Emerging Military Technologies: A Guide to the Issues

By Wilson W. S. Wong | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 5

Nanotechnology

Nanotechnology, engineering on the nanometer (one-billionth of a meter) scale is often touted as the next “big thing” for society at large, and has already a host of existing military applications. The prefix “nano” is being used to promote, hype in many cases, many current and future products. There is controversy over many long-term aspects of nanotechnology, including debate over the feasibility of “assemblers,” multipurpose nanoscale devices capable of producing anything it has feed material for, including copies of itself. Speculation on nanotechnology ranges from technological singularity utopias to end-of-the-world scenarios. Predicted security and defense applications are no less ambitious, or controversial.

In general, nanotechnology is often heralded as a disruptive technology for the business world, specifically for investors looking to ride the next major wave in the economy; however, destabilization of existing economic norms is also potential fuel for conflict. Nanotechnology prophecies of eliminating material disputes in the very long term are beyond the scope of this discussion. Although it is likely nanotechnology will change society, the outcomes may not be so optimistic. Like any powerful tool, the biggest threat from nanotechnology is that someone else may use it to change the world to their version of paradise on earth.


Science and Engineering at the Nanometer Scale

The prefix “nano” refers to one-billionth—one nanometer being one-billionth of a meter. In comparison, the useful scale for cells in the human body is the micrometer (micron) scale—one-millionth of a meter. Nanotechnology in general involves products and controlled processes on the scale of cellular

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Emerging Military Technologies: A Guide to the Issues
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Acronyms vii
  • Chapter 1 - Introduction 1
  • Chapter 2 - Ubiquitous Space Access 15
  • Chapter 3 - Directed Energy Weapons 47
  • Chapter 4 - Computer Autonomy 81
  • Chapter 5 - Nanotechnology 114
  • Chapter 6 - Biotechnology 142
  • Appendix I - Small Satellites 175
  • Appendix II - Military Space Planes 179
  • Appendix III - Competition to Directed Energy Weapons 183
  • Appendix IV - Electromagnetic Railguns 185
  • Glossary 189
  • Bibliography 199
  • Index 221
  • About the Author 233
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