The next step in nanotechnology | George Tulevski
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The next step in nanotechnology | George Tulevski

Translator: Leslie Gauthier
Reviewer: Joanna Pietrulewicz Let’s imagine a sculptor
building a statue, just chipping away with his chisel. Michelangelo had this elegant way
of describing it when he said, “Every block of stone
has a statue inside of it, and it’s the task
of the sculptor to discover it.” But what if he worked
in the opposite direction? Not from a solid block of stone, but from a pile of dust, somehow gluing millions of these particles
together to form a statue. I know that’s an absurd notion. It’s probably impossible. The only way you get
a statue from a pile of dust is if the statue built itself — if somehow we could compel millions
of these particles to come together to form the statue. Now, as odd as that sounds, that is almost exactly the problem
I work on in my lab. I don’t build with stone, I build with nanomaterials. They’re these just impossibly small,
fascinating little objects. They’re so small that if this controller
was a nanoparticle, a human hair would be the size
of this entire room. And they’re at the heart of a field
we call nanotechnology, which I’m sure we’ve all heard about, and we’ve all heard
how it is going to change everything. When I was a graduate student, it was one of the most exciting times
to be working in nanotechnology. There were scientific breakthroughs
happening all the time. The conferences were buzzing, there was tons of money
pouring in from funding agencies. And the reason is when objects get really small, they’re governed by a different set
of physics that govern ordinary objects, like the ones we interact with. We call this physics quantum mechanics. And what it tells you is
that you can precisely tune their behavior just by making seemingly
small changes to them, like adding or removing
a handful of atoms, or twisting the material. It’s like this ultimate toolkit. You really felt empowered;
you felt like you could make anything. And we were doing it — and by we I mean my whole
generation of graduate students. We were trying to make blazing fast
computers using nanomaterials. We were constructing quantum dots that could one day go in your body
and find and fight disease. There were even groups
trying to make an elevator to space using carbon nanotubes. You can look that up, that’s true. Anyways, we thought it was going to affect all parts of science and technology,
from computing to medicine. And I have to admit, I drank all of the Kool-Aid. I mean, every last drop. But that was 15 years ago, and — fantastic science was done,
really important work. We’ve learned a lot. We were never able to translate
that science into new technologies — into technologies
that could actually impact people. And the reason is, these nanomaterials — they’re like a double-edged sword. The same thing that makes
them so interesting — their small size — also makes them impossible to work with. It’s literally like trying to build
a statue out of a pile of dust. And we just don’t have the tools
that are small enough to work with them. But even if we did,
it wouldn’t really matter, because we couldn’t one by one
place millions of particles together to build a technology. So because of that, all of the promise
and all of the excitement has remained just that:
promise and excitement. We don’t have any
disease-fighting nanobots, there’s no elevators to space, and the thing that I’m most interested in,
no new types of computing. Now that last one,
that’s a really important one. We just have come to expect the pace of computing advancements
to go on indefinitely. We’ve built entire economies on this idea. And this pace exists because of our ability
to pack more and more devices onto a computer chip. And as those devices get smaller, they get faster, they consume less power and they get cheaper. And it’s this convergence
that gives us this incredible pace. As an example: if I took the room-sized computer
that sent three men to the moon and back and somehow compressed it — compressed the world’s
greatest computer of its day, so it was the same size
as your smartphone — your actual smartphone, that thing you spent 300 bucks on
and just toss out every two years, would blow this thing away. You would not be impressed. It couldn’t do anything
that your smartphone does. It would be slow, you couldn’t put any of your stuff on it, you could possibly
get through the first two minutes of a “Walking Dead” episode
if you’re lucky — (Laughter) The point is the progress —
it’s not gradual. The progress is relentless. It’s exponential. It compounds on itself year after year, to the point where
if you compare a technology from one generation to the next, they’re almost unrecognizable. And we owe it to ourselves
to keep this progress going. We want to say the same thing
10, 20, 30 years from now: look what we’ve done
over the last 30 years. Yet we know this progress
may not last forever. In fact, the party’s kind of winding down. It’s like “last call for alcohol,” right? If you look under the covers, by many metrics
like speed and performance, the progress has already slowed to a halt. So if we want to keep this party going, we have to do what we’ve
always been able to do, and that is to innovate. So our group’s role
and our group’s mission is to innovate
by employing carbon nanotubes, because we think that they can
provide a path to continue this pace. They are just like they sound. They’re tiny, hollow tubes
of carbon atoms, and their nanoscale size,
that small size, gives rise to these
just outstanding electronic properties. And the science tells us
if we could employ them in computing, we could see up to a ten times
improvement in performance. It’s like skipping through several
technology generations in just one step. So there we have it. We have this really important problem and we have what is basically
the ideal solution. The science is screaming at us, “This is what you should be doing
to solve your problem.” So, all right, let’s get started, let’s do this. But you just run right back
into that double-edged sword. This “ideal solution” contains a material
that’s impossible to work with. I’d have to arrange billions of them
just to make one single computer chip. It’s that same conundrum,
it’s like this undying problem. At this point, we said, “Let’s just stop. Let’s not go down that same road. Let’s just figure out what’s missing. What are we not dealing with? What are we not doing
that needs to be done?” It’s like in “The Godfather,” right? When Fredo betrays his brother Michael, we all know what needs to be done. Fredo’s got to go. (Laughter) But Michael — he puts it off. Fine, I get it. Their mother’s still alive,
it would make her upset. We just said, “What’s the Fredo in our problem?” What are we not dealing with? What are we not doing, but needs to be done
to make this a success?” And the answer is
that the statue has to build itself. We have to find a way, somehow, to compel, to convince
billions of these particles to assemble themselves
into the technology. We can’t do it for them.
They have to do it for themselves. And it’s the hard way,
and this is not trivial, but in this case, it’s the only way. Now, as it turns out,
this is not that alien of a problem. We just don’t build anything this way. People don’t build anything this way. But if you look around —
and there’s examples everywhere — Mother Nature builds everything this way. Everything is built from the bottom up. You can go to the beach, you’ll find these simple organisms
that use proteins — basically molecules — to template what is essentially sand, just plucking it from the sea and building these extraordinary
architectures with extreme diversity. And nature’s not crude like us,
just hacking away. She’s elegant and smart, building with what’s available,
molecule by molecule, making structures with a complexity and a diversity
that we can’t even approach. And she’s already at the nano. She’s been there
for hundreds of millions of years. We’re the ones that are late to the party. So we decided that we’re going
to use the same tool that nature uses, and that’s chemistry. Chemistry is the missing tool. And chemistry works in this case because these nanoscale objects
are about the same size as molecules, so we can use them
to steer these objects around, much like a tool. That’s exactly what we’ve done in our lab. We’ve developed chemistry
that goes into the pile of dust, into the pile of nanoparticles, and pulls out exactly the ones we need. Then we can use chemistry to arrange
literally billions of these particles into the pattern
we need to build circuits. And because we can do that, we can build circuits
that are many times faster than what anyone’s been able
to make using nanomaterials before. Chemistry’s the missing tool, and every day our tool gets sharper
and gets more precise. And eventually — and we hope this is
within a handful of years — we can deliver on one
of those original promises. Now, computing is just one example. It’s the one that I’m interested in,
that my group is really invested in, but there are others
in renewable energy, in medicine, in structural materials, where the science is going to tell you
to move towards the nano. That’s where the biggest benefit is. But if we’re going to do that, the scientists of today and tomorrow
are going to need new tools — tools just like the ones I described. And they will need chemistry.
That’s the point. The beauty of science is that
once you develop these new tools, they’re out there. They’re out there forever, and anyone anywhere
can pick them up and use them, and help to deliver
on the promise of nanotechnology. Thank you so much for your time.
I appreciate it. (Applause)


  • dylan bellerose

    It's also going to help that within our lifetimes we're going to create some forms of artificial general intelligence that will innovate for us at a ridiculously fast pace aka the singularity.

  • ohitsu stu

    'Nature' only does what God has programmed it or tells it to do. Nature is not sentient. And Darwin was just a stooge. God created all things, nothing else makes honest sense.

  • Sharl Tyunder

    Thank You very much for the presence!!!
    Concerning the two edge sword:
    have ‘you’ considered talking to the material,/if the quantum particles are self enlightening as rumour has it,in light formation on a wall from holes on a cardboard⁉️/,though it had take Physics textbook minimum to start with,/or an alphabet for a constance/;
    & to what it is supposed to be constructed into,as helping in self constructing ‘a or the’ statue⁉️
    /i know,easy to suggest than….;but precaution as to ‘it’ been familiar with You,had maybe come in handy from hypothetical possibilities of the sword’s other edge,been a buster up for enthusiastic intentions⁉️/.
    ✍🏻:’only a citizen’⁉️

  • Kurt Piket

    Yes, even a human being is a self organising organism by spirituality of thinking, sensing and feeling, where this organism creates a mind, a conscious mind a consciousness, with the help of intelligence, intellect, instinct, intuition.
    The force for this self organising impact is gravitational or even named as singular electricity.
    Intelligence and intuition is present inside the RNA, where intellect and instinct is the frame of DNA.
    Intelligence is needed for taking inside new information and let og of old information of the human organism.
    Intellect maintains the old.
    The human organism can become orgasmic by a cosmic unification.

  • Kurt Piket

    For some time I discovered a spiritual evolution, where the observer inside the big brain evolves itself to the perceiver inside the centre of the middle brain.
    A human being has a aura, like an egg has a shell. Where the shell is tight, the auro base on nano spiritual particles, which creates thoughts, sensations and feelings of all kind.
    Now the human being can create his own new form of being, his new form of oraganism.
    By becoming singular, so coming to the spiritiual point, now the god of believing and the science of knowing, become one in the singularity of feeling.

    [email protected]

  • Blood Sweat And Tears Forever learning

    So basically the process of anything from a powdered from is nano technology.. baking, and making plastic or medicine

  • Billy Willy

    They should consider the dynamic assembly and disassembly of microtubules in response to molecular signaling that forms the basis of most cell motility and structural support.

  • Larry Jung

    Nanotechnology should be used to cleanse and or destroy stuck microscopic asbestos fibers from the inner human body this would prevent asbestos related cancers !.


    Global Nanotechnology In Energy Applications Market Research Report 2018-2023

  • Jack - The Digital Marketer

    An Amazing Video by Ted. Hats Off. Meanwhile, I have surfed some latest conferences on Nanotechnology and I found it to be useful .

  • Clint Richardson

    This is farther along than the world realizes and it is going to bring widespread misery to many. If tech was always used to benefit mankind think of what a wonderful world this would be. This is not that world. #GMODISEASE

  • mike schoolcraft

    The discovery of programmable matter, so it will assemble or construct anything will change everything.

  • victrola13

    This is technology worth DUMPING. Who is this fascist? Too late. You have already swallowed self-assembling nanoneurotechonogy that makes its own implant that can be programmed to CHOKE you.


    Would be cool to Flash Build.. Have a computer linked to an area. The area full of electric chips or whatever. Flash the blueprint on the computer to the chips, therefore electrifying a hologram of the blueprint. Pump the nanotubes in and they'd begin to form around the hologram. After some time, turn off the hologram for the nanotubes to cool and become solid.

  • Bill Hopen

    As a sculptor, I gotta tell you you have to re-work your opening metaphore. "millions of tiny stone dust particles" can indeed be assembled, dude, its called clay, and you build it up by adding, building the form up in space, as opposed to the subtractive or carving method employed by a stone carver, removing dust.

  • Mohammed Al-Alaw

    if you do not have the nano-tech to repair the ozone layer (it is the only defense for us from outer space) IT IS WORTHLESS!

  • LifeSaver Eli-Yah

    Would that be called Human Modification? Would that be also called Human Behavior Alternation?
    Don't react to this comment if you are not willing to reseach what i said.

  • Mathew Bateman

    Mother nature's is the most intelligent force there is… But it's all an accident none of it is by design, it's all a total fluke! That is sciences explanation is it not?

  • Anand PKV

    I have a theory… If I have a piece of iron in my hand… And there's a chip in the piece of iron, that would make it into iron oxide or whatever and make it into gas by adding oxygen or back into solid by removing oxygen with a switch ??? Comment if u agree 🙂

  • Fellow Traveler

    New proposals for renaming TED:

    VaS (Vague and Superficial)
    SoNR (Science, only not really)
    StS (Skimming the Surface)
    BatBS (Beating around the Bush, Scientifically)
    WLaS ( Waxing Lyrically about Science)

    This guy's motto: Rome wasn't built in a day, neither will I get to the point in one.

    TED's unnoficial mottos:

    – Speak in multitudes but say nothing

    – Science Lite

  • Humpty Dumpty Love

    If you want to know how devastating nanotechnology is, go to “Ex catholic nun Whistleblower – Keri Burnor”. There are 4 videos, very detailed. The reason this is funded so quickly is because of money, money, money. Nanotechnology is as bad as the smart grid, smart meters and 5G towers.

  • Wesley Insley

    So the first step I was thinking was…you need a model or set of parameters for the particles to follow. Let's dumb it down and say it's a flower vase. Simple shape to make in a 3D modeling program. Then what if we set each point as a place for the particles to go. That is all sound hypothetically…but then how do you get the particles to move there? And what kind of particles are these? Could we somehow involve magnets or magnet fields?

    Way above my pay grade, but if I had the money for it I would invest heavily into this tech. Seems world changing

  • Andrew Andrewich

    Great .that is i wait for a long time. Класс то что я долгое время ждал высказал до детали мои аплодисименты.Теперь надо всё воплотить в деле.

  • Steven Westfall

    What about proteins that work like machines in nature. Could this be something that we could use to help with these issues? May seem ignorant to state but may be something in the thought.

  • White Fire The Dragon

    Perhaps if it were possible to transform metal from a solid to a liquid and then back again, from there, all that would be the issue would be self replication… but that's all just hogwash. There isn't even any evidence that it could be bbn possible.

  • muhsin odabaşı

    Tabiat ananın yaptıklarını yapamıyoruz diyor. Tabiat ana denen akılsız doğa kanunları mı profesörlerden daha yetenekli ve zeki ? Yoksa onlar sadece müthiş resimler çizen görünmez bir ressamın etkileyici fırçaları mı ?

  • Steve R

    They spray this nanotechnology and smart dust in the sky.
    Now we all have these fibers in us which eventually leads to Lyme disease or morgellons.

  • Haddie Howard

    This is not a good thing ! Let's alter DNA so people are no longer human.. Gods creations. They have loaded us up w this bullshit technology and when 5 G is launched they are going to hit us w a masor. Crimes against humanity ! Research it !

  • JC TheBlackGuy - Road to 6 Figures

    What if you had a 3D printer, with NanoTech Particle and you would upload a design and it would program these nano particles to build themselves into whatever you want…

  • Thisbishawesome

    For anyone disappointed in the science depth or lack thereof the Ted talk. It's because he was basically a sales man trying to get investors/donors or whatever scientists call their source of money

  • IamSiela

    Nano particles that are getting into our food supply – nano metals from chemtrails and chemicals, nano silver sprayed on our foods, silica used in graineries, silica, silicon dioxide, titanium dioxide put in medicines and supplements – are causing disease, premature aging, and auto immune disorders possibly all auto immune diseases that exist today are from nano. It is also in vaccines, a disclosed amount plus an undisclosed amount. This is an attack on mankind and must stop, not a 'wonderous new discovery'. It gets inside our cells inside our brains and actually grows – self assembles.

  • james

    I think before we have a medical revolution, we shoould first have the next industrial revolution… in financial terms and the speed of internet of value. then everything will be smooth. and we will have geometric progress… CRYPTOCURRENCY LIKE XRP & BTC WILL HELP IN THAT. WHEN MONEY IS FAST EVERYTHING IS FAST. FUNDINGS WILL BE LEFT AND RIGHT. INFORMATION WILL BE FASTER.

  • 경우진

    Speach was nice but i can't comprehend what is nanomaterials exactly.
    I think he should do more in depth information but it was benefit for beginner like me

  • Mr.PeanutButter

    I'm not doubting his skills as a scientists and his contribution to the space but this was a painfully bad presentation.

  • Narayan Baisla

    i am thinking about immortality here , modifying ourself so much so that we can literally wander around in space , go through highest of temperature to lowest finding about the secrets about the universe . Spreading our consiousness to the the whole universe maybe multiverse . Able to turn ourselve into any smaller or bigger being . Then manipulating matter with our thoughts . actually making what we imagine . Maybe there is a being who has already done it . Maybe we are part of its thoughts . I can see so much possibility .Because of this. Thanks TED

  • Twisted Faces

    I think nanometer tech is already coming to computers very soon amd is already working on 7 nano meter gpus

  • Nicolaas MIELEKAMP

    How about using engineering games using knowledgeable nanotechnological constructs to build possible scenarios? What do you think?

  • Kerstin

    Oh, now I understand what the purpose of Chemtrails are… they are a delivery system, now we breath in all those nano particles, others we eat or drink, they build the circuits inside our body, including inside the brain, then we get zapped like cockroaches.. wow! What a wonderful future for your children and grandchildren.. killing NATURE, because psychopaths like the promotion dude thought she wasn't perfect enough, or in their way.. NATURE heals itself.. unless it gets overwhelmed by pathogens… Nano, geoengineering and 5G are all part of creating a MOCK VERSION of Nature, that's what it is.. a modern prison for those who buy into this crap.

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