The lowdown on carbon nanotubes

Reading: Carbon Nanotubes and Related Structures, by Peter J F Harris. I’ve always been fascinated by atomic-scale engineering – let’s face it, the premise of Drexler’s Nanosystems is breathtaking – and it’s always good when someone puts in the numbers, so you can stop fantasising and start crunching what might actually work. All molecules are beautiful, but nanotubes and fullerenes have a hard-edged architectural integrity that floppy DNA and tangled proteins don’t have.

The oddest thing of all is that Drexler and others imagined molecular-scale structural components in the 80s – but never imagined that a few years later, we’d discover nature has build the best possible ones already. Nanotubes can be twisted, doped, and manipulated into practically any electronic or mechanical configuration a nanoscale machine might need; all we need now is that assembler to start clicking them together…

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