Unknown matter claimer

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This article defines a novel term (that is hopefully sensibly chosen). The term is introduced to make a concept more concrete and understand its interrelationship with other topics related to atomically precise manufacturing. For details go to the page: Neologism.
This article is speculative. It covers topics that are not straightforwardly derivable from current knowledge. Take it with a grain of salt. See: "exploratory engineering" for what can be predicted and what not.

An "unknown matter reclaimer" would be capable of receiving any kind of matter (out of atoms) and near perfectly sort & separate the atoms according to their atomic number (their element). Afterwards some of the the elements would be reacted to common elements (like oxygen and hydrogen) to yield better soluble and less troublesome compounds that serve as resource molecules for advanced gem-gum factories. (See: standardized element carrying compounds). For maximal safety the product compounds could be stored in micro-capsules which in turn could be stored (in solid state machine phase) in macro-capsules.

Since atomically precise disassembly of completely unknown matter seems extremely difficult (if not impossible) more conventional treatment methods are likely to be applied. These treatment methods can still be managed by advanced gemstone based systems (just as in synthesis of food). While chemical treatment can be done in microscale chambers, aggressive thermal treatment may need macroscopic chambers (due to scaling of heat conduction). Mechanical breakup of big chunks/lumps/whatnot can also be an issue.

Some of many difficulties

Problematic properties of source material could be:

  • extremely hard materials (e.g. corundum splinters)
  • sticky & gooey materials (today these usually can be burned with few exceptions - this may change)
  • chemically highly aggressive materials (rarely encountered in waste heaps)
  • ...

Claiming unknown matter requires big and complex systems – not doable by autonomous "nanobots"

There is no golden bullet of how to proceed to succeed. Ideally one would want one single general process where no matter what the input is one always gets the desired split-up output with zero remnants of the original material. This may eventually be reached in very advanced dystems (far beyond the far term goal of gem-gum factories) but it may even involve optical and other analysis and interpretation by an AI system.

"Unknown matter reclaimers", if ever built, will execute a pretty complex process and they will fundamentally be big macroscopic devices. Thus fully omnivorous "nanobots" like known from the most extreme form of the grey goo horror fable are pretty much an impossibility.

Radioactive isotopes and elements

"Unknown matter reclaimers" could possibly be combined with isotope separation. material so highly radioactive that it would destroy the nano-machinery (by metamictisation) of course cannot be treated. At the cost of performance it may be possible to create specialized devices that are more radiation resistant but at some point the only option left is to gain distance and wait. Fortunately extremely high radiation levels quickly decay.

Misc notes

The terms "all eating" or "omnivorous" fall under the class of detrimental bio-analogies thus they should be avoided.

If only applied to waste this could be called "unknown matter reclaimer" or "allrecycler".