DNA Robots: Spiders at the Nanoscale

Meet the nano-spiders: The DNA robots that could one day be walking through your body

Scientists have created microscopic robots out of DNA molecules that can walk, turn and even create tiny products of their own on a nano-scale assembly line.

The ground-breaking devices outlined in the journal Nature, could one day lead to armies of surgeon robots that could clean human arteries or build computer components.

In one of the projects a team from New York's Columbia University created a spider bot just four nanometres across. This is about 100,000 times smaller than the diameter of a human hair.

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Spiders at the Nanoscale: Molecules that Behave Like Robots

NEW YORK (May 12, 2010) - A team of scientists from Columbia University, Arizona State University, the University of Michigan, and the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) have programmed an autonomous molecular "robot" made out of DNA to start, move, turn, and stop while following a DNA track.

The development could ultimately lead to molecular systems that might one day be used for medical therapeutic devices and molecular-scale reconfigurable robots—robots made of many simple units that can reposition or even rebuild themselves to accomplish different tasks. A paper describing the work appears in the current issue of the journal Nature.

National Science FoundationPress Release 10-083
Molecular Robots On the Rise

Researchers announce new breakthrough in developing molecules that behave like robots

Researchers have created and observed a molecular robot capable of many steps, and of making decisions where to step and how long to stay. As the robot walks on the substrate, it changes each piece by cleaving off a part. If it touches a spot that has been cleaved already, it does not linger as long. The end of the track glows red and captures the robot, letting the researchers know when it has completed its walk. The robot glows green, allowing for the researchers to see it better.

In recent years, scientists have been working to create robots that consist of a single molecule. Until recently, these robots have been able of only brief, directed motion on a one-dimensional track. Now a team of researchers have successfully created molecular robots capable of simple robotic actions within a defined environment autonomously, including the ability to start moving, turn, and stop. The researchers believe the process they have developed to achieve these tentative first steps may allow for more complex robotic behavior from these tiny robots. Milan Stojanovich, representing team of researchers from four institutions, discusses the team's work and its potential for future progress in this new field.

RSC - Advancing the Chemical Sciences

Molecular robots on nano-assembly lines

Seeman and his team took their research in a different direction, developing a system in which a DNA walker travels along a path with three DNA 'modules' at fixed intervals in an assembly line arrangement. The modules hold a cargo of gold nanoparticles and are individually programmed to either donate or keep their cargo, so as the DNA walker passes by it can be loaded with cargo resulting in eight possible end products.

'I think of these DNA walkers as being similar to a chassis of a car rolling down the assembly line and we are adding components to it,' says Seeman.

Stojanovic described Seeman's nanoscale assembly line as a masterful example of non-autonomous robotics. He describes Seeman as 'like a micro-surgeon that slowly organises materials on this scale by adding DNA strands and taking them away. It's just beautiful work'.

Behold The First Nanobot Assembly Line In Action

On the left in the drawing above, you can see a diagram showing what's going on (click to enlarge), whereas on the right you can see an atomic force micrograph of the pieces of gold being gathered by the nanobot (you can't actually see the nanobot).

Meet the nano-spiders: The DNA robots that could one day be walking through your body | Mail Online
Columbia University Medical Center Press Release
nsf.gov - Office of Legislative and Public Affairs (OLPA) News - Molecular Robots On the Rise - US National Science Foundation (NSF)
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Molecular robots on nano-assembly lines
Behold The First Nanobot Assembly Line In Action - Nanotechnology - io9

BBC NEWS | Science/Nature | Molecular spiders grab nanograss
Spiders at the nanoscale: Molecules that behave like robots
Spiders at the nanoscale: Molecules that behave like robots
Molecular robots on the rise (w/ Video)
The rise of molecular robots - SmartPlanet
Spiders at the nanoscale: Molecules that behave like robots (5/17/2010)
Technology Review: DNA Robots on the Move
DNA nanobots can start, move, turn and stop while Following a DNA Track
Spiders at the Nanoscale: Molecules that Behave Like Robots - Caltech
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Ned Seeman's Home Page
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Computer Science, Caltech - Erik Winfree
Access : Molecular robots guided by prescriptive landscapes : Nature
Access : A proximity-based programmable DNA nanoscale assembly line : Nature