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In the near future scientists hope to build microscopic robots, that could act as surgeons or as factories. But could they also act as assassins or even eat the world?

Nanotechnology is about making really small things, at the size of atoms and molecules. Nano-robots, or Nanobots are incredibly small robots, tiny machines less than 10,000 nanometers accross. 1 nanometer is 1 millionth of the size of the head of a pin, far too small to see.

Right now scientists can only make very simple nanobots. They are currently learning the science of making the tiny parts and how to control them. One of the difficulties is that, working at that tiny size, it's very easy to lose things!

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Avoid harm:

Medical nanobots let loose inside a human body could just as easily be used to hurt as to heal.
The chemical properties of nanoscale materials are not yet understood. They may present health hazards that are not yet known about.
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Precautionary Prinicple

If there is a risk that nanobots could be used for bad purposes, should we be conducting the research into how to make them?

Artist's impression of medical nanorobots

Artist's impression of medical nanorobots

But in future they hope that nanobots could be useful as:

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All technology can be used for good and bad purposes. Could nanorobot surgeons be used as killers as well as healers? And with something that small, how would you know it was murder? In 1978 the jounalist Georgi Markov was murdered in London using the tiniest of weapons, a 1.5 mm ball bearing laced with the poison ricin.

Next: Nanobot factories


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