Nano Robots Build Molecules

Scientists at The University of Manchester have created the world’s first ‘molecular robot’ that is capable of performing basic tasks including building other molecules.

The tiny robots, which are a millionth of a millimetre in size, can be programmed to move and build molecular cargo, using a tiny robotic arm.

Each individual robot is capable of manipulating a single molecule and is made up of just 150 carbon, hydrogen, oxygen and nitrogen atoms. To put that size into context, a billion billion of these robots piled on top of each other would still only be the same size as a single grain of salt. The robots operate by carrying out chemical reactions in special solutions which can then be controlled and programmed by scientists to perform the basic tasks.

In the future such robots could be used for medical purposes, advanced manufacturing processes and even building molecular factories and assembly lines.

All matter is made up of atoms and these are the basic building blocks that form molecules. Our robot is literally a molecular robot constructed of atoms just like you can build a very simple robot out of Lego bricks, explains Professor David Leigh, who led the research at University’s School of Chemistry. “The robot then responds to a series of simple commands that are programmed with chemical inputs by a scientistIt is similar to the way robots are used on a car assembly line. Those robots pick up a panel and position it so that it can be riveted in the correct way to build the bodywork of a car. So, just like the robot in the factory, our molecular version can be programmed to position and rivet components in different ways to build different products, just on a much smaller scale at a molecular level.”

The research has been published in Nature.


In 2029 Immortality May Be Possible

Scientist Ray Kurzweil (Google‘s Director of Engineering) reckons man could become immortal in just a few years’ time. The 61-year-old American – dubbed the smartest futurist on Earth by Microsoft founder Bill Gates – has consistently predicted new technologies many years before they arrived. Here, Ray explains why he believes today’s 60-year-olds could go on to live forever. We are living through the most exciting period of human historyComputer technology and our understanding of genes — our body’s software programs — are accelerating at an incredible rate. He and many other scientists now believe that in around 20 years we will have the means to reprogramme our bodies’ stone-age software so we can halt, then reverse, ageing. Then nano-technology will let us live for ever.

Already, blood cell-sized submarines cnanorobotsalled nanobots are being tested in animals. These will soon be used to destroy tumours, unblock clots and perform operations without scars.

Ultimately, nanobots will replace blood cells and do their work thousands of times more effectively. Within 25 years we will be able to do an Olympic sprint for 15 minutes without taking a breath, or go scuba-diving for four hours without oxygen. Heart-attack victims — who haven’t taken advantage of widely available bionic hearts — will calmly drive to the doctors for a minor operation as their blood bots keep them alive. Nanotechnology will extend our mental capacities to such an extent we will be able to write books within minutes. If we want to go into virtual-reality mode, nanobots will shut down brain signals and take us wherever we want to go. Virtual sex will become commonplace. And in our daily lives, hologram-like figures will pop up in our brain to explain what is happening.

These technologies should not seem at all fanciful. Our phones now perform tasks we wouldn’t have dreamed possible 20 years ago. In 1965, an university’s only computer cost £7million and was huge. Today your mobile phone is a million times less expensive and a thousand times more powerful. That’s a billion times more capable for the same price.

According to Kurrzweil’s theory — the Law of Accelerating Returns — we will experience another billion-fold increase in technological capability for the same cost in the next 25 years. So we can look forward to a world where humans become cyborgs, with artificial limbs and organs. This might sound far-fetched, but remember, diabetics already have artificial pancreases and Parkinson’s patients have neural implants. As we approach the 21st Century’s second decade, stunning medical breakthroughs are a regular occurrence.

In 2008 we discovered skin cells can be transformed into the equivalent of embryonic cells. So organs will soon be repaired and eventually grown. In a few years most people will have their entire genetic sequences mapped. Before long, we will all know the diseases we are susceptible to and gene therapies will mean virtually no genetic problems that can’t be erased. It’s important to ensure we get to take advantage of the upcoming technologies by living well and not getting hit by a bus.

By the middle of this century we will have back-up copies of the information in our bodies and brains that make us who we are. Then we really will be immortal.


The Rise Of The NanoRobots

Nanomachines – including nano-sized motors, rockets and even cars – are many orders of magnitude smaller than a human cell, but they have huge promise. In the future, they could deliver drugs anywhere in the body, clean up oil spills and might even be used as artificial muscle cells. Find out more about these molecular machines (and the challenges that nanobot researchers still face) in Reactions’ latest video, produced in collaboration with the University of Nebraska‘s SciPop series.




Nanorobots Injected Inside Cockroaches

A team of scientists from the the Institute of Nanotechnology and Advanced Materials at Israel’s Bar-Ilan University has constructed minute robots that can function inside a living animal entity. The nanobots act upon chemical stimuli inside the body; that is, upon receiving a chemical signal, they react, displaying appropriate responses. The robots were made by using DNA. The DNA was packed together into strands, and this is what make up the robots. Upon stimulated by chemicals, the robots would then unravel into the two strands of DNA. The DNA binds and unbinds in different circumstances, and this is the basis of the way the robots operate to be stimulated and to react.

They work at the cellular level, and that is where their extremely small size helps enormously. They might be tiny, but their tininess is what confers on them their herculean potential to tackle tumors and repairing broken tissues. Moreover, the nanobots can act as real computers inside the body. Therefore, they can be programmed to do a certain list of jobs which their makers choose for them.
The cobaye used to test the nanorobots were cockroaches. They – those terribly annoying creatures – could at least be rendered useful, right?! The cockroach species Blaberus discoidalis was used for the insertion of the nanorobots. The robots were crammed with chemicals, which, upon recognising hemolymph cells found in the cockroach, would bind to them. Hemolymph cells are, in fact, the equivalent of white blood cells in the cockroach. Different kinds of robots were made to enter the body of the unsuspecting cockroach.
The next step now would be to use other animals as cobayes before actually marketing these nanorobots in medical institutions for humans.

DNA Robots Mark Cells So Drugs Can Kill Them

Researchers at Columbia University Medical Center, working with their collaborators at the Hospital for Special Surgery, have created a fleet of molecularrobots” that can home in on specific human cells and mark them for drug therapy or destruction. The nanorobots — a collection of DNA molecules, some attached to antibodies— were designed to seek a specific set of human blood cells and attach a fluorescent tag to the cell surfaces. Details of the system were published in the online edition of Nature Nanotechnology.
dnarobotsThis opens up the possibility of using such molecules to target, treat, or kill specific cells without affecting similar healthy cells,” said the study’s senior investigator, Milan Stojanovic, PhD, associate professor of medicine and of biomedical engineering at Columbia University Medical Center.
In our experiment, we tagged the cells with a fluorescent marker; but we could replace that with a drug or with a toxin to kill the cell.”

Swarming Nanobots For Non-Invasive Healing

Researchers in the Sheffield Centre for Robotics, jointly established by the University of Sheffield and Sheffield Hallam University – United Kingdom -, have been working to program a group of 40 robots, and say the ability to control robot swarms could prove hugely beneficial in a range of contexts, from military to medical.The researchers have demonstrated that the swarm can carry out simple fetching and carrying tasks, by grouping around an object and working together to push it across a surface.The robots can also group themselves together into a single cluster after being scattered across a room, and organize themselves by order of priority. Dr Roderich Gross, head of the Natural Robotics Lab, in the Department of Automatic Control and Systems Engineering at the University of Sheffield, says swarming robots could have important roles to play in the future of micromedicine, as ‘nanobots’ are developed for non-invasive treatment of humans.
swarming robots
We are developing Artificial Intelligence to control robots in a variety of ways. The key is to work out what is the minimum amount of information needed by the robot to accomplish its task. That’s important because it means the robot may not need any memory, and possibly not even a processing unit, so this technology could work for nanoscale robots, for example in medical applications.” Dr Gross said.