There are many stories of converting one element into another (such as the story of the Philosopher's Stone), but to actually mutate one material into another (at least with our our current understand of the atom) we need a source of electrons, protons, and neutrons. And what more convenient source than to take from the air around us?
This process is perfect, but naive, so you don't need to worry about Gamma Radiation or Leptons from removing the protons and neutrons, but the system is inherently stupid(only smart enough to be given steps).
My Question: Given that my machine draws from everyday air to create any substance, what are the steps that would take the most optimal number of protons, electrons, and neutrons from the air's elements.
The machine can only remove a single elementary particle (electron, proton, neutron) per-step. It must draw what it needs from ordinary air.
If you have a bond such as a molecule or a diatomic molecule, the machine can separate it into its base elements, and it does so automatically(for the scope of this question). This is mostly to simplify the process, so you don't worry about water vapor in the air, you can just deal with the Hydrogen(which basically has removed as many as possible already), and Oxygen.
The machine cannot hold those elementary particles in reserve for later steps. In other words, there's no adding them back into the elements. Whatever the machine cannot use from the air element or molecule it took from the air must be able to be released safely back into the air.
The results of the process cannot include unsafe levels of radiation or unstable molecules or isotopes.
The process cannot be harmful to the machine's operator, while not in the room, he is not shielded by anything, but the walls(which are negligible, not made of lead or something) and any lingering effects that would prevent the operator from filling the room up with more air, entering, and then restarting the process.
The process of harvesting and reconfiguring the elementary particles should remain undetectable (another reason why radiation should be kept to a minimum).
- Please let me know what stopped you from deconstructing a particular molecule further than you did (e.g., "removing one more electron would cause nuclear fission" or "would leave remaining molecule in a highly unstable state").