A multi-disciplinary team of scientists and engineers from the MITRE Corporation and Harvard University has taken a step forward that may be the key to the creation of nanomachines. In an article published in the journal “Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences”, the team led by Charles Lieber, a nanotechnology expert at Harvard University, explains the method of creation of a microscopic processor consisting of hundreds nanotransistors.
This microscopic processor has been defined a nanoelectronics finite-state machine or nanoFSM and is smaller than a neuron. It’s composed of hundreds of nanowire transistors, each of which is a switch 10,000 times thinner than a human hair. It’s the result of several years of development of this team, which in previous years had produces simpler nano-circuits.
A characteristic of these nanotransistors is to be nonvolatile, which means that they remember the state in which they are, ON or OFF, even when the power is interrupted. For this reason, they need a very small amount of power to operate.
These nano-switches are assembled into circuits that, put together, route electronic signals around the processor. This allows to obtain the classic calculation processes and exchange of signals that can be used to control nanomachines that can be used for practical purposes.
So far, various uses of nanotechnology have been theorized but usable nanomachines were never built . The results obtained by the team of the MITRE Corporation and Harvard could allow the economic manufacturing of nanomachines, totally changing the situation.
Nanomachines of various types could be used in many fields for many different purposes. Groups of nanomachines could form computer that are very small but with a total capacity comparable to those of regular computers. In the field of medicine there could be enormous possibilities of use of nanomachines for example to enhance the immune system or for therapies against cancer.
In a broader sense, nanomachines could be used to augment humans interfacing with the brain enhancing mental abilities. Instead of using external computers, we might have one as part of our mind. The perspectives are all to be explored and if they were so far confined to the world of science fiction in the coming years they could become reality.