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Nanoterminology

This section lists some of the common definitions of fundamental nanotechnologies and applies them to nanomechanical devices and systems, including molecular manufacturing systems and nanocomputers. (For these and other relevant terms and definitions, visit The Foresight Institute, particularly K. Eric Drexler's excellent Nanosystems; Unbounding the Future; and Nanotechnology Now's Glossary.)

  • Biomolecular machinery. Evolved by nature—such as the bacterial flagellar motor and the actin-myosin system of muscle. Has shown the feasibility of molecular machine systems and may provide prefabricated working components.

  • Computational chemistry. Enables designers of molecular systems to understand which designs will produce which results, helping synthetic chemists to produce devices that will function properly in systems.

  • Mechanosynthesis. Mechanically guided chemical synthesis. Fundamental to molecular manufacturing, it guides chemical reactions on an atomic scale by means other than the local effects and electronic properties of the reagents; it is thus distinct from (for example) enzymatic processes and present techniques for organic synthesis.

  • Molecular machines. Produce controlled motion on a molecular scale. By bringing other molecules together in a controlled way, they will one day be used to control the sequences of chemical reactions that will enable molecular manufacturing of complex nanosystems.

  • Molecular manufacturing. The construction of objects to complex, atomic specifications using sequences of chemical reactions directed by non-biological molecular machinery. Molecular nanotechnology comprises molecular manufacturing together with its techniques, its products, and their design and analysis; it describes the field as a whole.

  • Molecular nanotechnology. Thorough, inexpensive control of the structure of matter based on molecules.

  • 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.

  • Molecular surgery or molecular repair. Analysis and physical correction of molecular structures in the body, using medical nanomachines.

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

  • Molecule. Group of atoms held together by chemical bonds; the typical unit manipulated by nanotechnology.

  • Nano-. A prefix meaning one billionth (1/1,000,000,000).

  • Nanocomputer. A computer with parts built on a molecular scale.

  • Nanodevices. Including sensors, transistors, actuators, and others, will be components first of early products, and later of advanced nanosystems.

  • Nanoelectronics. A natural extension of the microelectronic technologies of today, expected to be a crucial application of emerging nanotechnologies' molecule-by-molecule control of products and byproducts; the products and processes of molecular manufacturing, including molecular machinery.

  • 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.

  • Nanomachine. An artificial molecular machine of the sort made by molecular manufacturing.

  • Nanomanufacturing. See molecular manufacturing.

  • Nanomaterials. Materials that gain special mechanical, optical, and electronic properties from their nanoscale structure.

  • Nanostructures. Underlie all nanotechnologies. Their diverse physical, chemical, and electronic properties determine what nanotechnologies can do.

  • Nanosurgery. A generic term including molecular repair and cell surgery.

  • Nanotechnology. See molecular nanotechnology.

  • Nanotubes. Provide strong, stiff building blocks with diverse electronic properties, suiting them for use in a wide range of nanoelectromechanical systems (NEMS).

  • Positional synthesis. Control of chemical reactions by precisely positioning the reactive molecules; the basic principle of assemblers.

  • Scanning probe. Instrument that has led the way in imaging and manipulating molecular structures on surfaces.

  • Sensors. At the nanoscale, can be used to recognize molecules and to probe the properties of surfaces and objects at the atomic scale.

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