My MIT dissertation — a draft of Nanosystems
is now online

by Eric Drexler on 2009/09/26

My MIT doctoral dissertation, “Molecular Machinery and Manufacturing
with Applications to Computation”, is a draft of Nanosystems: Molecular Machinery, Manufacturing, and Computation, and MIT has now made it available as a 30 MB pdf. You can download it here.

The Nanosystems project began as notes for a seminar that I taught at Stanford, grew toward a book draft, developed into an MIT doctoral dissertation, and finally — after a few additions, technical review, and editing — became the published work.

The book and dissertation apply familiar physical principles and conservative engineering analysis to explore specific classes of advanced nanosystems, concluding that advanced, atomically precise manufacturing systems could be implemented by means of systems at that same level of technology.

In addition, it outlines how to get there — the general means by which experimentally accessible fabrication technologies can be used to implement progressively more capable fabrication technologies. (Next steps and implementation paths have been a major theme of what I’ve written here on Metamodern, for example, in several of the categories here.)

I plan to do a series of posts that examine these topics, outlining the technical foundations and results in Nanosystems together with perspectives looking forward from ongoing research accomplishments to potential future developments.

The extended table of contents for the dissertation (below) gives a good indication of the scope of the analysis:


Molecular Machinery and Manufacturing
with Applications to Computation

Introduction
1.1. What is molecular nanotechnology?———————————— 13
1.2. Comparisons 20
1.3. The approach in this volume 23
Part I. Physical principles
2. Classical magnitudes and scaling laws
2.1. The role of classical continuum models 33
2.2. Scaling of classical mechanical systems 34
2.3. Scaling of classical electromagnetic systems 40
2.4. Scaling of classical thermal systems 45
2.5. Beyond the classical continuum model 47
3. Potential energy surfaces
3.1. The PES concept 49
3.2. Quantum theory and approximations 50
3.3. Molecular mechanics 56
3.4. Potentials for chemical reactions 80
3.5. Continuum representations of surfaces 83
3.6. Molecular models and the continuum approximation 88
3.7. Further reading 90
4. Molecular dynamics
4.1. Models of dynamics 93
4.2. Non-statistical mechanics 93
4.3. Statistical mechanics 96
4.4. PES revisited: accuracy requirements 110
4.5. Further reading 114
5. Positional uncertainty
5.1. Uncertainty in engineering 115
5.2. Thermally excited harmonic oscillators 116
5.3. Elastic extension of thermally excited rods 122
5.4. Bending of thermally excited rods 133
5.5. Piston displacement in a gas-filled cylinder 141
5.6. Longitudinal variance from transverse rod deformation 144
5.7. Conclusions 150
6. Transitions, errors, and damage
6.1. Overview 153
6.2. Transitions between potential wells 154
6.3. Placement errors 166
6.4. Thermomechanical damage 172
6.5. Photochemical damage 192
6.6. Radiation damage 197
6.7. Device and system lifetimes 200
7. Energy dissipation
7.1. Overview 205
7.2. Radiation from forced oscillations 206
7.3. Phonons and phonon scattering 216
7.4. Thermoelastic damping and phonon viscosity 229
7.5. Compression of square and harmonic potential wells 232
7.6. Transitions among time-dependent wells 238
7.7. Conclusion 243
8. Mechanosynthesis
8.1. Overview 245
8.2. Perspectives on solution-phase organic synthesis 248
8.3. Solution-phase synthesis and mechanosynthesis 251
8.4. Reactive species 272
8.5. Forcible mechanochemical processes 283
8.6. Mechanosynthesis of diamondoid structures 306
8.7. Conclusions 320
Part II. Components and systems
9. Nanoscale structural components
9.1. Overview 325
9.2. Nanomechanical components in a structural context 326
9.3. Surface effects on stiffness in nanoscale components 327
9.4. Control of shape in nanoscale components 333
9.5. Nanoscale components of high rotational symmetry 336
9.6. Conclusions 339
10. Mobile nanomechanical components
10.1. Overview 341
10.2. Spatial fourier transforms of nonbonded potentials 342
10.3. Sliding of irregular objects over regular surfaces 346
10.4. Symmetrical sleeve barings 355
10.5. Other sliding-interface bearings (and bearing systems) 375
10.6. Atomic-axle bearings 378
10.7. Gears, rollers, and belts 379
10.8. Barriers in extended systems 387
10.9. Dampers, detents, and clutches 388
10.10. Conclusions 389
11. Nanomechanical computational systems
11.1. Overview 391
11.2. Digital signal transmission with mechanical rods 392
11.3. Gates and logic rods 393
11.4. Registers 409
11.5. Combinational logic systems and finite-state machines 415
11.6. Clocking and power distribution for CPU-scale systems 421
11.7. Power supply systems 426
11.8. Cooling 432
11.9. Interfacing to conventional microelectronics 433
11.10. Conclusion 435
12. Molecular manufacturing systems
12.1. Overview 437
12.2. Molecule acquisition and concentration 438
12.3. Molecule sorting 440
12.4. Ensuring that sites are occupied 440
12.5. Molecule processing 441
12.6. Reagent application 444
12.7. Larger-scale assembly 445
12.8. Conclusion 446
Part II. Implementation strategies
13. Positional synthesis exploiting AFM mechanisms
13.0. Abstract 449
13.1. Introduction 449
13.2. Tip-array geometry and forces 450
13.3. Molecular tips in AFM 453
13.4. Imaging with molecular tips 455
13.5. Positional synthesis 456
13.6. Summary 391
Appendix

Comparison with other work
A.1. Overview 459
A.2. How related fields have been divided 460
A.3. Mechanical engineering and microtechnology 461
A.4. Chemistry 461
A.5. Molecular biology 462
A.6. Protein engineering 463
A.7. Proximal probe technologies 464
A.8. Feynman’s 1959 talk 465
A.9. Conclusion 466
References

{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

Ulisses Marioto October 1, 2009 at 11:41 am UTC

You are a genius Mr Drexler

We need people like you, progressist mind, revolutionary mints, to restruct the way that the men product your material life, to think in ambient.

We need progressists like you, like others scientist that would like another world, no poor, no polution, a superior step of human being civilization

I hope you mark the history with others like you

And “Viva o futuro”, “Viva” The future

Miguel October 2, 2009 at 3:19 pm UTC

Agreed, nanotechnology is here to stay. I am thinking ton becoming an entrepreneur to be able to ride the wave from the start.

Stefan October 10, 2009 at 4:18 pm UTC

written almost 20 years ago…and since then little progress towards the goal of MM…why?

Miguel October 11, 2009 at 10:39 pm UTC

Great things are slow to come into fruition. And nanotechnology is not the exception. I bet it’s only 15-20 years before we see a mature science.

Eric Drexler October 31, 2009 at 8:32 pm UTC

@ Stefan — There has been a great deal of progress in developing the technology base for early-generation (biomimetic) productive nanosystems, which I see as the next major step. The pieces of technology in this area are ready to be pulled together, but to do so is a challenge more of engineering than of science, and in an area where research is organized to pursue science, rather than engineering. (I’ve discussed the deep difference between the two here and especially here.)

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