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Fears about bio-chips and nanofabrication

Ross O. Storey | Aug. 24, 2009
How dangerous is it to mesh technology with human biology and what are the limits?

Being an optimist and someone who is fascinated with technology, I have the view that innovation and human ingenuity will always generate mostly positive outcomes. However, one thing that scares me a little is what could happen if technology becomes too incorporated with biology; that is, with the human body.

Perhaps Ive watched too many sci-fi movies, but to have anything technological incorporated into the miraculous and mysterious machine that is the human body seems to be tempting fate.

It makes me shudder to visualise a future where the authorities implant RFID chips into the body of every newborn infant, ostensibly in the interests of overall security for everyone. The powers that be can always find a good argument for restricting individual freedom for the greater good.

For some reason I get itchy all over when I read about microscopic nano-machines of the future, being injected into patients to carry out surgery. Ive had too many hard drives crash to be 100 per cent confident in machinery messing with my bloodstream and body.

Is it 100 per cent foolproof?

Dont get me wrong. I believe that technology is wonderfulwhen it works. But, like many who use ICT continually for their employment, I am all too familiar of the times when it fails to measure up.

Unfortunately, all too many hospital deaths are currently caused by human error, and the mind boggles to think about what could potentially go wrong with nano-surgery.

My phobia with biotechnology was sparked again this week with the announcement that Scientists at IBM are experimenting with using DNA molecules as a way to create tiny circuits that could form the basis of smaller, more powerful computer chips.

According to our IDG news network, with which Fairfax Business Media is affiliated (this is an awesome network with some 350 IT magazines across the globe), Big Blue is researching ways in which DNA can arrange itself into patterns on the surface of a chip, and then act as a kind of scaffolding onto which millions of tiny carbon nanotubes and nanoparticles are deposited. That network of nanotubes and nanoparticles could act as the wires and transistors on future computer chips, the IBM scientists said.


This new field is called nanofabrication and it is an offshoot of nanotechnology.

For decades, chip makers have been etching smaller and smaller patterns onto the surface of chips to speed up performance and reduce power consumption.

Bob Allen, senior manager of chemistry and materials at IBM Research said the fastest PC chips today are manufactured using a 45 nanometer process, but as the process dips below 22 nanometers in a few years, the assembly and fabrication of chips becomes far more difficult and expensive.


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