Nanotechnology -- a revolution in manufacturing -- looms on the horizon. It should let us inexpensively arrange atoms and molecules in most of the ways permitted by physical law.
This new manufacturing technology will usher in new possibilities in computation: molecular electronics, quantum cellular automata, DNA computing, single electron switches, adiabatic computing, quantum computing, and more. Today, the switches and transistors of modern computer chips are made by spraying atoms around -- we don't have precise control of what is manufactured, we can only specify approximately what is made. As we scale transistors to smaller and smaller sizes this random element in their manufacture becomes a bigger and bigger problem. What if we could make transistors where every atom was in the right place? What would it mean if dopant atoms could be placed at specific lattice sites? What new possibilities would this open up?
Computational nanotechnology encompasses not only research into these exciting new computer technologies but also how to build them. Theoretical, computational, and experimental investigations of these new forms of computing and of the self assembly and positional assembly processes we will need to mass produce them in large volume and low cost are all a part of the paradigm breaking set of concepts we call computational nanotechnology.
The human species is virtually defined by our tool using abilities. We can hold, position and assemble parts with our hands, and this ability has been critical to our ability to manufacture the remarkable range of products available today. Yet the idea of using molecular hands to assemble molecular parts is still very new, very much in its infancy, and very much under explored. It is possible to explore this new way of fabricating molecular structures by using both experimental, theoretical and computational methods.
Here at the College of Computing we believe that computational methods can offer unique and often otherwise unobtainable insights into the use of positional assembly at the molecular scale. Success in this new paradigm of manufacturing would usher in an era of unparalleled flexibility in the synthesis of molecular structures -- including the ability to mass produce novel molecular computational elements, the complex interconnections between them, and the molecular tools and methods themselves.