New Generation of Quantum Technologies

Richard Feynman, a quantum physicist and Nobel winner, presented a widely referenced lecture in 1959 that detailed how future technology may function on a micro and nanoscopic scale (scales of one thousandth or one millionth of a millimeter, respectively). 

The title of the discussion was "There's Plenty of Room at the Bottom." Feynman's vision was crystal clear: he prophesied that man will soon be able to influence matter at the atomic level. 

The great bang of nanotechnology, one of the most fascinating technologies being produced today, is regarded Feynman's talk. The objective is to manipulate and control individual quantum states. 

Many of Feynman's ideas, in fact, have long since become a reality. 

  1. The electron microscope, which scans the item to be examined point by point with an electron beam with a wavelength up to 10,000 times shorter than visible light's wavelength. Light microscopes can only attain resolutions of 200 nm (200 109 m) and magnifications of 2,000, but electron microscopes can attain resolutions of 50 pm (50 1012 m) and magnifications of 10,000,000. 
  2. Semiconductor-based microscopic data storage systems that allow 500 GB to be stored on a thumbnail-sized surface. 
  3. Integrated circuits with components of just 10 to 100 atoms apiece, which, owing to the large number of them that can be packed into a single microchip, enable superfast data processing in current computers. 
  4. Nanomachines in medicine, which may be implanted into the human body and, for example, hunt for cancer cells autonomously. Many of Feynman's 1959 visions are already part of our daily technological life. 

In 1959, however, Feynman's most groundbreaking insight was the potential of building ultra-small devices capable of manipulating matter at the atomic level. 

These robots would be able to assemble any type of material from a kit of atoms from various elements, similar to how humans play Lego with a manual, with the only need being that the synthetically generated composites be energetically stable. 

Nano wheels that can truly roll a long distance, nano gearwheels that spin along a jagged edge of atoms, nano propellers, hinges, grapples, switches, and other fundamental building blocks are now available in prototype form. 

Nanotechnology is fundamentally a quantum technology since it is ten thousandths of a centimeter in size and obeys quantum physics principles rather than traditional Newtonian mechanics. 

Andreas Eschbach shows how nanomachines may assemble together individual atoms and molecules in practically any desired form in his science fiction novel "The Lord of All Things" (German: "Herr der kleinen Dinge," 2011). They eventually start duplicating themselves in such a way that their numbers grow exponentially. 

These nanomachines can create objects nearly out of thin air because to their powers. The novel's central character learns to command them and has them construct anything he need at any given time (cars, planes, even a spaceship). 

Finally, by having them directly measure his brain impulses, he is able to regulate these processes entirely by his own thoughts. 

Is it conceivable to build such nanomachines, or is this just science fiction? 

According to Feynman, there is no natural rule that contradicts their construction. In truth, today's nanoscientists are getting closer and closer to realizing his dream. 

The Nobel Prize in Chemistry 2016 was given to Jean-Pierre Sauvage, Fraser Stoddart, and Bernard Feringa for their work on molecular nanomachines, demonstrating how essential this work is to the scientific community. 

Nanomachines, as predicted by Richard Feynman, could potentially build (nearly) any material out of nothing from raw atomic material, or repair existing—even living—material.

The initial steps toward such machines have already been taken, and they will undoubtedly have a significant impact on the twenty-first century.

You may also want to read more about Quantum Computing here.

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