While a lot has been written on the application of molecular nanotechnology to medicine (http://nanomedicine.com/%20), computing ( http://www.imm.org/Reports/rep046.pdf), the environment ( http://www.imm.org/Reports/rep045.pdf), and so forth, very little has been written on the manufacturing of atomically precise food.
But which kind of food? When analyzing or developing a new technology, you start with the simplest case. Unadorned beverages will be technically easier to manufacture than solid foods (e.g., steaks) because they require no specific three-dimensional structure and are essentially just solutions of chemicals dissolved in water. The trick is to know what and how much of each chemical, and to be able to manufacture them quickly, accurately, and cheaply enough to represent a significant advance over current methods. Nanofactories will enable this.
Alcohol is always a fun topic of general public interest, and whiskey is perhaps the most challenging of the fine spirits to analyze and synthesize, so this seemed like a good representative exemplar on which to focus a preliminary study. Robert Freitas has completed this preliminary study. The proposed Whiskey Machine would make a low-cost beverage that tastes as good as it is physically possible for that type of beverage to taste, down to the last atom!
The analysis in the paper demonstrates that, as in most applications involving advanced molecular manufacturing and atomically precise machinery, gains of 10-1000 fold in speed, purity, cost, etc. are readily anticipated. So for consumers, the prospects are delightful.
Of course, alcoholic beverages typically have a high enough retail price, and the cost of replication using specialized nanofactories such as the Whiskey Machine is low enough, that most existing business models employed by manufacturing and retail organizations in this sector (e.g., distillers of fine spirits, wineries, beer breweries) will be seriously disrupted – possibly even bankrupted – as soon as nanofactories come into general use. The paper thus may serve as a wake-up call to these organizations that enormous change may be coming to their industry in the not terribly distant future, so it might be rational for them to begin now to think about preparing for this event.
As usual, Robert Freitas performs a thorough analysis. He starts from the roughly 100 chemical components and particulates in Whisky, the different types of Whisky and then performs a detailed cost and production analysis.
Robert Freitas is basically describing a full up specialized Star Trek the Next Generation style replicator.
It just happens that it in reality it will be easiest to automate and remove the need for Guinan
Specialized nanofactories will be able to manufacture specific products or classes of products very efficiently and inexpensively. This paper is the first serious scaling study of a nanofactory designed for the manufacture of a specific food product, in this case high-value-per liter alcoholic beverages. The analysis indicates that a 6-kg desktop appliance called the Fine Spirits Synthesizer, aka. the “Whiskey Machine,” consuming 300 Watts of power for all atomically precise mechanosynthesis operations, along with a commercially available 59-kg 900 Watt cryogenic refrigerator, could produce one 750 ml bottle per hour of any fine spirit beverage for which the molecular recipe is precisely known at a manufacturing cost of about $0.36 per bottle, assuming no reduction in the current $0.07/kWh cost for industrial electricity. The appliance’s carbon footprint is a minuscule 0.3 gm CO2 emitted per bottle, more than 1000 times smaller than the 460 gm CO2 per bottle carbon footprint of conventional distillery operations today. The same desktop appliance can intake a tiny physical sample of any fine spirit beverage and produce a complete molecular recipe for that product in ~17 minutes of run time, consuming less 25 Watts of power, at negligible additional cost
NOTE – the low level of power 900 watts is easily produced even today from inexpensive solar panels. Solar panels in the nanofactory age will be ridiculously cheap.
The feedstocks are also inexpensive. Current 3D printers require expensive materials and can produce a narrow range of products.
This is why the current revolution in 3D printers will be a pale shadow of the true disruptions when molecular nanofactories are produced.
This also shows that about 140 pages of detailed analysis will be needed for each category of product for molecular manufacturing to get a good plan on the viability and difficulty of molecular manufacturing and a plan for proceeding with it.
SOURCES – Institute for Molecular Manufacturing, Robert Freitas