I'd like to explore the material known as Wellstone. There are some interesting aspects to this material, and it is written about in "Hacking Matter" by Will McCarthy. It is not necessarily nanotechnology, so much as it is quantum level materials and bio-molecular control over nano sized or meso-sized particles.
We will return to the world of Nanotechnology and DNA computing shortly, for now - let's talk about Wellstone.
Definitions from the book:
Quantum Well: "When layered in particular ways, doped silica can trap conduction electrons in a membrane so thin that, from one face to the other, their behavior as tiny quantum wave packets takes precedence over their behavior as particles. This structure is called a quantum well."
"From there, confining the electrons along a second dimension produces a quantum wire, and finally, with three dimensions, a quantum dot."
These are interesting definitions of nano-scale particles. If we were to play "what-if" questions, one might begin to imagine that if we could do some very strange things if we can harness the power of a quantum well. Using wave dynamics to penetrate surfaces, and pass information from point a to point b. But it gets more interesting than that:
"The unique trait of a quantum dot, as opposed to any other electronic component, is that the electrons trapped in it will arrange themselves as though they were part of an atom, even though there's no atomic nucleus for them to surround. Which atom they emulate depends on the number of electrons and the exact geometry of the wells that confine them, and in fact where a normal atom is spherical, such designer atoms can be fashioned into cubes or tetrahedrons or any other shape..."
Wellstone is just such a structure capable of trapping quantum dots in a translucent structure. Given Wellstone, and the nature of the quantum dots, all one has to do is to add or remove electrons to change the "chemical makeup" of the designer atoms; thus resulting in changing the look and feel (at the macro level) of the object.
In other words, it can look and feel like gold, change the electron count - and it can look and feel like iron, impervium, or even wood. This is, in a true sense - programmable matter. What does this mean to the business world? An interesting question indeed. From a commercial perspective it could mean wealth and power. From a consumer perspective it may mean things like flat-computer screens that can change to "writable paper" and back to LCD-like images. It may mean changing the table from opaque to translucent, of course the table would be made of wellstone.
More on this soon, what would you do with Wellstone?
Posted July 27, 2005 6:37 PM
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