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Radical Abundance by K. Eric Drexler

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CHAPTER 3

From Molecules to Nanosystems

THE IDEA OF BUILDING THINGS with atomic precision often strikes people as futuristic, yet atomically precise fabrication has a longer history than spaceflight, or even wooden biplanes. The story of atomically precise fabrication begins more than a century ago, at the start of an arc of accelerating progress.

By 1899, chemists had gained skill in building structures with atomic precision, and they knew what they were doing well enough to draw correct diagrams of molecules, atom by atom and bond by bond. Chemists knew, for example, that carbon atoms form four bonds, typically directed toward the corners of a tetrahedron, and that molecules therefore can have chirality, that is, they can have both left- and ...

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