Molecular nanotechnology is the ability to build a device with "every atom in its specified place"1. Some envision that molecular manufacturing will be here within 20 years. A nano-factory can be the size of a table top. Products will be more powerful and use less energy due to its size1.
"Declaring that "nanotechnology has the potential for unintended consequences, which is precisely why we can't allow the societal implications to be an afterthought," National Science Foundation Director Rita Colewell announced two new grants have been awarded that are worth more than one million each"2. These grants are for studies on the impact on society. The grant recipients will be studying things like impacts of manufactured material on our health and the environment.
On the medical side, nanotechnology will be able to "monitor, repair, construct and control the human biological system at the molecular level" 3. This won't be possible, however, until the machines and robots are developed. This is being actively pursued by a number of different companies. One is the Institute for Molecular manufacturing. They are a nonprofit foundation that researches nanotechnology4.
One use of nanotechnology that is in use today is a product called SoilSET. According to one report5 Sequoia Pacific Research Company has developed a soil binder that is a mixture of organic and biodegradable concentrate. This product will bind at the "nanoscale" and stick to soil to help retain water and germinate seeds. It was field tested in 2002 in the Mendocino National Forest. The forest's hydrologist said "the product did its job and prevented erosion before it dissolved in a year's time"6.
Quantum computers differ from what we use today. Today's computers rely on the laws of physics while quantum computers rely on quantum mechanics. Part of the idea of quantum computing is that instead of something being true or false (Boolean) like the processors in use today, it can be both7.