Disassembler Swarm
Image from Steve Bowers
A very small robotic machine which can take an object apart a few atoms at a time. Usually employed as a swarm or part of a swarm. Even quite primitive disassemblers with no recording facility can be used as a dissolving agent or a weapon. Sophisticated disassemblers are also capable of measuring and recording or transmitting the structure of the target material structure at a molecular level. This data can be used for copying objects (when used with an assembler system) or to upload a sophont mentality.

Disassemblers require energy in order to break the chemical bonds of the target material. This energy may be stored on board the disassembler units temselves, in the form of chemical, electrical or mechanical energy; good chemical fuels may store about 40-50MJ/kg and mechanical storage systems are comparable in capacity, while electrical capacitors can store somewhat less energy per unit mass. Superconducting energy storage devices have a capacity comparable to the best chemical fuels, but require a certain safety margin which usually reduces the capacity somewhat.

In a disassembler swarm specialised energy-storage units are often used to supply power to active disassembler units; these energy storage units may be quite bulky. Energy may be supplied by beamed power distribution methods or using superconductors from a centralised source if available.

Suitably adaptable disassemblers can use the chemical energy of the target material; if the target is a biont, for instance, the energy of organic tissue can be utilised, adding an extra 20MJ/kg of available energy in some cases. Note that this source of energy is dependent on the mass of the target. Alternately, local sources of electrical energy or beamed power may be hijacked by the swarm.

More advanced disassemblers can use ultra-high energy storage systems such as magmatter storage loops; in theory these can store billions of joules per kilogram.
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Development Notes
Text by M. Alan Kazlev, updated by Steve Bowers
Originally adapted from Anders Sandberg's Transhumanist Terminology
Initially published on 09 October 2001.