Future Shock: Femtotech??

Next Big Future has the issue and the reaction… but mine would be summed up as “holy shit.”

I’ll let you guys check it out, rather than list the potential applications here.  But suffice it to say.. it’d be an advance that would make 20th-century industrial materials looks as primitive as 19th-century material tech, wherein waxed cloth and leather were our only waterproof fabrics/meshes, look now.

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  1. drteine

     /  May 16, 2009

    Guess I better change my name from Chemist to Femtotechnologist to get funding.
    While connecting elemental atoms into new structures is indeed very interesting….it’s been done, and it’s been done through a combination of nuclear physics, chemistry, and high power electron microscopy/manipulation.
    What may be new here is better control over those atomistic structures which in turn create new structures which in turn create new properties for a particular material.
    If it’s stable.
    If it’s practical.
    If it’s scalable.

    There are huge advances these days in lots of fields of science, and because science is now more in a 19th century model (less specialization, more general multi-disciplinary science) you see more cool things in the material world. However, one thing this creates is science struggling to find words that describe the new thing they’ve measured. This is a perfect example. Examples of this already exist, just not necessarily with these specific atoms/elements. So it may not really be new, just new in that the phenomena observed is related to this other thing, but not quite, and the scientists haven’t quite yet found a good word to describe it. Femtotechnology suggests a particular length scale, which is basically run-of-the-mill chemical reactions, since you’re breaking and making bonds at that scale all the time with macroscale tools. Sometimes you can get excellent control of femtoscale structure with macroscale tools, and other times, not.

    Still too early to say what the potential is, but while interesting as a chemist I’m not yet fully impressed.

  2. Mike

     /  May 16, 2009

    This sounds fun. I would like to point out on the political side this is coming from Israel, so maybe the academics can give them a break for freaken once.

  3. drteine,

    Sure, call it basic chemistry and physics if you like.. but anything that is a theoretical step towards a frictionless ball bearing impresses the hell out of yours truly the non-scientist…

  4. Mike

     /  May 16, 2009

    No lie there. The straight up application of that is awesome, but I have started thinking of the follow on. How much fuel and oil/lubricants would that little invention save? How much wear and tear on just about any type of machinery? This is one of those ripple effect ideas that truely rocks.

    Oh yeah, pics from Ukraine on blog. Check ’em out.

  5. Mike, jog my memory on the blog name?

  6. drteine

     /  May 17, 2009

    With plasma deposition I can give you a frictionless ball bearing today, but I have to drop one material on top of another. That being said the final product is very practical and you can buy them today, but they’re typically only sold for aerospace parts.

    What they’re proposing is to tailor a single elemental composition to mimic the properties of another molecular composition. Sounds like alchemy but the modern term for this is “meta-materials” or “programmable matter”.

    Problem is….it may not be stable. There are very strong thermodynamic forces that cause atoms to bond the way they do outside of a lab, so while they can perhaps create these new and novel structures just out of one element, why bother if you can use several and have it last for 10-20 years vs. 10-20 femtoseconds once taken out of a magenetic field.

    I dunno…perhaps I’m jaded, but I often see papers claiming really cool science that make the front pages of very impressive journals but only 1% of these actually make it into real use if you follow the technology for 5-10 years after its published. Very often I can (sadly) look straight at the experimental section and see the flaw in its application. But then again, I am an application scientist. I appreciate and understand the basic research, but I’m not the one who designs the experiment. I apply knowledge from it instead.

  7. Mike

     /  May 17, 2009

    Visiting Artilleryman on blogspot.

  8. What you’re saying makes a lot of sense, drteine.

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