The Ottawa Citizen
Nanotechnology expert Douglas Mulhall
says scientists believe smart materials that render themselves
into machines and structures will be available within the next
one to three decades.
The buildings of the future will be pre-programmed to construct
themselves. Futuristic building materials will work just like cell
generation in the human body -- except that instead of following DNA
instructions, millions of pre-programmed, atom-sized computers will
tell a material how to shape itself and what it should do in case of
damage, U.S. nanotechnology expert Douglas Mulhall, says.
Mr. Mulhall, the author of several books on nanotechnology,
including his latest, Our Molecular Future, is speaking today at the
seventh annual Innovation Round Table at the Château Laurier.
More than 200 business, finance and research experts are in
Ottawa to discuss their visions for the future.
"Nature has been undertaking molecular assembly ever since the
beginning of time," Mr. Mulhall said yesterday.
"We just haven't been able to replicate it. We are now just on
the cusp of being able to do that."
Thanks to ever-increasing computing power, self-constructing
materials with the ability to arrange themselves atom-by-atom will
eliminate the need for assembly line workers and people skilled in
various trades, he said.
"The lathes, looms and assembly lines will all be replaced by
self-assembling, software driven machines," said Mr. Mulhall.
He wouldn't predict when that might happen, but said other
scientists believe it will be between 10 and 35 years from now.
U.S. doctors are already using these types of manufacturing
technologies in the United States to aid in surgery, he said.
Software is being used to analyze CT scans layer-by-layer to make an
exact plastic replica for surgeons to practise on before they
operate on the real patient.
Atom-sized "carbon nanotubes" -- like steel rope of a much
smaller scale -- will be manufactured in Japan by the tons within
the next year.
Arthur Carty, president of the National Research Council, is not
surprised at the Jetson-like technology proposed by Mr. Mulhall.
Researchers at the University of Alberta in Edmonton are already in
the process of setting up a national institute of nanotechnology to
establish Canada as leader in the area.
"Nanotechnology is the next revolution," Mr. Carty said. "We want
to take a serious look at that and see if there are ways we can help
it along and how we can buy into it in a bigger way."
The two-day round-table discussion, which opened last night, has
been jointly sponsored by the NRC, the Ottawa Centre for Research
and Innovation and the Ottawa Life Sciences Council.
During today's talks Mr. Carty will unveil the NRC's Vision 2006,
which will see more than $340 million pumped into research across
Canada over the next seven years. The new money will create
technology clusters across the country, including a photonics
cluster in Ottawa.