Technical Report 01 J. Randall Zyvex LabsNanotechnology Roadmap Working Group Proceedings 01-1
Atomically Precise Manufacturing Processes
In this section, atomically precise manufacturing (APM)will be discussed. As discussed elsewhere, productivenanosystems do not necessarily carry out APM, though thatis expected to be one of their most important uses, and that itis possible to do APM with methods that do not employ productive nanosystems. The heart of this section is thediscussion of the process of APM whether carried out by productive nanosystems or macroscale machinery andinstrumentation.An atomically precise manufacturing (APM) process will be able to create products where the type, number, and position of all atoms and/or molecules in the product areknown. The yield of any manufacturing process is rarely100%, and we should not expect that APM processes will befree of defects.By this definition, there are many chemical manufacturing processes that would qualify as APM, in particular as bottom-up, self-assembly. However, these chemicalmanufacturing processes have limitations that we expect can be overcome by more advanced APM processes. One of the prime distinctions that one could use to distance moreadvanced APM processes from the chemical manufacturing processes today, is that self-assembly tends to producestructures in their minimum energy configuration. Indeed, itis the minimization of energy that drives most chemicalreactions.The fact that the output of any self-assembly processwould have to minimize energy in the output product presents some limitations. A microprocessor, the heart of most electronic computers, is not a minimum energyarrangement of the semiconductor, metal, and insulatingmaterials that make up the integrated circuit chip. However,the fact that a single self assembly step drives to minimumenergy configuration, does not restrict the output of multipleself assembly processes from producing products that are notin their minimum energy configuration. Given a sufficientlyclever chemical synthesis approach, very complex moleculescan be created that are certainly not a minimum energyconfiguration of their constituent atoms. Complexmolecules can self assemble into more complex structuresthat can be useful. One could argue that the most complexstructures on the planet, multi cell living organisms arecreated by self-assembly. In this section however, the possibility of a top-down, mechanically implemented,computer controlled process will be explored.
The following assumptions are made:1.
To do APM, it is required to deliver specific atomsand/or molecules to a particular point in space and toget them to bind to the product in the desired fashion.The designer of the product will predetermine the position of each atom or molecule, its bindingmethod, and to some extent the order of the assemblyof the atoms and molecules.2.
The value of an APM process will increase with thesize and complexity of the product and the range of materials that may be designed in.
In order to assemble atoms or molecules there must beavailable binding sites, with some sort of binding interactionthat could be covalent, metallic, ionic, or hydrogen bonds, or some form of Van der Waals interaction. And there must besome method of delivering the correct atom or molecule tothe desired location in a way that will lead to the desiredinteraction that results in the atom or molecule binding toand becoming part of the desired structure.In addition, it is necessary to protect the binding site fromhaving an undesirable interaction with some atom or molecule other than the one that is intended to bind there.This is usually accomplished by excluding any undesirableatoms or molecules from the environment by using highly purified feedstock and either highly purified solvents or ultrahigh vacuum environments.Another component of APM can be protecting the bindingsites until it is desirable to react/assemble/bind theappropriate atom or molecule. This protection is done by asurrogate atom or molecule that keeps the binding siteunreactive until some process removes the surrogate,“deprotecting” the site.
Limitations of Bottom-Up Assembly
Much of the beauty and complexity in chemical synthesisis the combinations of chemical reactions that add moleculesand later remove part (or all) of what was added as thecomplex molecule is built up.
Prerelease Version - October 7, 2007