Biological Nanomachines--First in their Class
Kinesin and dynein are proteins that move along a microtubule and can drag along a mechanical load (another molecule). They are among several molecular motors found in nature. Another example is the flagella that push bacteria around in pond water, driven by a motor that looks like it came from a mechanical parts catalog.
....Some people are using these molecular machines to plan nanotechnology roadmaps, and there has been some laboratory progress. We won't have real nanotechnology any time soon, but these are excellent steps in that direction. Biomechanics hints at a lot of interesting things we can do with available cellular mechanisms.
To people thinking about the long term, as I like to do, these efforts are stepping stones. We'll use them to build tools, and use those tools to build other tools, with the eventual goal of a manufacturing infrastructure that permits us to build large rationally-designed products to atomic precision.
I am encouraged to see such enthusiasm for bio-nano from Will, and others like him. Read Will's entire posting, with great links and a fine graphic, here.
There has been a bit of discussion at The Speculist, and at Responsible Nanotechnology, about two previous postings "Nanotechnology Learns from Biology" and "Holy Grail of Enzymatics." Will's posting adds quite a bit to that discussion.
Update: Here is a link to an excellent set of publications from Bionano.neu.edu. It comes from one of the links obtained from Wills post above. There is far more activity on this front than I previously realised. Thanks again to Will Ware.
For anyone interested in the NSTI Bio Nano conference in Boston this May, here is the website for that event.
Update 13 March 2006: Here is a bizjournal article discussing the explosion of patent applications for bio-nano.