What are nanobots/nanotechnology ?


Also what is grey goo and could it ever be possible?

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Nanotechnology is the manipulation of matter on the near-atomic scale in order to produce various devices or materials. It is mainly at this point purely fiction/theoretical as we are not able to do such things. We are approaching such a point with things like our most advanced microchips though.

Nanobots are conceptually nano-scale robots capable of performing various tasks. Again we cannot actually make these and there are major hurdles to making them a reality. The idea of “grey goo” is a theoretical example of a danger posed by nanobots if they were made real. Ideally such robots could be commanded to replicate themselves rather than being produced by some other process, taking raw materials and assembling more nanobots. Conceptually such a process could run out of control if the nanobots were not able to be commanded to stop doing this task; they would continue to consume nearby material and make more nanobots without end.

The result would be a mass of “grey goo” that would convert anything it touched into more grey goo, wiping the planet clean until all that existed were nanobots. Such tiny robots would also be essentially undetectable and easily moved by air currents, meaning someone could get only one or two nanobots on them without any way of knowing. Those nanobots would continue their task of creating more nanobots until eventually they formed a visible mass and repeated the same inevitable destruction of everything.

Nanotech is tiny machines, you’ll have some in your phone as accelerometers for example, tiny little moving parts that you’d need a scanning electron microscope to see.
The grey goo idea is if someone made a bunch of these tiny little robots that were made to self reproduce, they could end up like a virus, consuming any materials to reproduce.

There’s a good chance these sort of things might be impossible, eg there’s a limit for transistor size (the basic components of a computer processor and memory) where quantum tunnelling means stuff just keeps corrupting itself.
A basic transistor would be like a switch, on or off, which would be classed as a 1 or a 0 for binary memory. The rest of the processors arrays of thousands of these switches that do the computing. Quantum tunnelling puts a limit on how small these switches can be.
If you stick electrons inside this switch, it conducts and becomes “on”.
The issue is at tiny scales, the electrons can just jump in and out of the switches, part of quantum nature of electrons, and their wave function. – aka an electron would be somewhere in a tiny location, but it can just be anywhere in that area and if a transistor gate is small enough, that electron can just appear outside of it.
Anyway, the smaller you make these microscopic robots, the less brainpower and programming they can have, limited by the size of transistors, so you won’t get any self aware nanobots deciding to take over the world.