August 09, 2008
Finally Diamond Mechanosynthesis Viability Experiments funded for $3.3 million
Finally experiments have been funded to test the viability of diamond mechanosynthesis as described in detail by Robert Freitas and Ralph Merkle. This is a major step towards achieving the long held vision of molecular nanotechnology as envisioned by Eric Drexler.
Professor Philip Moriarty of the Nanoscience Group in the School of Physics at the University of Nottingham (U.K.) has been awarded a five-year £1.67M ($3.3M) grant by the U.K. Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) to perform a series of laboratory experiments designed to investigate the possibility of diamond mechanosynthesis (DMS). DMS is a proposed method for building diamond nanostructures, atom by atom, using the techniques of scanning probe microscopy under ultra-high vacuum conditions. Moriarty’s project, titled “Digital Matter? Towards Mechanised Mechanosynthesis,” was funded under the Leadership Fellowship program of EPSRC. Moriarty’s experiments begin in October 2008.
The five year grant is described here
Computer-controlled chemistry at the single molecule level, a field very much in its infancy, represents arguably the most exciting and, to many, definitive example of the power and potential of nanotechnology. Recent ground-breaking work in Germany and the US has shown that it is possible to drive chemical reactions and to synthesise molecules via interactions driven by a scanning probe. In the UK, the nanoscience groups at Nottingham, Birmingham, and Oxford have demonstrated that atomic/molecular manipulation strategies pioneered at low temperatures can be extended to a room temperature environment. The focus of this fellowship application is to develop next-generation protocols for scanning probe manipulation capable of automated atom-by-atom assembly of, ultimately, three dimensional nanostructures. Our goal is to program the assembly of matter from its constituent atoms. This exceptionally challenging objective has the potential to revolutionize key areas of 21st century science including nanofabrication, materials processing, surface chemistry, and the study of low dimensional electron systems.
Moriarty is interested in testing the viability of positionally-controlled atom-by-atom fabrication of diamondoid materials as described in the Robert Freitas-Ralph Merkle minimal toolset theory paper. Moriarty’s efforts will be the first time that specific predictions of DFT in the area of mechanosynthesis will be rigorously tested by experiment. His work also directly addresses the requirement for “proof of principle” mechanosynthesis experiments requested in the 2006 National Nanotechnology Initiative (NNI) review, in the 2007 Battelle/Foresight nanotechnology roadmap, and by EPSRC’s Strategic Advisor for Nanotechnology, Richard Jones (Physics, Sheffield University, U.K.).
“We congratulate Philip for his tremendous success in securing funding for this pathbreaking effort,” said Freitas. “We look forward to working together closely with his experimental team as this exciting project goes forward over the next five years.”