Breakthroughs in Nanotechnology Could Lead To A Real Life Star Trek Replicator

Category: Technology / Jul 26, 2011 2:48PM EDT
Anyone familiar with the incredibly successful and culture creating Star Trek franchise knows exactly what I’m talking about when I refer to the “replicator.” The replicator was an on-board machine capable of creating and recycling objects almost magically by synthesizing just about anything seemingly out of thin air. Replicators were originally used primarily to create meals on demand, but as the series evolved over the years so did the machine’s various applications, synthesizing everything from spare parts to uniforms. While the entire concept almost exudes the air of being way too cool to be true, it turns out that real life replicator technology may only be a couple of decades away. Cutting edge research and certain breakthroughs in the field of nanotechnology has led some researchers to declare that this generation will witness the greatest technological breakthrough in human history, defined by the development of molecular manufacturing and personal nanofactories. They believe that within twenty years, humans will be able to synthesize objects as complex as a desktop computer from the ground up on a molecular level using self-contained, table-top fabricators. Using nanomachines at the molecular scale, the envisioned fabricators would form small building blocks from molecular raw materials which would be bonded atom by atom using billions of nano-robots capable of working with atomic precision. Theoretically, the end result would be products vastly more durable and powerful than today’s versions. Computers could be a billion times smaller using a million times less power and materials could be a hundred times stronger than steel. Production costs would dramatically go down and production times for complex items or structures would speed up to a matter of hours or minutes. While the technology is still in its primordial stage, the fact that leading nanotech companies have already set the ball in motion, has sparked a debate centered on the various impacts both, positive and negative, such advanced technology could pose to society. While molecular manufacturing could potentially work wonders for humanity by providing universal access to scarce products and materials, new age replicators could also turn the world’s economies on their heads forcing large sectors of production and manufacturing into immediate obscurity. At the same time, powerful technology in the wrong hands could yield the creation of advanced weaponry, which is why many refer to the technology as quote “disruptive” technology. Overall, the future seems to be looking extremely futuristic, and while critics and naysayers continue to doubt a Star Trek world of space aged replication, agents at The Center for Responsible Nanotechnology have stated that they believe molecular manufacturing will almost certainly be a reality by 2020.