Green applications? - ROM, 10/Mar/04

Quite a few people are greatly concerned about new technology, and want to restrict it, pointing at the problems that mis-use of technology has got us into so far.

I am inclined to believe that we will need more tech in future, wisely used, not less, to clean up the problems of the past. I am interested in how we might look at new tech, in particular things like nanotech, to see how we might go about avoiding the problems that have occured with technological introduction in past. I don't believe the process will ever be completely smooth, as we are dealing with unknowns, but hope it could be gone about more smoothly.

Green applications for nanotech might be one way that the tech might be usefully looked at.

For example, 'mining' landfills for toxic chemicals, some of which there is little or no terrestrial sources for any more. There would be issues of powering the nanomachines, disposing of generated heat, and probably removing any active nanotech afterwards, but yesteryear's rubbish and slag heaps might be important resources for tomorrow.

Another example that comes out of looking at today's newspaper is refurbishing derelict housing. In a lot of cases builders seem to want to bulldoze the whole area, and put up characterless multi-storey flats. This totally changes the character of the area, and the replacement homes are often without gardens, and are nothing like as 'solid' as the existing structures. Regenerating old homes like this with nanotech, fixing crumbling wood or mortar, old wiring, old glazing, maybe adding improved heat and sound insulation (and controlled ventilation), wiring for multimedia/broadband etc. This implies leaving a static environment behind, without any active nanotech, that could act as a good home for people for 30+ years. Again, some care would be needed with regard to heat disipation, particularly if you want to do things quickly.

Does the idea of green' nanotech, which ensures there is no (active) nanotech left behind in the environment, make sense?

Does nanotech offers more possibilities with maintaining the infrastructure of our society, the wiring, piping, etc, and leaving the terminal systems to us?

Many people look at nanotech as starting with a "clean sheet", but this is often a lot easier than working on an existing system.

I am interested in how we can use nanotech to work around what is already there, repair or even improve things, then carefully withdraw again.

If we can develop the control to do this, I think a lot of people will be much happier with nanotech applications, as opposed to the "live in a nanotech saturated environment" approach. In the near term far too many things to go wrong...

(c) Rory O. McLean, 1980 - Feb. 2006
    Permission granted to use for non-profit making purposes