K Eric Drexler 2007 SIn our latest post we highlight another ground-breaking thesis, this time that of Kim Eric Drexler. His pioneering thesis ‘Molecular machinery & manufacturing with applications to computation‘ was published at MIT in September 1991 and its effects will change the world. We’ll take a look at what it was about and how it gave birth to an entirely new scientific field.

Drexler’s thesis explores what he identified as a gap in our scientific knowledge and manufacturing capability, specifically at a miniature scale. While chemists could work out how to synthesise molecular substances and solutions using a series of chemical reactions, and physicists could work out the molecular make-up of pretty much anything, seemingly nobody had considered the prospect of building such things molecule by molecule, something that Drexler suggested might one day be possible despite such a process requiring manufacture at a ‘nano’ scale. Drexler asked whether it was possible to simply manufacture things — even machines — by positioning molecules, perhaps one by one, in the right formation. When you think about it, if you could do that, you could build just about anything. This is why Drexler’s thesis caused such a stir, spawning a whole new area of scientific research in the process. As Drexler pointed out in his thesis, the problem had been that we, and our instruments, were simply too large. So he discussed the possibility of building tiny machines which, in turn, would be small enough to replicate themselves or, better still, build even smaller machines — and so on. In the end, the resulting ‘nano factories’ might be able to build literally anything, molecule by molecule, with atomic precision. Thus, from a PhD thesis, the field of ‘nanomechanical systems engineering‘ was born. Falling somewhere between physics, chemistry, molecular biology and engineering, its possibilities are endless. From electronic storage and processing to nano robots designed to fight cancer, the opportunities for nano technology are probably only limited by our imagination. Not surprisingly, Drexler and his nanomachines get regular mentions in cutting-edge sci-fi novels, from many different authors.

“The principles of physics, as far as I can see, do not speak against the possibility of manoeuvring things atom by atom”

In total, Drexler has completed three degrees; a BSc, an MSc and a PhD, all of them undertaken at MIT. His thesis and publications are legendary within the scientific world. He has also worked in the fields of aeronautics, astronautics, space industrialisation, computer science and artificial intelligence. You can read or download Drexler’s original PhD thesis here or purchase his award-winning book, based upon the thesis: Nanosystems: Molecular Machinery Manufacturing and Computation (1992).

Thesis printing & binding services

Here at The Document Centre in London, the various theses and dissertations that we print and bind absolutely fascinate us. While we don’t have time to read them (a great shame!), we are conscious that many are going to be ground-breaking and may indeed, like Drexler’s thesis, change the world. The talent and profound intelligence of students coming to us for thesis printing and binding is astounding and we are proud to play our part, however small, in their continuing success within whatever field they work.

If you are a university student and require printing and binding for your thesis or dissertation, please do try us. We regularly receive 5-star reviews on both Facebook and Google (indeed almost every rating is a full 5 stars) and feedback from students using our printing and binding services is excellent, as you’ll see if you browse our website and social media profiles. Students can visit our London shop at 92 Southwark Bridge Road, Southwark, SE1 0EX or, alternatively, we have a full online thesis printing, binding and ordering service where students can upload their thesis, select from various options, choose their desired binding style and either pay online (PayPal, credit cards and debit cards accepted) or on collection from the London shop. We even have free delivery to many London institutions. For further information browse the bold links in this paragraph or call 020 7928 9738 to speak to one of our friendly team. We’ll be happy to help!

Main image (Kelly chem motor) by TommyCP. Own work (Public domain).
K. Eric Drexler photo (right) by David Orban (CC BY 2.0).
Fullerene Nanogears image (left) by NASA (Public domain).