nano glossary

/nano glossary
nano glossary 2017-09-07T15:21:23+00:00

This is a glossary of terms used by the UK nanomedicine website

ACE PasteAtomspheric Carbon Extractor. Harvests the greenhouse gases for Carbon, to be used for diamondoid fabrication. A well-designed paste could harvest 100 or more times its empty weight.

Adensoine Triphosphate (ATP): A chemical compound that functions as fuel for biomolecular nanotechnology having the formula, C10H16N5O13P3.

Assembler: A molecular machine that can be programmed to build virtually any molecular structure or device from simpler chemical building blocks by positioning molecules and guiding chemical reactions.

 Atomic Layer Deposition (ALD): A self-limiting, sequential surface chemistry that deposits conformal thin-films of materials onto substrates of varying compositions. ALD film growth is self-limited and based on surface reactions, which makes achieving atomic scale deposition control possible. By keeping the precursors separate throughout the coating process, atomic layer control of film grown can be obtained as fine as ~ 0.1 angstroms per monolayer.

Atomic Force Microscope (AFM): Also termed a scanning force microscope (SFM). An instrument able to image surfaces to molecular accuracy by mechanically probing their surface contours. AFM works on the basis of monitoring deflection of a sharp stylus mounted on a soft spring as the stylus is moved across a surface. If the deflection is kept constant by moving the surface up and down by measured increments, the result (under favourable conditions) is an atomic-resolution topographic map of the surface.

Atomic Manipulation: Manipulating atoms, typically with the tip of an Scanning Tunnel Microscopy.

Atomistic Simultations: Atomic motion computer simulations of macromolecular systems are increasingly becoming an essential part of materials science and nanotechnology. Recent advances in supercomputer simulation techniques provide the necessary tools for performing computations on nanoscale objects containing as many as 300,000 atoms and on materials simulated with 1,000,000 atoms. This new capability will allow computer simulation of mechanical devices or molecular machines using nanometer size components.

Autogenous control: -In biochemistry, the action of a gene product that either inhibits (negative autogenous control) or activates (positive autogenous control) expression of the gene coding for it.

ACE Paste: Atomspheric Carbon Extractor. Harvests the greenhouse gases for Carbon, to be used for diamondoid fabrication. A well-designed paste could harvest 100 or more times its empty weight.

Adensoine Triphosphate (ATP): A chemical compound that functions as fuel for biomolecular nanotechnology having the formula, C10H16N5O13P3.

Assembler: A molecular machine that can be programmed to build virtually any molecular structure or device from simpler chemical building blocks by positioning molecules and guiding chemical reactions.

Atomic Layer Deposition (ALD): A self-limiting, sequential surface chemistry that deposits conformal thin-films of materials onto substrates of varying compositions. ALD film growth is self-limited and based on surface reactions, which makes achieving atomic scale deposition control possible. By keeping the precursors separate throughout the coating process, atomic layer control of film grown can be obtained as fine as ~ 0.1 angstroms per monolayer.

Atomic Force Microscope (AFM): Also termed a scanning force microscope (SFM). An instrument able to image surfaces to molecular accuracy by mechanically probing their surface contours. AFM works on the basis of monitoring deflection of a sharp stylus mounted on a soft spring as the stylus is moved across a surface. If the deflection is kept constant by moving the surface up and down by measured increments, the result (under favourable conditions) is an atomic-resolution topographic map of the surface.

Atomic Manipulation: Manipulating atoms, typically with the tip of an Scanning Tunnel Microscopy.

Atomistic Simultations: Atomic motion computer simulations of macromolecular systems are increasingly becoming an essential part of materials science and nanotechnology. Recent advances in supercomputer simulation techniques provide the necessary tools for performing computations on nanoscale objects containing as many as 300,000 atoms and on materials simulated with 1,000,000 atoms. This new capability will allow computer simulation of mechanical devices or molecular machines using nanometer size components.
Autogenous control: -In biochemistry, the action of a gene product that either inhibits (negative autogenous control) or activates (positive autogenous control) expression of the gene coding for it.

Bio-assemblies or Biomolecular Assemblies: containing several protein units, DNA loops, lipids, various ligands, etc.

Biovorous: an organism capable of converting biological material into energy for sustenance.

Biochauvinism: The prejudice that biological systems have an intrinsic superiority that will always give them a monopoly on self-reproduction and intelligence.

BioMEMS — biofunctionalised microelectromechanical systems used in medicine, that use microchips.

BioNEMS — biofunctionalised nanoelectromechanical systems.

Biomimetic: Imitating, copying, or learning from nature.

Biomimetic Materials: Materials that imitate, copy, or learn from nature.

Biopolymeroptoelectromechanical Systems (BioPOEMS): combining optics and microelectromechanical systems, that can be used in biological applications.

Biostasis: A condition in which an organism’s cell and tissue structure are preserved, allowing later restoration by cell repair machines.

Blue Goo – opposite of Grey goo. Beneficial technology, or “police” nanobots.

Born-Oppenheimer Approximation: permits the use of classical quantum mechanics in modelling and thinking about molecular and atomic motions. 

Bottom Up: Building larger objects from smaller building blocks. Nanotechnology seeks to use atoms and molecules as those building blocks. The advantage of bottom-up design is that the covalent bonds holding together a single molecule are far stronger than the weak.  Mostly done by chemists, attempting to create structure by connecting molecules.

Brownian Assembly: Brownian motion in a fluid brings molecules together in various position and orientations. If molecules have suitable complementary surfaces, they can bind, assembling to form a specific structure.

Brownian Motion: Motion of a particle in a fluid owing to thermal agitation, Brownian motion plays a vital role in the assembly and activity of the molecular structures of life.

Bulk technology: Technology in which atoms and molecules are manipulated in bulk, rather than individually.

Bucky Balls [AKA: C60 molecules & buckminsterfullerene] – molecules made up of 60 carbon atoms arranged in a series of interlocking hexagonal shapes, forming a structure similar to a soccer ball.

Bush Robot: A concept for robots of ultimate dexterity, they utilise fractal branching to create ever-shrinking “branches,” eventually ending in nanoscale “fingers.”

Cellular Automata: an array of identically programmed cells, which interact with one another.

Cell engineering: — deliberate artificial modifications to biological cellular systems on a cell-by-cell basis.

Cell Repair Machine: Molecular and nanoscale machines with sensors, nanocomputers and tools, programmed to detect and repair damage to cells and tissues, which could even report back to and receive instructions from a human doctor if needed.

Chemical Vapour Deposition (CVD): a technique used to deposit coatings, where chemicals are first vaporized, and then applied using an inert carrier gas such as nitrogen.

Cobots: Collaborative robots designed to work alongside human operators.

Computational Nanotechnology: permits the modelling and simulation of complex nanometer-scale structures. The predictive and analytical power of computation is critical to success in nanotechnology.

Computronium: A highly (or optimally) efficient matrix for computation.

Conjugation: — biology, the union of two unicellular organisms accompanied by an interchange of nuclear material, as in Paramecium.

Convergent Assembly: Manufacture of metre sized products building blocks of nanometer size. It is based on the idea that smaller parts can be assembled into larger parts, larger parts can be assembled into still larger parts, and so forth. This process can be systematically repeated in a hierarchical fashion, creating an architecture able to span the size range from the molecular to the macroscopic.

Cytocide: — the killing of living cells.

Cytography: — a physical description (and mapping) of the living cell.

Cytoidentification: — identification of cell type.

Cytometrics: — the quantitative measurement of cell sizes, shapes, structures, and numbers.

Cytotomography: — tomographic imaging of an individual cell.

Dendrimers: From the Greek word dendra – tree, a dendrimer is a polymer that branches.

Design Ahead: The use of known principles of science and engineering to design systems that can only be built with tools not yet available; this allows faster exploitation of the abilities of new tools.

Design Diversity: A form of redundancy, in which components of different designs serve the same purpose; this can enable systems to function properly despite design flaws.

Diamondoid: Structures that resemble diamond in a broad sense, strong stiff structures containing dense, three-dimensional networks of covalent bonds, formed chiefly from first and second row atoms, with a valence of three or more. Many of the most useful diamondoid structures will, in fact, be rich in tetrahedrally coordinated carbon.

Directed-Assembler: A specific type of assembler that makes use of directed-assembly, such that the assembly process requires external energy or information input.

Disassembler: An instrument able to take apart structures a few atoms at a time, recording structural information at each step. This could be used for uploading, copying objects (with an assembler), a dissolving agent or a weapon.

Disruptive Technology: Technology that is significantly cheaper than current, is much higher performing, has greater functionality, and is frequently more convenient to use. Will revolutionise markets by superseding existing technology. “Paradigm shifting” is a well-worn connotation. Although the term may sound negative to some, it is in fact neutral. It is only negative when businesses who are unprepared for change fail to adapt, only to fall behind and fail. The results are not evolutionary, they are revolutionary.

DNA Chip: also: Gene Chip and DNA Microchip. A purpose built microchip used to identify mutations or alterations in a gene’s DNA.

Dopeyballs: Superconducting Buckyballs (they) have the highest critical temperature of any known organic compound.

Dry Nanotechnology: derives from surface science and physical chemistry, focuses on fabrication of structures in carbon (e.g. fullerenes and nanotubes), silicon, and other inorganic materials. Unlike the “wet” technology, “dry” techniques admit use of metals and semiconductors. The active conduction electrons of these materials make them too reactive to operate in a “wet” environment, but these same electrons provide the physical properties that make “dry” nanostructures promising as electronic, magnetic and optical devices. Another objective is to develop “dry” structures that possess some of the same attributes of the self-assembly that the wet ones exhibit. [Rice University]

Electrical Bistability: a phenomenon in which an object exhibits two states of different conductivity at the same applied voltage

Emergence: a complex whole created by simple parts, as in the brain where billions of neurons work individually, but collectively make up our consciousness and give us the ability to think, rationalise, and create.

Emulation: An absolutely precise simulation of something, so exact that it is equivalent to the original (for example, many computers emulate obsolete computers to run their programs).

Enabling science and technologies: Areas of research relevant to a particular goal, such as nanotechnology. Also, technology that “enables” other technology to advance, such as the transistor enabled the computer chip revolution, as did photolithography.

Entropy: A measure of the disorder of a closed system. The second law of thermodynamics states that the entropy (and disorder) increases as time moves forward.

Evolution: A process in which a population of self-replicating entities undergoes variation, with successful variants spreading and becoming the basis for further variation.

Exploratory engineering: Design and analysis of systems that are theoretically possible but cannot be built yet, owing to limitations in available tools.

Exponential Growth: inaccurately referred to as “self-replication,” exponential growth refers to the process of growth or replication involving doubling within a given period.

Femtometer (abbr: fm): a unit suitable to express the size of atomic nuclei. One quadrillionth (10 to minus 15) of a meter.

Femtosecond: is one quadrillionth of a second, and is to a second what a second is to 32,700,000 years. At 186,000 miles per second, in one femtosecond light travels only far enough to traverse about 1,000 silicon atoms.

Femtotechnology: the art of manipulating materials on the scale of elementary particles (leptons, hadrons, and quarks). The next step smaller after picotechnology, which is the next step smaller after nanotechnology.

Fractal: A mathematical construct that has a fractional dimension.

Fractal Mechatronic Universal Assembler: (or Fractal Assembler) is a machine that is capable of assembling any chemical from a generic description of the properties required of the chemical. The machine comprises of test tube arrays and software linked to robotic cubes and sensor arrays to implement automated mixing and testing to conduct materials research activity.

Fullerenes: Fullerenes are a molecular form of pure carbon discovered in 1985. They are cage-like structures of carbon atoms, the most abundant form produced is buckminsterfullerene (C60), with 60 carbon atoms arranged in a spherical structure. There are larger fullerenes containing from 70 to 500 carbon atoms.

Genegeneering: Genetic engineering.

Genetic Algorithm: Any algorithm which seeks to solve a problem by considering numerous possibilities at once, ranking them according to some standard of fitness, and then combining (“breeding”) the fittest in some way. In other words, any algorithm which imitates natural selection. [AS]

GENIE: An AI combined with an assembler or another universal constructor, programmed to build anything the owner wishes. Sometimes called a Santa Machine. This assumes a very high level of AI and nanotechnology. [AS]

Giant Magnetoresistance: (GMR). It results from subtle electron-spin effects in ultra-thin ‘multilayers’ of magnetic materials, which cause huge changes in their electrical resistance when a magnetic field is applied. GMR is 200 times stronger than ordinary magnetoresistance. (See Spintronics and Giant Magneto Resistance) GMR enables sensing of significantly smaller magnetic fields, which in turn allows hard disk storage capacity to increase by a factor of 20.

GNR technologies: (Genetic Engineering, Nanotechnology, and Robotics)

Guy Fawkes Scenario: If nanotechnology becomes widely available, it might become trivial for anyone to commit acts of terrorism (such as making nanomachines build a lot of explosives under government buildings a la Guy Fawkes). This would either force strict control over nanotechnology (hard) or a decentralised mode of organisation.

Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle: A quantum-mechanical principle with the consequence that the position and momentum of an object cannot be precisely determined. The Heisenberg principle helps determine the size of electron clouds, and hence the size of atoms. “The more precisely the POSITION is determined, the less precisely the MOMENTUM is known” (Werner Heisenberg).

Heteronuclear: consisting of different elements.

Intelligent Agent: aka “software agent”. Software that can do things without supervision, because it knows your patterns, history, preferences, likes, dislikes, and so forth. You want to go on holiday – it knows that you really enjoyed that trip to Hawaii and that you prefer to fly at night, 1st class. It also knows that the bungalow you rented last time was marked as being 5-star, and worth a re-visit. Your IA then collates all your parameters, searches the internet for flights, car rentals, restaurant reservations, and lodgings, and schedules everything for you, with options on the side. No more travel agent – you have a software agent to handle things! Many experts agree that by 2010 we will each have one and that they will greatly reduce our daily load of trivial and redundant tasks. See Is There an Intelligent Agent in Your Future?.

IA: Intelligence Amplification: Technologies seeking to increase the cognitive abilities of people.

Immune Machines: Medical nanomachines designed for internal use, especially in the bloodstream and digestive tract, able to identify and disable intruders such as bacteria and viruses.

IMP: Electronic implant, especially in the brain. (Ron Hale Evans)

In cyto: — within a biological cell.

In nucleo: — within the nucleus of a cell.

In sanguo: — within the bloodstream.

Inline Universities: (as opposed to online universities), nanocomputer implants serving to increase intelligence and education of their owners, essentially turning them into walking universities (Max M. Rasmussen)

Knowbots: Knowledge robots, first developed Vinton G. Cref and Robert E. Kahn for National Research Initiatives. Knowbots are programmed by users to scan networks for various kinds of related information, regardless of the language or form in which it expressed. “Knowbots support parallel computations at different sites. They communicate with one another, and with various servers in the network and with users.”

Langmuir-Blodgett: The name of a nanofabrication technique used to create ultrathin films (monolayers and isolated molecular layers), the end result of which is called a “Langmuir-Blodgett film.”.

LCD (Liquid Crystal Display): is the predominant technology used in flat panel displays. The principle that makes the display work is this: A crystal’s alignment can be altered with an electric current. If the crystal is lined up one way, it will allow the light waves to pass through a polarised filter, but if the electric current alters the crystal’s alignment, it will guide light so that the polarised filter blocks the light. By densely packing red, blue and green light emitting crystals next to each other on a sheet (called a substrate), one can create a full-colour display. The great thing about LCD is that the crystals can be packed together closely, allowing for a higher-resolution, finer-detail display. The con is that LCDs are somewhat fragile, require a lot of power and are relatively less bright.

LEDs (Light Emitting Diodes): work on a completely different concept. Traditionally LEDs are created from two semiconductors. By running current in one direction across the semiconductor the LED emits light of a particular frequency (hence a particular colour) depending on the physical characteristics of the semiconductor used. The semiconductor is covered with a piece of plastic that focuses the light and increases the brightness. These semiconductors are very durable, there is no filament, they don’t require much power, they’re brighter and they last a long time. By densely packing red, blue and green LEDs next to each other on a substrate one can create a display. The disadvantage of LEDs is that they are much larger, therefore the resolution is not nearly as good as LCD displays. That’s why most LED displays are large, outdoor displays, not smaller devices, like monitors.

Limited Assembler: Assembler capable of making only certain products; faster, more efficient, and less liable to abuse than a general-purpose assembler. [FS]

Linde Scenario: A scenario for indefinite survival of intelligent life. It assumes it is possible to either create basement universes connected to the original universe with a wormhole or the existence of other cosmological domains. Intelligent life continually migrates to the new domains as the old grow too entropic to sustain life. [AS/Mitch Porter, 1997. The name refers to Linde’s chaotic inflation cosmology, where new universes are continually spawned.] See The Linde scenario, v0.01

Lofstrom Loop: A beanstalk-like mega construction based on a stream of magnetically accelerated bars linked together. The stream is sent into space, where a station rides it using magnetic hooks, redirects it horizontally to another station, which sends it downwards to a receiving station on the ground. From this station, the stream is then sent back to the launch station (a purely vertical version is called a space fountain). This structure would contain a large amount of kinetic energy but could be built gradually and would only require enough energy to compensate for losses when finished. Elevators could be run along the streams, and geostationary installations could be placed along the horizontal top. [Named after Keith Lofstrom, who did the first detailed calculations on it in: Lofstrom, Keith H., “The launch loop – a low-cost Earth-to-high orbit launch system,” AIAA Paper 85-1368, 1985]. [AS]

Low-dimension Structures: quantum wells, quantum wire and quantum dots.

Matter as Software: “Autonomous, motile microdevices clearly are on the horizon. They may be regarded as the first step in the evolution of a technology for “programming” the structure and properties of material objects at the microscopic and the submicroscopic levels. As this evolution progresses, the physical and economic properties of such programmable matter are likely to become much like those of present day software.” [MITRE Corporation]

Mechanochemistry: the direct, mechanical control of molecular structure formation and manipulation to form atomically precise products [K. Eric Drexler. From Nanosystems: Molecular Machinery, Manufacturing, and Computation]

Mechanosynthesis: (where) molecular tools with chemically specific tip structures can be used, sequentially, to modify a work piece and build a wide range of molecular structures. [FS] See Technical Bibliography for Research on Positional Mechanosynthesis

Mechatronics: the study of the melding of AI and electromechanical machines to make machines that are greater than the sum of their parts. [FR]

Meme: An idea that replicates through a society as it is propagated through person-to-person interaction, both direct and indirect. Memetics is a field of study that focuses on memes’ role in the evolution of a culture. [ZY]

MEMS–MicroelectroMechanical Systems: generic term to describe micron scale electrical/mechanical devices. [ZY] See The beauty of MEMS: Simpler, more reliable, cheaper, and cool – Small Times for a great description and examples of use.

Mesoscale: A device or structure larger than the nanoscale (10^-9 m) and smaller than the megascale; the exact size depends heavily on the context and usually ranges between very large nanodevices (10^-7 m) and the human scale (1 m). [AS]

Messenger molecule: a chemically recognizable molecule which can convey information after it is received and decoded by an appropriate chemical sensor.

Microencapsulation: Individually encapsulated small particles. see Journal of Microencapsulation

MIMIC: [micromoulding in capillaries] one-step rapid prototyping technique.

Molecular Assembler: Also known as an assembler, a molecular assembler is a molecular machine that can build a molecular structure from its component building blocks. [ZY]

Molecular Beam Epitaxy: [MBE] Process used to make compound (multi-layer) semiconductors. Consists of depositing alternating layers of materials, layer by layer, one type after another (such as the semiconductors gallium arsenide and aluminum gallium arsenide).

Molecular Biology: [AKA: wet nano]

Molecular Electronics (ME) [moletronics]: Any system with atomically precise electronic devices of nanometer dimensions, especially if made of discrete molecular parts rather than the continuous materials found in today’s semiconductor devices. [FS] Also: Using molecule-based materials for electronics, sensing, and optoelectronics …. ME is the set of electronic behaviours in molecule-containing structures that are dependent upon the characteristic molecular organisation of space …. ME behaviour is fixed at the scale of the individual molecule, which is effectively the nanoscale. [Mark Ratner & MT 5(2) p. 20

Molecular Manipulator: A device combining a proximal probe mechanism for atomically precise positioning with a molecule binding site on the tip; can serve as the basis for building complex structures by positional synthesis. [NTN]

Molecular Manufacturing: Manufacturing using molecular machinery, giving molecule-by-molecule control of products and by-products via positional chemical synthesis. [FS]

Molecular Medicine: Studying molecules as they relate to health and disease, and manipulating those molecules to improve the diagnosis, prevention, and treatment of disease. [see Medscape Molecular Medicinefor news]

Molecular Nanotechnology (MNT): Thorough, inexpensive control of the structure of matter based on molecule-by-molecule control of products and byproducts; the products and processes of molecular manufacturing, including molecular machinery. [FS]

Molecular Recognition: A chemical term referring to processes in which molecules adhere in a highly specific way, forming a larger structure; an enabling technology for nanotechnology. [FS]

Molecular Systems Engineering: Design, analysis, and construction of systems of molecular parts working together to carry out a useful purpose. [FS]

Molecular Wire: A molecular wire – the simplest electronic component – is a quasi-one-dimensional molecule that can transport charge carriers (electrons or holes) between its ends. [Michael D Ward]

MOLMAC: Molecular machine [Kilian, Gryphon]

Monomer: The units from which a polymer is constructed. [ZY]

Monomolecular Computing: the implantation inside a single molecule of ALL the functional groups or circuits to realise a calculation, without any help from external artifices such as re-configuration, calculation sharing between the user and the machine, or selection of the operational devices. [C. Joachim]

Moore’s Law: Coined in 1965 by Gordon Moore, future chairman and chief executive of Intel, it stated at the time that the of number transistors packed into an integrated circuit had doubled every year since the technology’s inception four years earlier. In 1975 he revised this to every two years, and most people quote 18 months. The trend cannot continue indefinitely with current lithographic techniques, and a limit is seen in ten to fifteen years. However, the baton could be passed to nanoelectronics, to continue the trend (though the smoothness of the curve will very likely be disrupted if a completely new technology is introduced). [CMP]

Nanomedicine: (1) the comprehensive monitoring, control, construction, repair, defense, and improvement of all human biological systems, working from the molecular level, using engineered nanodevices and nanostructures; (2) the science and technology of diagnosing, treating, and preventing disease and traumatic injury, of relieving pain, and of preserving and improving human health, using molecular tools and molecular knowledge of the human body; (3) the employment of molecular machine systems to address medical problems, using molecular knowledge to maintain and improve human health at the molecular scale.

Nucleotide – molecules that makeup DNA and RNA.

OLED or Organic LED: is not made of semiconductors. It’s made from carbon-based molecules. That is the key science factor that leads to potentially eliminating LEDs’ biggest drawback – size. The carbon-based molecules are much smaller. According to a paper written by Dr. Uwe Hoffmann, Dr. Jutta Trube and Andreas Kl–ppel, entitled OLED – A bright new idea for flat panel displays “OLED is brighter, thinner, lighter, and faster than the normal liquid crystal (LCD) display in use today. They also need less power to run, offer higher contrast, look just as bright from all viewing angles and are – potentially – a lot cheaper to produce than LCD screens.” See also LCD and LED. LCD, LED, and OLED definitions courtesy The San Francisco Consulting Group (SFCG)

OMEGA POINT: Also called the Quantum Omega Point Theory. A possible future state when intelligence controls the Universe totally, and the amount of information processed and stored goes asymptotically towards infinity. See Terminology From The Omega Point Theory List . [Origin: Teilhard de Chardin, The Phenomenon of Man. See also Barrow and Tipler, The Cosmological Anthropic Principle or Tipler’s The Physics of Immortality for a more modern definition.] [AS]

Paradigm Shift: When one conceptual world-view is replaced by another, or, a change of patterns on a massive scale. When Copernicus showed how the Earth rotates around the Sun, and not vice versa, that created a paradigm shift [it forced a new way of thinking about our place in the Universe]. And when quantum physics and general relativity displaced Newtonian mechanics, that created another shift. Applied to an enabling technology such as molecular manufacturing, it suggests that there will be many shifts occurring, soon, and with wide-ranging and often disruptive consequences. For more detail, see Accelerating Intelligence: Where Will Technology Lead Us? [by Ray Kurzweil].

Pervasive Computing: when computers (and sensors and actuators) become virtually invisible, and are used in almost every aspect of human commerce, interaction, and life. It will allow you full control over data and information, enabling you to send, receive, manage, and update your data from anywhere at any time. It will also allow you full control over your environment, in so far as you will be able to speak or gesture commands, effecting changes to things around you. Applications include: environmental monitoring – when you enter a room, they sense your presence and adjust temperature and humidity to your personal preferences; building security – to sense chemical weapons and perform face recognition; information transfer – allowing you to send and receive calls, data, and images from anywhere to anywhere, without the need of bulky equipment. Also called “Ubiquitous Computing”, “Intelligent Telesensing”, “Proactive Computing”, “Distributed Information Management Systems”, “The Evernet”, and “Calm Technology”. “…it will look like nothing to the naked eye. …beneath the surface, tiny computing networks will be doing exactly what we want them to do – working behind the scenes to help us see clearer, travel safer, and place more knowledge, rather than frustration, into our heads.” [Howard Lovy, editor at Small Times Media]

Pico Technology: (trillionth of a meter) — the next step smaller, after Nano-technology. The art of manipulating materials on a quantum scale. [CA-B]

POSS Nanotechnology: short for Polyhedral Oligomeric Silsesquioxanes Nanotechnology. POSS nanomaterials are attractive for missile and satellite launch rocket applications because they offer effective protection from collisions with space debris and the extreme thermal environments of deep space and atmospheric re-entry. Another application of POSS nanotechnology under development is a new high-temperature lubricant. This new nanolubricant is effective at temperatures up to 500°F, which is 100°F greater than conventional lubricants. From Technologies developed by the Propulsion Directorate’s Polymer Working Group at Edwards AFB

Polysilicon: short for Polycrystalline Silicon, used in the manufacture of computer chips.

Posthuman: Persons of unprecedented physical, intellectual, and psychological capacity, self-programming, self-constituting, potentially immortal, unlimited individuals. [Max More]

Positional Controlled Chemical Synthesis or Positional Synthesis: Control of chemical reactions by precisely positioning the reactive molecules, the basic principle of assemblers. [NTN]

Positional Assembly: Constructing materials an atom or molecule at a time

Protein Design, Protein Engineering: The design and construction of new proteins; an enabling technology for nanotechnology. [FS]

Protein Folding: “The process by which proteins acquire their functional, preordained, three-dimensional structure after they emerge, as linear polymers of amino acids, from the ribosome.” [The Scientist]

Proteomics: The term proteome refers to all the proteins expressed by a genome, and thus proteomics involves the identification of proteins in the body and the determination of their role in physiological and pathophysiological functions. … Ultimately it is believed that through proteomics new disease markers and drug targets can be identified that will help design products to prevent, diagnose and treat disease. [e-proteomics.net]

Quantum: Describes a system of particles in terms of a wave function defined over the configuration of particles having distinct locations is implicit in the potential energy function that determines the wave function, the observable dynamics of the motion of such particles from point to point. In describing the energies, distributions and behaviours of electrons in nanometer-scale structures, quantum mechanical methods are necessary. Electron wave functions help determine the potential energy surface of a molecular system, which in turn is the basis for classical descriptions of molecular motion. Nanomechanical systems can almost always be described in terms of classical mechanics, with occasional quantum mechanical corrections applied within the framework of a classical model. [NTN]

Quantum Computer: A computer that takes advantage of quantum mechanical properties such as superposition and entanglement resulting from nanoscale, molecular, atomic and subatomic components. Quantum computers may revolutionise the computer industry in the not too distant future. [NTN]

Quantum Confined Atoms (QCA): atoms caged inside nanocrystals. May find uses in clear-glass sunglasses, bio-sensors, and optical computing.

Quantum Cryptography: A system based on quantum- mechanical principles. Eavesdroppers alter the quantum state of the system and so are detected. Developed by Brassard and Bennett, only small laboratory demonstrations have been made. [AS]

Quantum Dots: nanometer-sized semiconductor crystals, or electrostatically confined electrons. Something (usually a semiconductor island) capable of confining a single electron, or a few, and in which the electrons occupy discrete energy states just as they would in an atom (quantum dots have been called “artificial atoms”). [CMP] Other terminology reflects the preoccupations of different branches of research: microelectronics folks may refer to a “single-electron transistor” or “controlled potential barrier,” whereas quantum physicists may speak of a “Coulomb island” or “zero-dimensional gas” and chemists may speak of a “colloidal nanoparticle” or “semiconductor nanocrystal.” All of these terms are, at various times, used interchangeably with “quantum dot,” and they refer more or less to the same thing: a trap that confines electrons in all three dimensions. [from Hacking Matter: Levitating Chairs, Quantum Mirages, and the Infinite Weirdness of Programmable Atoms. Wil McCarthy. February 2003]

Quantum Dot Nanocrystals (QDNs): used to tag biological molecules, and “measuring between five and ten nanometres across, are made up of three components. Their cores contain paired clusters of atoms such as cadmium and selenium that combine to create a semiconductor. This releases light of a specific colour when stimulated by ultraviolet of a wide range of frequencies. These clusters are surrounded by a shell made of an inorganic substance, to protect them. The whole thing is then coated with an organic surface, to allow the attachment of proteins or DNA molecules. By varying the number of atoms in the core, QDNs can be made to emit light of different colours.” [From The Economist print edition]

Quantum Mechanics: A largely computational physical theory explaining the behavior of quantum phenomena, which incorporates the theory of special relativity. Despite dilignet attempts, general relativity has not been successfully incorporated into quantum mechanics. [NTN]

Quantum Mirage: A nanoscale property that may allow information to be transfered through use of the wave property of electrons. Thus, quantum computers might not require wires as we know them. [NTN]

Quantum Well: A P-N-P junction in which the “N” layer is ~10 nm (where traditional physics leaves off and quantum effects take over) and an “electron trap” is created. “If one makes a heterostructure with sufficiently thin layers, quantum interference effects begin to appear prominently in the motion of the electrons. The simplest structure in which these may be observed is a quantum well, which simply consists of a thin layer of a narrower-gap semiconductor between thicker layers of a wider-gap material.” See Center for Quantum Electronics U of Dallas

Quantum Wire: Another form of quantum dot, but unlike the single-dimension “dot,” a quantum wire is confined only in two dimensions – that is it has “length,” and allows the electrons to propagate in a “particle-like” fashion. Constructed typically on a semiconductor base, and (among other things) used to produce very intense laser beams, switchable up to multi-gigahertz per second.

Replicator: A system able to build copies of itself when provided with raw materials and energy. [FS]

Rheology: the study of the deformation and flow of matter under the influence of an applied stress, which might be, for example, a shear stress or extensional stress. The experimental characterisation of a material’s rheological behaviour is known as rheometry, although the term rheology is frequently used synonymously with rheometry, particularly by experimentalists. Theoretical aspects of rheology are the relation of the flow/deformation behaviour of material and its internal structure (e.g. the orientation and elongation of polymer molecules), and the flow/deformation behaviour of materials that cannot be described by classical fluid mechanics or elasticity. This is also often called Non-Newtonian fluid mechanics in the case of fluids.

SAMFET: (self-assembled monolayer field effect transistor). Where a few molecules act as FETs, exhibiting both very strong gain, and extraordinarily rapid response. [Mark Ratner & MT 5(2) p. 20]

Scanning Capacitance Microscopy: A method for mapping the local capacitance of a surface. [NTN]

Scanning Electron Microscopy: see Virtual Scanning Electron Microscopy [Fl St U]

Scanning Force Microscope (SFM): An instrument able to image surfaces to molecular accuracy by mechanically probing their surface contours. A kind of proximal probe. …. A device in which the deflection of a sharp stylus mounted on a soft spring is monitored as the stylus is moved across a surface. If the deflection is kept constant by moving the surface up and down by measured increments, the result (under favourable conditions) is an atomic-resolution topographic map of the surface. Also termed an atomic force microscope. [FS]

Scanning Near Field Optical Microscopy: A method for observing local optical properties of a surface that can be smaller than the wavelength of the light used. [NTN]

Scanning Thermal Microscopy: A method for observing local temperatures and temperature gradients on a surface. [NTN]

Scanning Tunneling Microscope (STM): An instrument able to image conducting surfaces to atomic accuracy; has been used to pin molecules to a surface. [NTN]

Sealed Assembler Laboratory: A work space, containing assemblers, encapsulated in a way that allows information to flow in and out but does not allow the escape of assemblers or their products. [NTN]

Self-assembly: In chemical solutions, self-assembly (also called Brownian assembly) results from the random motion of molecules and the affinity of their binding sites for one another. Also, refers to the joining of complementary surfaces in nanomolecular interaction. [ZY] See MITRE Nanosystems Research Task: Self-Assembly of Nanosystems and Microsystems

Self-repair: indicating the ability to heal itself without outside intervention.

Self-replication: More accurately labelled “exponential replication,” self-replication refers to the process of growth or replication involving doubling within a given period. [ZY] Example: create one assembler. Program it to create another, and program that one likewise, etcetera, until you have a specified amount [which is the important part — how to make them STOP].

Sentience Quotient: In the article “Xenopsychology” by Robert Freitas in Analog of April 1984 there is an interesting index called”Sentience quotient”. It is based on: The sentience of an intelligence is roughly directly related to the amount of data it can process per unit time and inversely to the overall mass needed to do that processing.This would be something like baud/kilograms. And since that would rapidly turn into a real big number, base 10 logs are used. The “least sentient” would be one bit over the lifetime of the universe missing the entire known universe, or about -70. The “most sentient” is claimed to be +50. Homo sapiens are around +13, a Cray I is +9, a Venus flytrap is a peak of +1 with plants generally -2. [AS]

Single-walled carbon nanotubes (SWNT): See Nanotubes and buckyballs

Shape Memory Alloys: (SMA’s) are a unique class of alloys which are able to “remember” their shape and are able to return to that shape even after being bent. The ability is known as the shape memory effect. … This property has led to many uses of SMA from orthodontics and coffee makers to methods of controlling aircraft and protecting buildings from earthquake damage. … The first SMA to be discovered and the most commonly used is called Nitinol. [Texas A&M SMART lab] See also Introduction to Shape Memory and Super elasticity and Shape Memory Alloy Database

Singularity: Defined by Vernor Vinge as the “postulated point or short period in our future when our self-guided evolutionary development accelerates enormously (powered by nanotechnology, neuroscience, AI, and perhaps uploading) so that nothing beyond that time can reliably be conceived….a future time when societal, scientific and economic change is so fast we cannot even imagine what will happen from our present perspective, and when humanity will become post humanity.” Another definition is the singular time when technological development will be at its fastest. A grand evolutionary leap.

siRNA – (small interfering RNAs) small stretches of nucleotides, similar to DNA, that are capable of interfering with normal cellular processes.

Sky Hook: A long, very strong, cable in orbit around a planet which rotates around its centre of mass in such a way that when one end is closest to the ground, its relative velocity is almost zero. It would function as a kind of space elevator; shuttle craft would anchor to the end and then be lifted into orbit where they would be released. It is closely related to the idea of a beanstalk. [Originally described by Y Artsutanov in 1969. The name was probably coined by Hans Moravec in Moravec, Hans, “A Non-Synchronous Orbital Skyhook,” Journal of the Astronautical Sciences, Vol. 25, No. 4, October-December 1977, pp 307-322 ] [AS]

Smartdust: also “Smartdust Motes”…tiny, bottle-cap-shaped micro-machines fitted with wireless communication devices – that measure light and temperature [among other things, such as environmental monitoring, health, security, distributed processing and tracking – ed]. When clustered together, they automatically create highly flexible, low-power networks with applications ranging from climate-control systems to entertainment devices that interact with handheld computers.” [ What ‘Smart Dust’ Could Do for You By Zillah Bahar. 06/2001]

Smart Materials: Here, materials and products capable of relatively complex behaviour due to the incorporation of nanocomputers and nanomachines. Also used for product having some ability to respond to the environment. [NTN] If you combined microscopic motors, gears, levers, bearing, plates, sensors, power and communication cables, etc., with powerful microscopic computers, you have the makings of a new class of materials: “smart materials.” Programmable smart materials could shape-shift into just about any desired object. A house made of smart materials would be quite useful and interesting. Imagine a wall changing colour at your command, or making a window where there was none before. [Bill Spence]

Space Fountain: A vertical stream of magnetically accelerated pellets reaching out into space, where a station held aloft by its momentum reverses the direction and directs it towards a receiver on the ground. Essentially a simpler version of a Lofstrom loop. [I’m not sure who originated the idea, judging from Robert Forward’s Indistinguishable from Magic it was a collaborative effort. A paper about the idea can be found in Hyde, Roderick A.,”Earthbreak: Earth to Space Transportation,” Defense Science 2003+Vol. 4, No. 4, 1985, pp 78-92 ] [AS]

Spike, The: Another term for the singularity, suggested by Damien Broderick since the growth curves look almost like a spike as it is approached. [DamienBroderick, The Spike 1997] [AS]

Spintronics: AKA: Quantum Spintronics, Magneto electronics, Spin Electronics. Electronic devices that exploit the spin of electrons as well as their charge. Unlike conventional electronics which is based on a number of charges and their energy, and whose performance limited in speed and dissipation, spintronics is based on the direction of electron spin, and spin coupling, and is capable of much higher speed at much lower power. See our page on Spintronics. Also, see Electronics and the single atom for a collection of articles (12 June 2002).

Star Trek Scenario: Someone builds potentially dangerous self-replicating devices that spread disastrously. [FS]

Stewart Platforms: A positional device. John Storrs info and links See also A New Family of Six Degree Of FreedomPositional Devices

Superconductor: An object or substance that conducts electricity with zero resistance. [NTN]

Superintelligence: An intellect that is much smarter than the best human brains in practically every field, including scientific creativity, general wisdom and social skills. This definition leaves open how the superintelligence is implemented: it could be a digital computer, an ensemble of networked computers, cultured cortical tissue etc. It also leaves open whether the superintelligence is conscious and has subjective experiences. [Bostrom]

Superlattice Nanowire Pattern (transfer): [SNAP] a technique for producing “Ultra High-Density Nanowire Lattices and Circuits”. See Researchers Discover How to Make the Smallest, Most Perfect, Densest Nanowire Lattices-And It’s a SNAP

Superposition: A quantum mechanical phenomena in which an object exists in more than one state simultaneously. [NTN]

Superlattices: Artificial metallic superlattices are multilayered thin films, prepared by alternately depositing two elements using vacuum deposition or sputtering techniques. A wide spectrum of elements and compounds are suitable for deposition into superlattice structures, and the range of properties displayed by the resulting super structures is greatly dependent upon the properties of both individual lattices as well as the interaction between them. [see The SuperlatticeCollection for images.]

Superlattice Nanowire: interwoven bundles of nanowires using substances with different compositions and properties.

Synthespian: An artificial actor, for example, a 3D model animated by motion capture from a real actor or a computer program. [AS]

Technocyte: A nanoscale artificial device (especially a nanite) in the human bloodstream used for repairs, cancer protection, as an artificial immune system or for other uses. [AS 1995]

Terraform: To change the properties of a planet to make it more earth like making it possible for humans or other terrestrial organisms to live unaided on it, for example by changing atmospheric composition, pressure, temperature or the climate and introducing a self-sustaining ecosystem. This will most probably be a very long-term project, probably requiring self-replicating technology and megascale engineering. So far Venus and especially Mars look the most promising candidates for terraforming in the solar system. [Jack Williamson1938] [AS] Speculation exists that with the advent of mature MNT that we should be able to accomplish Terraforming a planet such as Mars in years, rather than decades [editor]

Thermal Noise: the vibration and motion of atoms and molecules caused by the fact that they have a temperature above absolute zero. [RCM] Once used as an argument on why MNT could not work. Since refuted: See That is impossible! How good scientists reach bad conclusions

Top Down Moulding: [AKA: mechanical nanotechnology] Carving and fabricating small materials and components by using larger objects such as our hands, tools and lasers, respectively. [NTN] Opposite of Bottom Up.

Transhuman: someone actively preparing for becoming posthuman. Someone who is informed enough to see radical future possibilities and plans ahead for them, and who takes every current option for self-enhancement. [Term: FM-2030 Def.: Max More]

Transhumanism: Philosophies of life (such as Extropianism) that seek the continuation and acceleration of the evolution of intelligent life beyond its currently human form and human limitations by means of science and technology, guided by life-promoting values. [Max More 1990]

Transistor: the basic element in an integrated circuit. An on/off switch (consisting of three layers of a semiconductor material) that consists of a source (where electrons come from), a drain (where they go) and a gate that controls the flow of electrons through a channel that connects the source and the drain. There are two kinds of transistor, the bipolar transistor (also called the junction transistor), and the field effect transistor (FET).

Tribology: the study of friction, wear and lubrication of interacting surfaces. [BNL]

Tubeologist: Someone who knows their nanotubes inside and out, such as David Tom·nek [uhf]

Turing Test: Turing’s proposed test for whether a machine is conscious (or intelligent, or aware): we communicate via text with it and with a hidden human. If we can’t tell which of our partners in dialogue is the human, we say the computer is conscious. [AS]

Ubiquitous Computing: Also known as “embodied virtuality”, “smart environment” and “ambient intelligence”. Computers that are an integral, invisible part of people’ s lives. In some ways the opposite of virtual reality, in which the user is absorbed into the computational world. With ubiquitous computing, computers take into account the human world rather than requiring humans to enter into the computer’s methods of working. [AS] See our Smartdust page.

Universal Assembler: Uses raw atoms and molecules to construct consumer goods, and is pollution free. Can be programmed to build anything that is composed of atoms and consistent with the rules of chemical stability. Eric Drexler talks about these assemblers as nanorobots with telescoping manipulator arms that are capable of picking up individual atoms and combining them however they are programmed.

Universal Constructor: A machine capable of constructing anything that can be constructed. The physical analogue of a “universal computer”, which can perform any computation. [AS]

Uplift: To increase the intelligence and help develop a culture of a previously non- or near-intelligent species. [From the Uplift novels by DavidBrin] [AS]

Upload: (a) To transfer the consciousness and mental structure of a person from a biological matrix to an electronic or informational matrix (this assumesthat the strong AI postulate holds). The term “Downloading” is also sometimes used, mainly to denote transferring the mind to a slower or less spacious matrix. (b) The resulting infomorph person. [The origin of the term is uncertain, but obviously based on the computer technology term ‘uploading’ (loading data into a main frame computer).] [AS]

Utility Fog:[AKA: Polymorphic Smart Materials] Objects formed of “intelligent” polymorphic (able to change shape) substances, typically having an octet truss structure. Concept conceived by Dr J. Storrs Hall.

“Imagine a microscopic robot. It has a body about the size of a human cell and 12 arms sticking out in all directions. A bucket full of such robots might form a ‘robot crystal’ by linking their arms up into a lattice structure. Now take a room, with people, furniture, and other objects in it — it’s still mostly empty air. Fill the air completely full of robots. The robots are called Foglets and the substance they form is Utility Fog, which may have many useful medical applications. And when a number of utility foglets hold hands with their neighbours, they form a reconfigurable array of ‘smart matter.'” Copyright Dr.J. Storrs Hall Research Fellow of the Institute for Molecular Manufacturing.

See Nanotech Utility Fog, and On Certain Aspects of Utility Fog, & Utility Fog: The Stuff that Dreams Are Made Of, by J. Storrs Hall, and Polymorphic Smart Materials.

“Here’s a short list of the powers you’d have or appear to have if embedded in fog: Creation–causing objects to appear and disappear on command. Levitation–causing objects to hover and fly around. Manipulation–causing forces (squeezing, hitting, pulling) on objects (real ones) at a distance. Teleportation–nearly any combination of telepresence and virtual reality between fog-filled locations.” [Dr. J. Storrs Hall]

Vasculoid: a nanotechnological medical robotic system capable of duplicating all essential thermal and biochemical transport functions of the blood, including circulation of respiratory gases, glucose, hormones, cytokines, waste products, and cellular components.

Von Neumann Machine: (pronounced von noi-man) A machine which is able to build a working copy of itself using materials in its environment.

VON Neumann Probe: A von Neumann Machine able to move over interstellar or interplanetary distances and to utilize local materials to build new copies of itself. Such probes could be used to set up new colonies, perform megascale engineering or explore the universe.

Wet Nanotechnology: the study of biological systems that exist primarily in a water environment. The functional nanometer-scale structures of interest here are genetic material, membranes, enzymes and other cellular components. The success of this nanotechnology is amply demonstrated by the existence of living organisms whose form, function and evolution are governed by the interactions of nanometer-scale structures.

Zeptosecond: one-billion-trillionth of a second, or 10 -21 second. Because nuclear movement takes place so quickly, scientists would need a pulse of light lasting just one zeptosecond to observe them.

Zettatechnology: in which zetta means 1021, referring to the typical number of distinct designed parts in a product made by the systems we envision (molecular, mature, or molecular-manufacturing-based nanotechnology). The term refers to the implemented technology and its products, rather than to intermediate steps on the pathway.