kind. Even 100 million atoms are not enough to create a computer assembly manager and even for memory. Even assuming that 1 atom will carry 1 bit of information, the total memory will be 12.5 megabytes, which is too small for this activity. In addition, replicators will not be able to get the raw materials they need. After all, their elemental composition is significantly different from what is included in the environment, including biomass. To find, deliver and extract the necessary elements will take a lot of time and energy, and this determines the speed of reproduction. In macro-sizes such an assembly will be similar to the creation of a machine from elements that have yet to be found, extracted and delivered from different planets of the solar system. Therefore, the lack of resources and limits the unrestrained spread of populations of any other creatures, even much more sophisticated and adapted than nanorobots.
Literally by 2015, the market for nanotechnology will be trillions of dollars.
The reason for the appearance of such a myth was the report of the National Science Foundation (NSF) in 2001 that the market for nanotechnology will be estimated at $ 1 trillion by 2015. Later this statement was even more overestimated, a record estimate today is a figure of 3 trillion dollars. However, such screaming numbers are more like tabloid headlines than serious marketing research. Today, specialists can not even clearly define what nanotechnology is. Thus, microelectronics is already on the way to becoming a nanoelectronics, because the structure of electronic circuits has already crossed the barrier in 100 nm. Accordingly, the number of companies producing “nanoproducts” will grow rapidly. True, they will have very familiar names – Toshiba, GE, Nokia, Bayer, Kraft, etc. Their products could be attributed to evolutionary nanotechnology. But to accurately assess the market of revolutionary nanotechnology, which plans to assemble devices atom by atom, is difficult to assess, accordingly there can not be comprehensible estimated figures. Besides, marketing research does not evaluate the cost of a real nanotechnology process, product or material. Only the total cost of products, which include nanotechnology, is counted. This is a subtle difference and leads to the appearance of billions of dollars in reporting. Thus, Lux Research estimates the net market of nanomaterials by 3.6 billion dollars by 2010, but the entire volume of the nanotechnology market is estimated at 1.5 trillion! That is, in fact, not the market of nanotechnologies, but the market of products containing nanoparticles, is estimated. The same NSF claimed that in the nanotechnology industry more than 200 million people will be employed, these figures were sounded in reports and in applications for grants. However, 8-10 years after the report, it turned out that the nanotechnology industry practically does not exist, despite the large number of research groups in different fields.