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A nanorobot is a tiny machine designed to perform a specific task or tasks repeatedly and with precision at nanoscale dimensions, that is, dimensions of a few nanometers (nm) or less, where 1 nm = 10-9 meter. Nanorobots have potential applications in the assembly and maintenance of sophisticated systems. Nanorobots might function at the atomic or molecular level to build devices, machines, or circuits, a process known as molecular manufacturing. Nanorobots might also produce copies of themselves to replace worn-out units, a process called self-replication.

Nanorobots are of special interest to researchers in the medical industry. This has given rise to the field of nanomedicine. It has been suggested that a fleet of nanorobots might serve as antibodies or antiviral agents in patients with compromised immune systems, or in diseases that do not respond to more conventional measures. There are numerous other potential medical applications, including repair of damaged tissue, unblocking of arteries affected by plaques, and perhaps the construction of complete replacement body organs.

A major advantage of nanorobots is thought to be their durability. In theory, they can remain operational for years, decades, or centuries. Nanoscale systems can also operate much faster than their larger counterparts because displacements are smaller; this allows mechanical and electrical events to occur in less time at a given speed.

Also see robot and nanotechnology.

This was last updated in May 2007

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