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Definitions of Terms used in discussing nanotechnology:



Assembler:   A general-purpose device for molecular manufacturing capable of guiding chemical reactions by positioning molecules [DPP91].

Atom:   The smallest unit of a chemical element, about a third of a nanometer in diameter. Atoms make up molecules and solid objects [DPP91].

Atomic Force Microscope (AFM):   An instrument able to image surfaces to molecular accuracy by mechanically probing their surface contours. A kind of proximal probe [DPP91]. An AFM works by bringing the tip of a scanning needle in contact with a sample surface (the needle has a downward force exerted on it by a spring-like cantilever mechanism)[TERRA]. The AFM then measures the tiny upward and downward motions of the tip mechanism as it drags the tip over the surface.

Automated Engineering:   Engineering design done by a computer system, generating detailed designs from broad specifications with little or no human help [DPP91].

Automated manufacturing:   Nanotechnology based manufacturing requiring little human labor [DPP91].

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Bacteria:   Single-celled microorganisms, about one micrometer (one thousand nanometers) across [DPP91].

Bulk technology:   Technology in which atoms and molecules are manipulated in bulk rather than individually [DPP91].

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Cell:   A small structural unit surrounded by a membrane, making up living things [DPP91].

Cell pharmacology:   Delivery of drugs by medical nanomachines to exact locations in the body [DPP91].

Cell surgery:   Modifying cellular structures using medical nanomachines [DPP91].

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Disassembler:   An instrument able to take apart structures a few atoms at a time, recording structural information at each step [DPP91].

DNA:   A molecule encoding genetic information, found in the cell's nucleus [DPP91].

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Ecosystem protector:   A nanomachine for mechanically removing selected imported species from an ecosystem to protect native species [DPP91].

Enabling science and technologies:   Areas of research relevant to a particular goal, such as nanotechnology [DPP91].

Enzymes:   Molecular machines found in nature, made of protein, which can catalyze (speed up) chemical reactions [DPP91].

Exploratory engineering:   Design and analysis of systems that are theoretically possible but cannot be built yet, owing to limitations in available tools [DPP91].

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Gray goo:   See Star Trek scenario [DPP91].

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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 [DPP91].

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Limited assembler:   Assembler capable of making only certain products; faster, more efficient, and less liable to abuse than a general-purpose assembler [DPP91].

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Molecular electronics:   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 [DPP91].

Molecular machine:   Any machine with atomically precise parts of nanometer dimensions; can be used to describe molecular devices found in nature [DPP91].

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 [DPP91].

Molecular manufacturing:   Manufacturing using molecular machinery, giving molecule-by-molecule control of products and by-products via positional chemical synthesis [DPP91].

Molecular medicine:   A variety of pharmaceutical techniques and therapies in use today [DPP91].

Molecular nanotechnology:   Thorough, inexpensive control of the structure of matter based on molecule-by-molecule control of products and by-products; the products and processes of molecular manufacturing, including molecular machinery [DPP91].

Molecular recognition:   A chemical term referring to processes in which molecules adhere in a highly specific way, forming a large structure; an enabling technology for nanotechnology [DPP91].

Molecular surgery or molecular repair:   Analysis and physical correction of molecular structures in the body using medical nanomachines [DPP91].

Molecular systems engineering:   Design, analysis, and construction of systems of molecular parts working together to carry out a useful purpose [DPP91].

Molecule:   Group of atoms held together by chemical bonds; the typical unit manipulated by nanotechnology [DPP91].

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Nano-:   A prefix meaning one billionth (1/1,000,000,000) [DPP91].

Nanocomputer:   A computer with parts built on a molecular scale [DPP91].

Nanoelectronics:   Electronics on a nanometer scale, whether made by current techniques or nanotechnology; includes both molecular electronics and nanoscale devices resembling today's semiconductor devices [DPP91].

Nanomachine:   An artificial molecular machine of the sort made by molecular manufacturing [DPP91].

Nanomanufacturing:   Same as molecular manufacturing [DPP91].

Nanosurgery:   A generic term including molecular repair and cell surgery [DPP91].

Nanotechnology:   See Molecular nanotechnology [DPP91].

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Positional synthesis:   Control of chemical reactions by precisely positioning proteins; the basic principle of assemblers [DPP91].

Protein design, protein engineering:   The design and construction of new proteins; an enabling technology for nanotechnology [DPP91].

Proximal probes:   A family of devices capable of fine positional control and sensing, including scanning tunneling and atomic force microscopes (STMs and AFMs); an enabling technology for nanotechnology [DPP91].

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Replicator:   A system able to build copies of itself when provided with raw materials and energy [DPP91].

Ribosome:   A naturally occurring molecular machine that manufactures proteins according to instructions derived from the cell's genes [DPP91].

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Scanning Tunneling Microscope (STM):   An instrument able to image conducting surfaces to atomic accuracy; has been used to pin molecules to a surface [DPP91]. The STM works by applying a very small voltage to the tip and causing a small quantum mechanical tunneling current to jump the gap between the tip and the sample. This current is then used to create a topographical map of the surface (a feedback circuit controls the tip to minimize current variations, and this information is used for the map). Increasing the voltage enables a researcher to move atoms around, pile them up, or trigger chemical reactions [NCSASTM].

Sealed assembler lab:   A general-purpose assembler system in a container permitting only energy and information to be exchanged with the environment [DPP91].

Smart materials and products:   Materials and products capable of relatively complex behavior due to their incorporation of nanocomputers and nanomachines. Also used for products having some ability to respond to their environment [DPP91].

Star Trek scenario:   Someone builds potentially dangerous self-replicating devices that spread disastrously [DPP91].

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Virtual reality system:   A combination of computer and interface devices (goggles, gloves, etc.) that present a user with the illusion of being in a three dimensional world of computer-generated objects [DPP91]. These three dimensional environments and force-feedback systems can aid in the visualization of complex molecules [AB].

Virus:   A parasite (consisting primarily of genetic material) that invades cells and takes over their molecular machinery in order to copy itself [DPP91].

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DPP91. Unbounding the Future by K. Eric Drexler, Chris Peterson, and Gayle Pergamit (Morrow, 1991)
ISBN:   0-688-09124-5
NCSASTM. NCSA STM Definition Page.
TERRA. Atomic and Molecular Scale Manipulation Using the Scanneling Tunneling and Atomic Force Microscope by Richard Terra
AB.Silicon Mirage:   The Art and Science of Virtual Reality by Steve Aukstakalnis and David Blatner

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