Picotechnology: Beyond Nano-Scale Engineering


While it’s become quite popular to discuss nanotechnology for a number of years now, picotechnology is the science of the future. This type of engineering is on a scale three orders of magnitude smaller than that which nanotechnology deals with. It’s actually considerably smaller than most chemistry measurements.

Essentially, this would involve the manipulation of matter on a level smaller than atoms. Think about that for a moment…smaller than atoms. While this might sound like a flight of fantasy, there is actually some real promise here. According to an engineer from the Worcester Polytechnic Institute, engineers are already developing technology that works on a scale at least somewhat similar to this.

Ryszard Pryputniewicz wrote that research into new types of microelectromechanical systems have opened up the door into increasingly small worlds upon which to construct equipment. While a good deal of focus has been on exploring the universe, this seems to take scientific philosophy in an entirely different direction. Even if it wasn’t the author’s original intention, the study is quite interesting and it’s easy to imagine things that could come about as a result of further research in this realm.

Instead of looking out at the cosmos, it encourages researchers to instead look at the microcosms that exist right under our fingertips. While it’s doubtful that human explorers will ever have the opportunity to actually travel to areas this small, it does create some very interesting new opportunities. Controlling equipment at this level would totally change the way that people interact with even the most basic of appliances.

Gone would be the days that these devices would function around the concept of mere electricity. In fact, with such an intimate interface at an atomic level, it can be surmised that devices would be self powered. And for that matter, it wouldn’t be a huge jump for them to ultimately become sentient. However, even without taking such leaps of faith, it’s not difficult to imagine the tangible advantages of this type of technology.

Basic speckle metrology and autonomic computing resources are of course the most realistic uses of this level of technology. The ability to examine and manipulate resources at this level is naturally quite useful. New building materials could be assembled essentially from a string of atoms, and various new sources of fuel could be manufactured. This also opens up new avenues for batteries with extremely high energy densities.

That being said, relatively esoteric designs are probably on the horizon. While they weren’t the focus of Pryputniewicz’s research [citation below], these uses could go as far as permitting engineers and physicians to actually realign organ tissue within the human body. This could theoretically be used for therapeutic purposes, and to repair serious damage. It could also theoretically be used to create an entirely new species of beings that have senses beyond the normal human range.


Ryszard J. Pryputniewicz (2010). Speckle metrology in the nanoworld, as it is perceived today, and how it may affect industry. Optical Metrology DOI: 10.1117/12.877497.

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