Molecular Factories

Ever since Richard Feynman first proposed molecular factories in 1959 they have fascinated us, because they promise to make the resources we need, like fuel, food, and medicine, in limitless quantity, at low cost, with no harm to the planet

For over 50 years, they've been relegated to science fiction for lack of a practical means to achieve them

robot arm conveyer belt

We have imagined them as miniature versions of conventional factories, but when you shrink down to the size of single molecules, new kinds of structures are required

 Image: Nature

Image: Nature

Biology creates the materials it needs with systems like the ribosome, which performs molecular assembly - but can only do so within the complex environment of living cells

But the vision for the molecular factory is to build things out of individual molecules in a system that doesn't need biology to work

 Image created by K Eric Drexler

Image created by K Eric Drexler

Mattershift has developed tools to build this kind of molecular factory. The technology consists of Programmable Molecular Gateways made of aligned carbon nanotubes fixed in flexible polymer sheets

The nanotubes are analogous to molecule-scale conveyer belts, with factory equipment at their openings so that all molecules that pass through them go through the desired production steps

By combining different types of these gateways, we can create the foundation for molecular factories, introducing a powerful new way to manufacture the resources we need

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Take a deep dive into the scientific literature and popular articles on the subjects of molecular factories on our links page