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Fullerene Nanotechnology

Al Globus1 *, Charles Bauschlicher2, Jie Han1, Richard Jaffe2, Creon Levit2, Deepak Srivastava1

1MRJ Technology Solutions, Inc. at NASA Ames Research Center
2NASA Ames Research Center

This is an abstract for a talk to be given at the Fifth Foresight Conference on Molecular Nanotechnology. The full paper is available at http://science.nas.nasa.gov/Groups/Nanotechnology/publications/1997/fullereneNanotechnology/

Abstract

Recent advances in fullerene science and technology suggest that it may be possible, in the far future, to design and build atomically precise programmable machines composed largely of functionalized fullerenes. Large numbers of such machines with appropriate interconnections could conceivably create a material able to react to the environment and repair itself. This paper reviews some of the experimental and theoretical work relating to these materials, sometimes called machine phase, including the fullerene gears and high density memory recently designed and simulated at Ames.

Advanced materials are routinely used in the construction of aerospace vehicles because of the substantial performance gains they enable. Despite many advances, transportation to space still costs about $10,000 per pound. Drexler proposed a nanotechnology based on diamond and investigated its potential properties. These studies and others suggest enormous potential for the role of diamonoid nanotechnology in aerospace systems. In particular, McKendree estimates $150-400 per pound transportation cost to orbit assuming naive use of diamonoid molecular nanotechnology to improve existing launch vehicle designs.

Unfortunately, methods to realize diamonoid nanotechnology are at best highly speculative. Recent computational efforts at NASA Ames Research Center and computation and experiment elsewhere suggest that a nanotechnology based on machine phase functionalized fullerenes may be synthetically relatively accessible and possess great potential for aerospace applications. This nanotechnology might use carbon nanotubes and related components as the building blocks of molecular machines.

A viable general purpose machine phase technology requires, at a minimum, mechanical motion, cooling, power, support structures, control, a variety of physical components, a system architecture, and some approach to manufacture. Except for the system architecture and manufacturing, there is some experimental or simulation basis in all these areas and each will be examined.

An earlier version of this paper can be found at http://science.nas.nasa.gov/Groups/Nanotechnology/publications/1997/fullereneNanotechnology/. It will be updated and revised for the conference.


*Corresponding Address:
Al Globus, MRJ Technology Solutions, phone: 415-604-4404, email: globus@nas.nasa.gov
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