Part of the Computing fundamentals glossary:

In nanotechnology , self-replication is a process in which devices whose diameters are of atomic scale, on the order of nanometers, create copies of themselves. A nanometer is 10 -9 meter or a millionth of a millimeter. In order for self-replication to take place in a constructive manner, three conditions must be met.

The first requirement is that each unit be a specialized machine called a nanorobot, one of whose functions is to construct at least one copy of itself during its operational life. (Each unit should also have some other function, unless the intended purpose of the aggregate is to cause havoc by generating the mechanical equivalent of a cancerous tumor.) A hypothetical example of a constructively self-replicating nanorobot is an artificial antibody. In addition to reproducing itself, it seeks and destroys disease-causing organisms.

The second requirement is the existence of all the energy and ingredients necessary to build a certain minimum number of complete copies of the nanorobot in question. Ideally, the quantities of each ingredient should be such that they are consumed in the correct proportion. If the process is intended to be finite, then when the desired number of nanorobots has been constructed, there should be no unused quantities of any ingredient remaining.

The third requirement is that the environment be controlled so that the replication process can proceed efficiently and without malfunctions. Excessive turbulence, temperature extremes, intense radiation, or other adverse circumstances might prevent the proper functioning of the nanorobots and cause the process to falter or fail. Science-fiction writers have suggested that mutations might occur in a sophisticated self-replicating nanorobotic community, giving rise to the machine equivalent of natural selection. Such a process might be used to create a self-sustaining, evolving colony of robots on an extraterrestrial planet.

Also see exponential assembly , nanotechnology , positional assembly , and self-assembly .

This was last updated in September 2005
Posted by: Margaret Rouse

Related Terms

Definitions

  • flash storage

    - Flash storage, based on flash memory, is used for data repositories, storage systems and consumer devices, such as USB drives, smartphones and solid-state drives. Flash-based storage is faster than... (WhatIs.com)

  • six degrees of separation

    - Six degrees of separation is the theory that anyone on the planet can be connected to any other person on the planet through a chain of acquaintances that has no more than five intermediaries. (WhatIs.com)

  • search operator

    - A search operator (sometimes referred to as a search parameter) is a character or string of characters used in a search engine query to narrow the focus of the search. Search operators are usually ... (WhatIs.com)

Glossaries

  • Computing fundamentals

    - Terms related to computer fundamentals, including computer hardware definitions and words and phrases about software, operating systems, peripherals and troubleshooting.

  • Internet applications

    - This WhatIs.com glossary contains terms related to Internet applications, including definitions about Software as a Service (SaaS) delivery models and words and phrases about web sites, e-commerce ...

Ask a Question About self-replicationPowered by ITKnowledgeExchange.com

Get answers from your peers on your most technical challenges

Tech TalkComment

Share
Comments

    Results

    Contribute to the conversation

    All fields are required. Comments will appear at the bottom of the article.