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Monomolecular wire (not to be confused with "monofilament" wire or line) is a fictional wire, often used as a weapon, consisting of single strand of strongly bonded molecules, like carbon nanotubes. It has applications in cutting objects and severing adjacent molecules. A similar or identical concept may be called a microfilament wire or, as a weapon, a microfilament whip.
Use and variants in fiction
Among the first references in fiction to a monofilament is in John Brunner's Stand on Zanzibar (1968), where hobby terrorists deploy this over-the-shelf General Technics product across roads to kill or injure the people passing there. According to Brunner, the monofilament will easily cut through glass, metal and flesh, but in any non-strained structure the molecules will immediately rebond. No harm is done if the cut object is not under mechanical stress.
An early example of a substance similar to monomolecular wire is 'borazon-tungsten filament' from G. Randall Garrett's "Thin Edge." (Analog, Dec 1963) The main character uses a strand from an asteroid towing-cable to cut jail bars and to booby-trap the door of his room. Frank Herbert later described shigawire in his Dune novels. First making its appearance in Dune (1965), shigawire is a metallic extrusion produced naturally from a ground vine found on the planets Salusa Secundus and III Delta Kaising. It varies in diameter from approximately 1.5 cm down to monomolecular (micronic) diameters, and is notable for its incredible tensile and mechanical strength. Shigawire is able to cut through almost any material cleanly, possessing edges that are incredibly sharp. It is a weapon of choice for assassins.
Monomolecular wire is a plot element in the short story "Johnny Mnemonic" by William Gibson. The assassin following the protagonist has a diamond spindle of monomolecular wire (or filament) implanted in his thumb, the idea being that diamond is also made of a single molecule and thus hard enough to not be cut by a monomolecular wire. The top of a prosthesis, attached to the other side of the wire, was used as a weight and the wire could be used as a whip-like weapon or a garotte.
Monomolecular wire (in the form of wide 'tapes' of a "pseudo-one-dimensional modified diamond crystal") is used as the basic building material of the space elevator in Arthur C. Clarke's novel The Fountains of Paradise.
Monomolecular wires are seen in the Star Wars expanded universe, Cyber City Oedo 808, Hyperion Cantos, Robert J. Sawyer's Illegal Alien, Battle Angel Alita, Naruto, Akame ga Kill, Hellsing, Trinity Blood, My-Hime, Vampire Knight, Simon R. Green's Deathstalker series, Alastair Reynolds's Revelation Space universe, as well as the roleplaying games Shadowrun, One Piece as Doflamingo's string-string devil fruit and Cyberpunk 2020. Monomolecular wires are also seen in Larry Niven's "Known Space" universe as human-produced "Sinclair Molecule Chain".
In the One Piece manga, the character Donquixote Doflamingo ate the Ito Ito no Mi, a devil fruit that grants the user the ability to create and manipulate strings. He is capable of creating strings so thin that they cannot be seen, and he can use this ability to ensnare people and control them like a puppet. His strings are also incredibly strong, being able to cut through stone with ease.
Various Imperial and alien technologies in the Warhammer 40,000 universe use monomolecular blades or wire offensively. Possibly the most notable example are Eldar Warp Spiders, whose Deathspinner weaponry traps targets in a mesh of such filaments or the Dark Eldar Shredder weapon which shoots meshes of it.
The game Chaos Overlords featured a weapon 'monom rod' which used this technology.
Sion Eltnam Atlasia wields a monofilament whip called the Etherlite in Melty Blood. In the 2000 film XChange, the main character acquires an Urban survival Kit which includes a monomolecular wire. Monomolecular swords are used by some Kzin in Larry Niven's Known Space series.
- Laurens D. A. Siebbeles, Ferdinand C. Grozema (July 18, 2011), Charge and Exciton Transport through Molecular Wires, retrieved January 27, 2014