Glossary of Nanotechnology Terms

Glossary of Nanotechnology Terms

[A-C] [D-F] [G-I] [J-M] [N-O] [P-R] [S-T] [U-Z]

A through C (top)

ACE Paste:
Atomspheric Carbon Extractor. Harvests the greenhouse gases for Carbon, to be used for diamondoid fabrication. Larger than most pastebots, because it has to be collectible afterwards. A well-designed paste could harvest 100X or more its empty weight. ACE Paste may not be necessary, because large fixed installations might be more efficient. [uhf]

Adensoine Triphosphate [ATP]:
A chemical compound that functions as fuel for biomolecular nanotechnology having the formula, C10H16N5O13P3. [Encyclopedia Nanotech]

A general-purpose device for molecular manufacturing capable of guiding chemical reactions by positioning molecules. A molecular machine that can be programmed to build virtually any molecular structure or device from simpler chemical building blocks. Analogous to a computer-driven machine shop.[FS]

Atomic Force Microscope:
(AFM) 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 favorable conditions) is an atomic-resolution topographic map of the surface. Also termed a scanning force microscope. [FS] See How AFM Works, What is an Atomic Force Microscope? and Window on a Small World

Atomic Manipulation: Manipulating atoms, typically with the tip of an STM.

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. [The Center for Computational Sciences at the ORNL]

Ballistic Magnetoresistance:
(BMR) is yet another way in which spin orientation, encoding information on a storage medium such as a hard drive, can modify electrical resistance in a nearby circuit, thereby accomplishing the sensing of that orientation. [Physics News]

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

From “biovore;” an organism capable of converting biological material into energy for sustenance. [ZY]

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

Biomedical Nanotechnology: see Nanomedicine.

BioMEMS: MEMS used in medicine, that use microchips.

BioNEMS: biofunctionalized nanoelectromechanical systems.

Imitating, copying, or learning from nature. Nanotechnology already exists in nature; thus, nanoscientists have a wide variety of components and tricks already available. [Encyclopedia Nanotech]

Study of the structure and function of biological substances to make artificial products that mimic the natural ones. [BNL]

Biomimetic Chemistry:
Knowledge of biochemistry, analytical chemistry, polymer science, and biomimetic chemistry is linked and applied to research in designing new molecules, molecular assemblies, and macromolecules having biomimetic functions. These new bio-related materials of high performance, including, for example, enzyme models, synthetic cell membranes, and biodegradable polymers, are prepared, tested, and constantly improved in this division for industrial scale production. [DCBE]

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

Biopolymeroptoelectromechanical Systems [BioPOEMS]:
Combining optics and microelectromechanical systems, and used in biological applications.

A condition in which an organism’s cell and tissue structure are preserved, allowing later restoration by cell repair machines. Applicable to cryonics. [FS] See also “ischemic coma,” “ametabolic coma,” “biostatic coma,” and “in suspension.” [Brian Wowk]

Blue Goo: Opposite of Grey goo. Benificial tech, or “police” nanobots.

Bogosity Filter: A mechanism for detecting bogus ideas and propositions.

Born-Oppenheimer Approximation:
Permits the use of classical mechanics in modeling and thinking about molecular and atomic motions. Needless to say, this greatly simplifies the conceptual framework required for thinking about molecular machines. [RCM] Once used as an argument on why MNT could not work. Since refuted: See That’s impossible! How good scientists reach bad conclusions

Bose-Einstein Condensates [BEC’s]:
“…aren’t like the solids, liquids and gases that we learned about in school. They are not vaporous, not hard, not fluid. Indeed, there are no ordinary words to describe them because they come from another world — the world of quantum mechanics.” [See A New Form of Matter]

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. [NTN] 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 assembly is a less paradoxical name for self-assembly (how can a structure assemble itself, or do anything, when it does not yet exist?). [NTN]

Brownian Motion:
Motion of a particle in a fluid owing to thermal agitation, observed in 1827 by Robert Brown. (Originally thought to be caused by vital force, Brownian motion in fact plays a vital role in the assembly and activity of the molecular structures of life). [NTN]

Bulk technology:
Technology in which atoms and molecular are manipulated in bulk, rather than individually. [FS]

See Fullerenes. A broad term covering the variety of buckyballs and carbon nanotubes that exist. Named after the architect Buckminster Fuller, who is famous for the geodesic dome, which buckyballs resemble. [CMP]

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. See our Nanotubes and Buckyball page.

Bush Robot:
A concept for robots of ultimate dexterity, they utilize fractal branching to create ever-shrinking “branches,” eventually ending in nanoscale “fingers.” Developed by Hans Moravec. See Fractal branching ultra-dexterous robots

Carbon Nanotubes: see Nanotubes

Cellular Automata:
An array of identically programmed automata, or “cells,” which interact with one another. [David G. Green]

Cell Pharmacology:
Delivery of drugs by medical nanomachines to exact locations in the body. [FS]

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.

Collaborative robots designed to work alongside human operators. Prototype cobots are being used on automobile assembly lines to help guide heavy components like seats and dashboards into cars so they don’t damage auto body parts as workers install them. [Wired 5.07 Jargon Watch]

Convergence of nanotech, biotech and IT, for remote brain sensing and mind control. [Nanodot]

Computational Nanotechnology:
Permits the modeling and simulation of complex nanometer-scale structures. The predictive and analytical power of computation is critical to success in nanotechnology: nature required several hundred million years to evolve a functional “wet” nanotechnology; the insight provided by computation should allow us to reduce the development time of a working “dry” nanotechnology to a few decades, and it will have a major impact on the “wet” side as well. [Rice University]

A highly (or optimally) efficient matrix for computation, such as dense lattices of nanocomputers or quantum dot cellular automata. [Eugene Leitl]

(Consciousness + intelligence) The combination of awareness and computational power required in an Artificially Intelligent network before we could, without loss of anything essential, upload ourselves into them. [Timothy Leary] [AS]

Convergent Assembly:
“…rapidly make products whose size is measured in meters starting from building blocks whose size is measured in nanometers. 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.” [Ralph C. Merkle]

D through F (top)

From the Greek word dendra – tree, a dendrimer is polymer that branches. [Encyclopedia Nanotech] “…a tiny molecular structure that interacts with cells, enabling scientists to probe, diagnose, cure or manipulate them on a nanoscale.” Invented by Professor Donald Tomalia from Central Michigan University. [SmallTimes] See this article for a great explanation Dendrimers: Branching out into new realms of molecular architecture.

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 permits faster exploitation of the abilities of new tools. [NTN]

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

Stuctures 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. [NTN] Materials with superior strength to weight ratio, as much as 100 to 250 times as strong as Titanium, and much lighter. Possibly used to build stronger lighter rockets and space components, or a variety of other earth-bound articles for which weight and strength are a consideration.

Dip Pen Nanolithography:
An AFM-based soft-lithography technique. See example at Surface science in the Mirkin Group

A specific type of assembler that makes use of directed-assembly, such that the assembly process requires external energy or information input. [Encyclopedia Nanotech]

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. [FS]


Idly fantasizing about possible catastrophes (ecological collapse, full-blown totalitarianism) without considering their likelihood or considering their possible solutions and preventions. [David Krieger, 1993]

Disruptive Technology:
Technology that is significantly cheaper than current, is much higher performing, has greater functionality, and is frequently more convenient to use. Will revolutionize 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.

Distributed Intelligence:
An intelligent entity which is distributed over a large volume (or inside another system, like a computer network) with no distinct center. This is the opposite to the strategy of Concentrated intelligences. Distributed intelligences have much longer communications lags, but are more flexible in their structure and can survive damage to their parts. [AS]

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

Superconducting Buckyballs (they) have the highest critical temperature of any known organic compound. see The Buckyball Collection [Florida St U]

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]

Apealing to the least common denominator by explaining difficult concepts in such a manner so they loose meaning. Also, talking down to someone less informed or learned. [uhf]

Dyson Scenario, the:
Life expands into the universe, which is open. As the universe cools, life stores energy to survive (do information processing). It waits until the universe is cool enough, performs some processing with part of its energy stores, then waits until the universe has cooled so much that the remaining energy can be used to do an equal amount of computation, and so on. Essentially life has to adapt as the universe grows older, changing itself to be able to survive when the stars grow cold. If the universe is open, there will be plenty of time to work in, but energy will become very scarce. Dyson has shown that a finite amount of energy is enough to guarantee infinite survival if it is spent sufficiently slowly. [The Omega Point and the Final Fate of Life AS]

Dyson Sphere:
A shell built around a star to collect as much energy as possible, originally proposed by Freeman Dyson (although he admits to have borrowed the concept from Olaf Stapledon’s novel Star Maker (1937)). In the original proposal the shell consists of many independent solar collectors and habitats in separate orbits (also known as a Type I Dyson Sphere), but later people have discussed rigid shells consisting of only one piece (called a Type II Dyson Sphere). The latter construction is unfortunately both unstable (since it will experience no net attraction of the star), requires super-strong materials and have no internal gravity. The Dyson Sphere is a classic example of mega-technology and common in Science Fiction. See also The Dyson Sphere FAQ. [AS]

(or Global Ecophagy) Consuming the biological environment. Coined and defined by Robert A. Freitas Jr. (Research Scientist Zyvex Corp). Frequently associated with “gray goo,” as ecophagy (uncontrolled self-replication) is its main prupose. See “Some Limits to Global Ecophagy by Biovorous Nanoreplicators, with Public Policy Recommendations” where Dr. Freitas said “Perhaps the earliest-recognized and best-known danger of molecular nanotechnology is the risk that self-replicating nanorobots capable of functioning autonomously in the natural environment could quickly convert that natural environment (e.g., “biomass”) into replicas of themselves (e.g., “nanomass”) on a global basis, a scenario usually referred to as the ‘gray goo problem’ but perhaps more properly termed ‘global ecophagy.'”

Ecosystem protector:
A nanomachine for mechanically removing selected imported species from an ecosystem to protect native species. [FS]

Electrical Bistability:
A phenomenon in which an object exhibits two states of different conductivity at the same applied voltage. [UCLA]

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, rationalize, and create.

EI – Emergent Intelligence:
An intelligent system that gradually emerges from simpler systems, instead of being designed top down. [AS]

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). [AS] The Star Trek replicator is an example.

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

From quantum mechanics, entanglement is a relationship between two objects in which they both exhibit superposition but once the state of one object is measured, the state of the other is also known. [NTN]

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. [Encyclopedia Nanotech]

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

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

Exponential Assembly:
A manufacturing architecture starting with a single tiny robotic arm on a surface. This first robotic arm makes a second robotic arm on a facing surface by picking up miniature parts ó carefully laid out in advance in exactly the right locations so the tiny robotic arm can find them ó and assembling them. The two robotic arms then make two more robotic arms, one on each of the two facing surfaces. These four robotic arms, two on each surface, then make four more robotic arms. This process continues with the number of robotic arms steadily increasing in the pattern 1, 2, 4, 8, 16, 32, 64, etc. until some manufacturing limit is reached (both surfaces are completely covered with tiny robotic arms, for example). This is an exponential growth rate, hence the name exponential assembly. [ZY] See Exponential Assembly

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

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

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. When used to time a laser pulse, it allows for ultra-precise micromachining, with virtually no damage to surrounding material.

The art of manipulating materials on the scale of elementary particles (leptons, hadrons, and quarks). [CA-B] The next step smaller after picotechnology, which is the next step smaller after nanotechnology.

Fluidic Self Assembly:
A novel technique for accurately assembling large numbers of very small devices. The small size, planarity, and accuracy of the assembly also result in very low parasitic interconnects, comparable to on die traces. This massively parallel assembly process combines the capability and flexibility of assembly with the cost effectiveness of integration. [MIT EECS] Invented by Mr. Mark Hadley and was part of his Ph.D. dissertation while he was studying at University of California, Berkley. The FSA process became the foundation for the origins of a new company named Alien Technology Corporation. In the FSA process, specifically shaped semiconductor devices ranging in size from 10 microns to several hundred microns are suspended in liquid and flowed over a surface which has correspondingly shaped “holes” or receptors on it and into which the devices settle. The shape of the devices and of the holes is designed so that the devices fall easily into place and are selfaligning. Alien has successfully demonstrated the assembly of tens of thousands of devices in a single process step.

A mesoscale machine. A discreet component of utility fog. [J. S. Hall 1994]

A mathematical construct that has a fractional dimension. [Encyclopedia Nanotech] See Fractal eXtreme Gallery & Fractal Domains for examples [images] and software to create your own.

Fractal Mechatronic Universal Assembler:
(or Fractal Assembler) is a machine that is capable of assembling any chemical from a generic descriptions 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. [FR] See Fractal Mechatronic Universal Assembler

Fractal Robots:
AKA: Fractal Shape Shifting Robots and Programmable “Digital Matter”, are programmable machines that can do unlimited tasks in the physical world, the world of matter. Load the right software and the same “machines” can vacuum the carpet, paint your car, or construct an office building and later, wash that building’s windows. This is the beginning of “Digital Matter”. Fractal Shape Shifting Robots look like “Rubic’s Cubes” that can “slide” over each other on command, changing and moving in any overall shape desired for a particular task. These cubes communicate with each other and share power through simple internal induction coils (or surface contacts in some models), have batteries, a small computer and various kinds of internal magnetic and electric inductive motors (depending on size) used to move over other cubes. When sufficiently miniaturized (below 0.1mm) and fabricated using photolithography and E-Beam methods, the machines may exceed human manual dexterity and could then be programmed to assemble complex fractal aggregates or even to maintain the photolithographic and E-Beam equipment itself! The ultimate goal is self sustaining systems and “self-assembly” features that can drop cost dramatically and enable successive generations of robots exhibiting greater utility and value, to be built along the way. [Bill Spence]

FUD: Fear, Uncertainty, Doubt.

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.

G through I (top)
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]

An AI combined with an assembler or other 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.

Golden Goo:
Another member of the grey goo family of nanotechnology disaster scenarios. The idea is to use nanomachines to filter gold from seawater. If this process got out of control we would get piles of golden goo (the “Wizard’s Apprentice Problem”). This scenario demonstrates the need of keeping populations of self-replicating machines under control; it is much more likely than grey goo, but also more manageable. [AS – Originated on sci.nanotech 1996]

GNR Technologies: Genetic Engineering, Nanotechnology, and Robotics

Gray Goo or Grey Goo
Destructive nanobots [AKA: “gray dust”]. opposite of Blue Goo. See Star Trek scenario. Vast legions of destructive nanites. Typically, created by accident. Left unchecked, they will basically convert everthing they contact into more of themselves, or consume and digest it for energy. Either way, its pretty much bad news. The debate rages on. Check out the first technical analysis of gray goo ever published, in April 2000, by Robert A. Freitas Jr. Also – Self-replicating (von Neumann) nanomachines spreading uncontrolably, building copies of themselves using all available material. This is a commonly mentioned nanotechnology disaster scenario, although it is rather unlikely due to energy constraints and elemental abundances. More probable disaster scenarios are the green goo, golden goo, red goo, khaki goo scenarios. As a protection blue goo has been proposed. [AS]

Green Goo:
Nanomachines or bio-engineered organisms used for population control of humans, either by governments or eco-terrorist groups. Would most probably work by sterilizing people through otherwise harmless infections. See Nick Szabo’s essay Green Goo — Life in the Era of Humane Genocide. [AS]

Guy Fawkes Scenario:
If nanotechnology becomes widely available, it might become trivial for anyone to committ acts of terrorism (such as making nanomachines build a large amount of explosives under government buildings a la Guy Fawkes). This would either force strict control over nanotechnology (hard) or a decentralized mode of organization. [AS]

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. [NTN] “The more precisely the POSITION is determined, the less precisely the MOMENTUM is known” [Werner Heisenberg]

Heteronuclear: Consisting of different elements. [TNTWeekly]

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 take a vacation – 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. [AS]

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. [FS]

Electronic implant, especially in the brain. [Ron Hale Evans]

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]

J through M (top)
A posthuman being of extremely high computational power and size. This is the archetypal concentrated intelligence. The term originated due to an idea by Keith Henson that nanomachines could be used to turn the mass of Jupiter into computers running an upgraded version of himself. [AS]

Khaki Goo: Military nanotechnology; see grey goo. [AS]

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.” [Scientific American, September 1991, p.74.] [AS]

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.” More and more.

LCD (Liquid Crystal Display):
Is the predominant technology used in flat panel displays. The principle that makes the display work is this: A crystalís alignment can be altered with an electric current. If the crystal is lined up one way ñ it will allow the light waves to pass through a polarized filter, but if the electric current alters the crystalís alignment, it will guide light so that the polarized filter blocks the light. By densely packing red, blue and green light emitting crystals next to each other on a sheet (ìcalled a substrateî), one can create a full color 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 color) 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 donít require much power, theyíre 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 ñ therefore the resolution is not nearly as good as LCD displays. Thatís why most LED displays are large, outdoor displays, not smaller devices, like monitors. OLED or Organic LED is not made of semiconductors. Itís made from carbon-based molecules. That is the key science factor that leads to potentially eliminating LEDsí biggest drawback ñ size. The carbon-based molecules are much smaller. And 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 ìOLED 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.î LCD, LED, and OLED definitions courtesy The San Francisco Consulting Group (SFCG)

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:
An beanstalk-like megaconstruction 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]

Meat Machine:
AKA Cabinet Beast. A box containing assemblers and raw material, within which is formed meat [or whatever else it was programmed to make]. [FS]

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

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.

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]

Individually encapsulated small particles. see Journal of Microencapsulation

[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 Integrated Microsystems (MIMS):
microsystems in which functions found in biological and nanoscale systems are combined with manufacturable materials. See Molecular Integrated Microsystems

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 behaviors in molecule-containing structures that are dependent upon the characteristic molecular organization of space …. ME behavior 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-scale 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 Medicine for news]

Molecular Nanogenerator:
see Molecular Nanogenerator Developed That Can Target Cancer Cells and Destroy Them

Molecular Nanotechnology (MNT):
Thorough, inexpensive control of the structure of matter based on molecule-bymolecule 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]

Molecular machine [Kilian, Gryphon]

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 realize 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). From

N through O (top)
Someone who circumvents government control to use nanotechnology, or someone who advocates this. [Eli Brandt, October 1991]

The use of automatic law-enforcement by nanomachines or robots, without any human control – see blue goo [Mark S. Miller].

[AKA: nanobots] — machines with atomic sized components. [Popularized by the Star Trek episode “Evolution”] As to their weight, a popular question: “Do you ‘feel’ heavier after you drink a mouthful of water? A mouthful of water, roughly 5 cm^3, would have the same mass as a ~2 terabot [2 trillion nanite] dose of 1 micron^3 nanorobots. You’ll never feel it.” Robert A. Freitas Jr.

an ultra-sensitve, ultra-miniaturized array for biomolecular analysis. BioForce Nanosciences’ Nanoarrays utilize approximately 1/10,000th of the surface area occupied by a conventional microarray, and over 1,500 nanoarray spots can be placed in the area occupied by a single microarray domain. [BioForce Nanosciences] See The NanoPro™ System

the Holy Grail of nanotechnology; once a perfected nanoassembler is availble, building anything becomes possible, with physics and the imagination the only limitation (of course each item would have to be designed first, which is another small hurdle).

SurroMed’s Nanobarcode™ technology uses cylindrically-shaped colloidal metal nanoparticles, in which the metal composition can be alternated along the length and the size of each metal segment can be controlled. Intrinsic differences in reflectivity between the metal segments allow individual particles to be identified by conventional optical microscopy. See SurroMed and Penn State Publish Pioneering Work in the Journal Science Describing Nanobarcode™ Particles

applying the tools and processes of MNT to build devices for studying biosystems, in order to learn from biology how to create better nanoscale devices. Should hasten the creation of useful micro devices that mimic living biological systems.

Nanobot: see Nanite

tiny air bubbles on colloid surfaces. Thought to reduce drag, such as would be of benefit to swimmers wearing a suit coverd in them.

See LBL-UCB Scientists Demonstrate Nanocatalysis and Nanocluster arrays refine the catalytic process

we are approaching the limits of standard microchip technology; thus, the “nanochip” — a next-smaller microchip. [ed] They are also a next-gen device for mass storage, of significantly higher density, with greater speed, and much lower cost. [Tod Maffin (p)] See Getting a Line on Nanochips

A computer made from components (mechanical, electronic, or otherwise) built at the nanometer scale.

Nanomachines existing inside living cells, participating in their biochemistry (like mitochondria) and/or assembling various structures. See also nanosome. [Ken Clements 1996]

Nonplanar graphitic structures. Carbon-based structures with five-fold symmetry that form due to disclination defects in two-dimensional graphene sheets. They have been observed as nanotube caps and as freestanding structures. [North Carolina State University] see Nanostructures Fabrication from Carbon Nanocones.

also known as nanoscale semiconductor crystals. “Nanocrystals are aggregates of anywhere from a few hundred to tens of thousands of atoms that combine into a crystalline form of matter known as a “cluster.” Typically around ten nanometers in diameter, nanocrystals are larger than molecules but smaller than bulk solids and therefore frequently exhibit physical and chemical properties somewhere in between. Given that a nanocrystal is virtually all surface and no interior, its properties can vary considerably as the crystal grows in size.” [LBL] See Nanocrystals: The shapes of things to come Nano Cubic Technology: an ultra-thin layer coating that results in higher resolution for recording digital data, ultra-low noise and high signal-to-noise ratios that are ideal for magneto-resistive (MR) heads. It is capable of catapulting data cartridge and digital videotape to one-terabyte native (uncompressed) capacities and floppy disk capacities to three gigabytes. To help visualize the potential, 1TB can store up to 200 two-hour movies. [Fuji Photo Film U.S.A., Inc.]
any of the “good” goo’s, such a Blue Goo. Protectors against Grey Goo, destructive nanoswarms, and the like.

see the various ‘goo’ scenerios that have potentially negative outcomes.

nanoelectromechanical systems: A generic term to describe nano scale electrical/mechanical devices. [ZY]

Electronics on a nanometer scale, whether made by current techniques or nanotechnology; includes both molecular electronics and nanoscale devices resembling today’s semiconductor devices. [NTN] Nanofabrication: construction of items using assemblers and stock molecules. see Nanofacture. AKA: nanoscale engineering.

The fabrication of goods using nanotechnology [Geoff Dale 1995]. see Nanofabrication

controlling nano-scale amounts of fluids

A device that precisely meters the flow of tiny amounts of fluid. Precise control of the flow restriction is
accomplished by deflecting a highly polished cantilevered plate. The opening is adjustable on a sub-nanometer scale, limited by the roughness of the polished plates. Thus, the Nanogate is an Ultra Surface Finish Effect Mechanism (USFEM). The Nanogate can be fabricated on a macro-, meso- or micro- (MEMs) scale. [James R. White] See Nanogate: A Fundamental New Device for Nanofluidics

someone who travels form place to place, spreading the “nano” word. Usually a person who takes the most optimistic viewpoint, and is enthusitic. [uhf]

Sometimes called soft lithography. A technique that is very simple in concept, and totally analogous to
traditional mould- or form-based printing technology, but that uses moulds (masters) with nanoscale features. As with the printing press, the potential for mass production is clear. There are two forms of nanoimprinting, one that uses pressure to make indentations in the form of the mould on a surface, the other, more akin to the printing press, that relies on the application of “ink” applied to the mould to stamp a pattern on a surface. Other techniques such as etching may then follow. [CMP]

Nanoimprint Machine:
a form of soft lithography

describes what MNT is all about — “hacking” at the molecular level.

Nanoindentation is similar to conventional hardness testing performed on a much smaller scale. The
force required to press a sharp diamond indenter into a material is measured as a function of indentation depth. As depth resolution is on the scale of nanometers (hence the name of the instrument), it is possible to conduct indentation experiments even on thin films. Two quantities which can be readily extracted from nanoindentation experiments are the material’s modulus, or stiffness, and its hardness, which can be correlated to yield strength. Investegators have also used nanoindentation to study creep, plastic flow, and fracture of materials. [Nix Research Group, Materials Science & Engineering, Stanford University]

Writing on the nanoscale. From the Greek words Nanos – Dwarf, Lithos – rock, and grapho – to write, this word literally means “small writing on rocks.” [NTN] see Optical Near-Field Lithography

An artificial molecular machine of the sort made by molecular manufacturing. [FS]

like traditional machining, where portions of the structure are removed or modified, nanomachining
involves changing the structure of nano-scale materials or molecules.

uses virtual reality (VR) goggles and a force feedback probe as an interface to a scanning probe microscope, providing researchers with a new way to interact with the atomic world. Researchers can travel over genes, tickle viruses, push bacteria around, and tap on molecules – the nanoManipulator simplifies the process and allows researchers to play with their atoms. University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC-CH) The Nanomanipulator from the Center for Computer Integrated Systems for Microscopy and Manipulation (CISMM) at UNC Chapel Hill. Part of the Nanoscale Science Research Group (NSRG). Images & Movies

The process of manipulating items at an atomic or molecular scale in order to produce precise structures. [ZY See Zyvex SEM manipulator]

Nanomanufacturing: Same as molecular manufacturing.

can be subdivided into nanoparticles, nanofilms and nanocomposites. The focus of nanomaterials is a bottom up approach to structures and functional effects whereby the building blocks of materials are designed andassembled in controlled ways. [Oxonica]

Nanomedicine: See Nanomedicine Glossary

Interaction of light and matter on the nanoscale. see University of Rochester – Institute of Optics – NANOOPTICS GROUP NanoPGM – nanometer-scale patterned granular motion: The goal of NanoPGM is to generate millions of “nanofingers,” finger-like structures each only a few nanometers long, that might someday perform precise, massively parallel manipulation of molecules and directed assembly of other nanometer-scale objects. This ability answers one of the biggest technical challenges facing builders of nanocomputers: how to arrange as many as a trillion molecular computing components in an area only a few millimeters square. [MITRE / Alex Wissner-Gross]

nanoscale particles used to modulate drug transport for drug uptake and delivery applications.
Nanophase Carbon Materials (carbon nanotubes, nanodiamond, nanocomposite]–A form of matter in which small clusters of atoms form the building blocks of a larger structure. These structures differ from those of naturally occurring crystals, in which individual atoms arrange themselves into a lattice.

involves squeezing a DNA sequence between two oppositely charged fluid reservoirs, separated by an
extremely small channel.

Nanoscale machines used to diagnose, image, report on, and treat disease within the body. See “Cell Repair Machine”, “Nanites”, “Nanobots”, and “Nanomachine”. Also: tips for scanning probe microscopes. Courtesy of, and Copyright 1999 by Time Inc. Reprinted by Permission. “Anatomy of a Nanoprobe” by Joe Lertola. 11/08/99 issue of Time. Reproduction strictly prohibited without permission of Time.

A set of nanomachines capable of exponential replication. [ZY]

or Carbon Nanorods. Formed from multi-wall carbon nanotubes.

nanotubes connected and strung together.

1 – 100 nanometer range.Nanoscopic Scale same as nanoscale.

Nanosensors: nanoscale size sensors.

sources that emit light from nanometre-scale volumes. [See Tears of brilliance Nature reg. req’d]
Nanosome: Nanodevices existing symbiotically inside biological cells, doing mechanosynthesis and disassembly for it and replicating with the cell. Similar to nanochondria. [AS January 1998]

A generic term including molecular repair and cell surgery. [FS] See Voyage of the Nano-Surgeons

Nanoswarm: UFog and Goo

the religion of nanotech, as opposed to the science of nanotech Nanotechnology: a manufacturing technology able to inexpensively fabricate most structures consistent with natural law, and to do so with molecular precision. [FS]

using MNT derived nanites to do damage to people or places.

see our Nanotubes and Buckyballs page Copyright Prof. Vincent H. Crespi Department of Physics Pennsylvania State University. And an excellent description of Nanotubes

NEMS – Nanoelectromechanical systems: Nanoscale MEMS.

nm: Abbreviation for Nanometer.

Nanotube-based/Nonvolatile RAM, developed by Nantero, using proprietary concepts and methods derived from leading-edge research in nanotechnology.

how wetting behavior depends on nanoscale topography on a substrate. [BNL]
NBIC: Nanotechnology, Biotechnology, Information Technology and Cognitive Science. See Converging Technologies for Improving Human Performance

Nanotechnology’s Ethical, Environmental, Economic, Legal, and Social Implications. From ‘Mind the gap’: science and ethics in nanotechnology. click here (requires free registration) [Anisa Mnyusiwalla, Abdallah S. Daar and Peter A. Singer 2003 Nanotechnology 14 R9-R13. 13 Feb 2003]

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. And 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)

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]

Orbital Tower:
also known as a “space tether”, “beanstalk” or “heavenly funicular”. A cable in synchronous orbit, with
one end anchored to the surface of the Earth, often with a small asteroid at the outer end to provide some extra tension and stability. Picture also a “space elevator”. In theory, constructed of a diamondoid material, approximately 22,000 miles long, with one end in a stable orbit, and the other somewhere [probably] around the equator. Used frequently in sciencefiction yarns, and may become a reality with the advent of mature MNT. Such an elevator would move freight and passengers into orbit at a cost per pound orders of magnitude less than current launches, with passenger safety comparable to train, plane, or subway trips. Becomes possible when we can mass-produce nanotubes, and make their length to fit.

P through R (top)
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]

Pink Goo:
(humorous) Humans (in analogy with grey goo) “Pink Goo to refer to Old Testament apes who see their purpose as being fruitful and multiplying, filling up of the cosmos with lots more such apes, unmodified.” [Eric Watt Forste August 1997]

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 500ƒF, which is 100ƒF greater than conventional lubricants. From Technologies developed by the Propulsion Directorate’s Polymer Working Group at Edwards AFB

Short for Polycrystalline Silicon, used in the manufacture of computer chips.

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

Positional Devices:
See “A New Family of Six Degree Of Freedom Positional Devices” by Ralph C. Merkle

Post Monetary Economy:
After the advent of mature Nanotechnology, it is likely that our economic reality will change, possibly to the extent of eliminating currency as we know it today. See “Proposal for an Ideal Nano-Specie: Gold-Pressed Latinum” Robert A. Freitas Jr.

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]

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. []

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]

[theoretical] Think of your brain. Now, think of your brain performing at vastly superior levels. Nanobots will become an as-needed addition to your existing neurons, extending your mental capacities further then you can probably now imagine. [uhf]

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 revolutionize 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 sucessfully 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 Tunneling:
When electrons pass through a barrier, without overcoming it or breaking it down. See this illustration.

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.

The quantum computing analog to a bit. Qubits exhibit superposition. Thus, unlike normal bits, qubits can be both 1 and 0 at the same time. [NTN]

Red Goo:
Deliberately designed and released destructive nanotechnology, as opposed to accidentally created grey goo. [AS]


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

S through T (top)
(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 favorable 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]

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

Indicating ability to heal itself without outside intervention.

More accurately labeled “exponential replication,” self-replication refers to the process of growth or replication involving doubling within a given period. [ZY] Examp[le: create one assembler. Program it to create another, and program that one likewise, etcetera, until you have a speficied 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 massing 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 lead 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 Superelasticity and Shape Memory Alloy Database

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 posthumanity.” Another definition is the singular time when technological development will be at its fastest. A grand evolutionary leap.

Sky Hook:
A long, very strong, cable in orbit around a planet which rotates around its center 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 propbably 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]

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 behavior due to the incorporation of nanocomputers and nanomachines. Also used for products 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 color at your command, or making a window where their 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. [Damien Broderick, The Spike 1997] [AS]

Spintronics: AKA:
Quantum Spintronics, Magnetoelectronics, Spin Electronics. Electronic devices that exploit the spin of electrons as well as their charge. Unlike conventional electronics which is based on 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] Again, “BAD” goo.

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

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

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 or what have you. 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

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

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 superstructures is greatly dependent upon the properties of both individual lattices as well as the interaction between them. [see The Superlattice Collection for images.]

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

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

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]

Those who have a phobia to technology, and/or to advances in technology.

To change the properties of a planet to make it more earthlike, 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 looks as the most promising candidates for terraforming in the solar system. [Jack Williamson 1938] [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 then 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 Thatís impossible! How good scientists reach bad conclusions

Top Down Molding:
[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.

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]

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]

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).

Study of friction, wear and lubrication of interacting surfaces. [BNL]

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.

U through Z (top)
A related term to grey goo, used (jokingly) to refer to the mistaken idea that during the singularity powerful technologies would decimate non-transhumanists, and that some transhumanists would see this as desirable (which is clearly against theTranshuman Principles). [Dale Carrico 1996]

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 analog of a “universal computer”, which can perform any computation. [AS]

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

(a) To transfer the consciousness and mental structure of a person from a biological matrix to an electronic or informational matrix (this assumes that 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 mainframe 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 concieved 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 bucketfull 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 neighbors, 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]

The vasculoid [concept] is a single, complex, multisegmented 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. [RAF CJP] See Vasculoid: A Personal Nanomedical Appliance to Replace Human Blood. Robert A. Freitas Jr. & Christopher J. Phoenix April 2002

Virtual Nanomedicine:
Using VR to perform surgery and other functions inside the body.

Von Neumann Machine:
(pronounced von noi-man) A machine which is able to build a working copy of itself using materials in its environment. This is often proposed as a cheap way to mine or colonize the entire solar system or galaxy. An early fictional treatment was the short story “Autofac” by Philip K. Dick, published in 1955, which actually seems to precede John von Neumann’s original paper about self-reproducing machines (von Neumann, J., 1966, The Theory of Self-reproducing Automata, A. Burks, ed., Univ. of Illinois Press, Urbana, IL.). [AS]

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. [AS]

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. [Rice University]

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. Johns Hopkins University


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. [FS]