"... and no one shall work for money, and no one shall work for fame; But each for the joy of the working, and each, in his separate star, shall draw the thing as he sees it, for the god of things as they are"



The FPath Project


FPath is a project to explore the possibilities of the Feynman Path to Nanotechnology. Rather more accurately, it is an umbrella project to document and connect my various experiments in the area.

In 1959 the rather well known physicist Richard Feynman gave a talk entitled There's Plenty of Room at the Bottom during which he pretty much invented the idea of Nanotechnology (although he did not call it that) and suggested a method of achieving that result.

Feynmans fundamental idea was to use big tools to make small tools which then make even smaller tools and so on until one is able to perform atomically precise fabrication. Once you can precisely place atoms wherever you wish then you can build whatever device or substance you might wish to have.

Well, we clearly don't have Star Trek style replicators just yet and although there are many people working in Nanotech, with billions in funding behind them, progress has been slow. It should be noted that none of this research follows the Feynman Path to Nanotechnology. Instead of working their way down the scale to ever smaller machines (called the top down approach) the major focus of Nanotech has been to start at the bottom and work upwards to bigger objects (called the bottom up approach).

So why has the top down approach, been abandoned? Well, the primary reason seems to be that there is a vast array of knowledge (and spare equipment) available from the semiconductor industry. The manufacturers of silicon chips went very small very quickly and, within some quite narrow parameters, developed technologies that could reasonably cause collections of atoms to be positioned at small scales with considerable accuracy. It appears that, if one has the ability to use surplus semiconductor technologies, the temptation to go straight to the bottom and start positioning atoms is pretty much irresistable. After all that's what everybody else is doing and (more importantly) that's where the funding is.

Consequently, the Feynman Path method has been ignored pretty much since the day it was announced. You can read a very informative 8 part series on the Feynman Path to Nanotechnology over on the Foresight.org website. Amazingly, at the time of the first edit of this page (Nov 2022), these articles are pretty much the only serious discussion of the Feynman Path available on the Internet.

So Whats the Plan?

It is pretty much impossible for an interested amateur to experiment with Nanotech using the bottom up approach. The equipment is expensive (even surplus stuff) and extremely large and power hungry. A modern chip fab will easily cost over a billion dollars and uses machines the size of mini-vans. Yes, you can try to make it work at a somewhat smaller scale, but the toxicity of the chemicals required makes it a process to be undertaken with great care. Having said that, there are some impressive people like Sam Zeloof who are having a pretty darn good go at it. Have a look at Sam's lab and decide for yourself whether you could afford all that stuff.

The Feynman Path would seem to be a much more feasible prospect for an amateur working out of a garage. The idea being: "Build some tools that build smaller tools and, once you have that working, use those tools to build even smaller ones".

Is it Going to Work?

Honestly? No, it will not. Success, as defined by being able to position individual atoms to nanometer precise tolerances, is extremely improbable.

However, one of the characteristics of a "good" plan is that it fails well and that there are fallback positions. Think about it for a moment. It is not necessary to get all the way down to the nano level for Feynman Path tools to be useful. Even building a suite of machines and tools that work well at the millimeter level would be a fine and useful thing. If one can go smaller then that's great - if not, then perhaps others can take it further.

But What about Errors?

Of course, errors in tolerances are going to get magnified as big tools build smaller tools. There are ways of dealing with such problems though. After all, every tool we have today can ultimately trace its ancestry back to someone banging two rocks together. The errors got ironed out somehow. At the millimeter scale (where the Path begins) objects are easily viewable even through cheap USB microscopes and so errors should be fairly identifiable. Corrections at the micron scale are left as a future problem.

Why Do It?

Why not? Robots, programming, the computer control of machinery and making tools are all kind of fun things to mess about with. The Feynman Path has never really been given much of a try so why not apply those things there? It may all come to nothing of course - but the work is the reward (see the sidebar at left). The Feynman Path may well prove to be fertile ground for some innovation - look at the way 3D printing took off once the open source community got involved (and certain patents expired).

The Rules

These are the rules for the project. They seem kind of arbitrary - but the reality is that they are there to force the search for solutions into simpler and more generally accessible directions.

  1. No High Voltage or Currents
  2. No High Vacuums or High Gas Pressures
  3. No Highly Corrosive Agents
  4. No High Energy Beams
  5. No Radioactive Substances
  6. No Extremely Toxic or Mutagenic Agents

The Current Goal

The current objective is to build a system which can assemble a simple blinking LED circuit on a microscope slide. The traces will be composed of small fragments of copper wire scattered on the slide and maneuvered into postion. The LED will be a standard surface mount LED and the blinking mechanism has yet to be decided - possibly some sort of relaxation oscillator. The power will be supplied externally.

When this goal is reached a new goal forming the next step in the Path will be chosen (I have lots of ideas).

What's Happening Now?

What's Happening Next?

What has already happened

List of FPath Projects

Some of my projects were written with the intention of eventually using them in the FPath project. Although they are completely standalone, they are also component sub-projects with technology specifically intended for FPath.

What Technologies are Used?

The software is written in C# and the microcontrollers used are from the Beaglebone series. You may well think this is an odd choice and that Python and the Raspberry Pi variants would be the more obvious candidates. It just so happens that I find C# to be faster and the Beaglebones to be more capable. I was never one to be included by the cool kids anyways :-)


The intellectual property rights to all new and/or original ideas and technologies documented under the FPath project and sub-projects are claimed in full by the author and are immediately released into the public domain under the terms of the MIT License. Any ideas, techniques, processes or methods of work documented in the FPath project and sub-projects must be considered to be prior art and must be cited in any patent applications.

The contents of the FPath project and sub-projects are provided "as is" without any warranty of any kind and without any claim to accuracy. Please be aware that the information provided may be out-of-date, incomplete, erroneous or simply unsuitable for your purposes. Any use you make of the information is entirely at your discretion and any consequences of that use are entirely your responsibility.