Nanoscale device, smaller than a nanobot

Nanotech device
Image from Steve Bowers

Generic term for a molecular or nanoscale device, whether bionano or hylonano; a cluster of reactive nanoparticles. As a mechanistic product of its chemistry each nanoparticle responds to its environment in specific ways, and a cluster of nanoparticles designed to complement each other in specific ways gives the desired results over a variety of environmental conditions. The term nanite is sometimes synonymous with nanobot in popular or casual usage, but nanites are simpler and much smaller. Typically nanites are in the 10 to 1000 kilodalton range.

The closest natural analogues of nanites are quaternary structures formed by biomacromolecules: cell substructures such as ribosomes or the mechanisms that control movement through membranes are typical. Though far less versatile than nanobots, nanites are more durable within a given environment, better able to manipulate molecules at extremely small scales and better able to access nanoscale items. Applications of nanites include the synthesis of complex materials at a molecular level, synthesis or release of appropriate medicines in the presence of specific chemicals, computation in a liquid medium through the manipulation of local chemical optic and thermal properties, and of course use as components in more complex devices such as nanobots.
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Development Notes
Text by M. Alan Kazlev; amended by Stephen Inniss and Ryan B
Initially published on 09 December 2001.