November, 2003

Self-Assembly: The Natural Way to Make Things
37 pages

This report examines the current state of the self-assembly technologies poised to enable nanotechnology and future chip manufacturing processes, organizes key issues and puts them in context, and succinctly explains how the technologies work.

Scientists looking for efficient ways to make microscopic machines and faster electronics are turning to self-assembly in hopes of putting things together with something like natures' ease.

Self-assembly is a critical aspect of nanotechnology because using tools to manipulate objects in the realm of molecules is incredibly difficult and nowhere near cost-effective. Self-assembly is also poised to enable faster electronics when current chip manufacturing processes reach their limits.

Researchers are tapping biological materials like DNA, organic molecules like polymers, and inorganic molecules like gold nanoparticles to find ways ways to make materials self-assemble into specific shapes, sizes and orientations. Initial efforts have produced particles, wires, rings, tubes, containers, patterned surfaces and patterned materials that automatically assemble molecule-by-molecule.

The technology is likely to play an increasingly important role in areas like photonics, data storage, drug delivery and biochemical sensors.

The report includes an executive summary, a list of 17 developments to look for as these cutting-edge technologies take shape, and a section of 24 researchers to watch, including links to their Web pages. It also includes a quick tour of 39 recent developments in six areas and a section of 28 in-depth news stories from TRN.

The stories are organized into six categories: DNA, viruses and proteins, polymers, molecules, semiconductors and metals, and scope and scale.

TRN's Making the Future reports contain live links, and can be read on a computer, printed and archived.

Buy the the Self-Assembly report for $89.
. You will receive download instructions via email.

Report Sections

Executive Summary:
260 words

Main Report:
3,580 words

How It Works:
610 words

In-Depth Stories:
28 stories, including 19 images

Table of Contents:

Main Report
Making things make themselves
Microscopic machines and faster electronics
Materials, means and ends
The laws of physics
Design as process
The stuff of life
Blueprint and building material
Getting down to the basics
Catching a bug — and putting it to work
Better building through organic chemistry
Chain reactions
Liquid crystals
Natures building blocks — one at a time
Order and growth
Sowing crystals seeds
An organizing principle
Delivering on the nanotech promise
Self-assembling the far future

How It Works

Life’s plan
Connecting things up
Building a bigger molecule
Chain reactions

In-Depth Story Categories
Viruses and proteins
Semiconductors and metals
Scope and scale

Take a look at all available Making the Future reports.

View a four-page sample of the Making the Future report (pdf).

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