Return to nanomachines (thing)

As opposed to [micromachines], they are necessarily a plural. Why? 'Cos a single nanomachine is not much use - that is the key to understanding [nanomaterials|the logic of the very small].

Biological systems use nanomachines, in that proteins are nanometers in size. The smallest component of a protein (the amino acid) is 3-10 angstrom or 1/3 to 1 nanometer. The largest [enzyme] complex can be [quaternary structure|100 nanometers in diameter]. In contrast, [E.coli] is several micrometers across - 10 times larger than its largest components - and is therefore [cellular components|a micromachine].

So much for [biology]. What about man made devices? Well, for a start, they will have to work in concert. In swarms and in [emergence|co-operating groups]. Each nanomachine can do one simple thing (bind a drug, [intelligent materials|compute a logical step in a calculation], act as a switch) and will have to interact with its fellow machines to complete a task.

Doesn't this defeat the purpose of having very small machines, if you have to have lots of them to do anything? Well, there are several advantages:

  • Manipulation on a nanoscale (small molecules, inorganic catalysts etc)
  • Cheap(?) production - especially if they make themselves[...]
  • Flexible organisation.
The last one is the most important for swarms that bridge the micro/meso/macro gap. Large scale objects (books, doors, clothing, furniture etc) that are composed of tiny, separate components are [living materials|very much like living things]. Adaptable, robust and programmable - they can be what you want them to be. Hopefully. :-)