Nanorobotics

Nanorobotics

Overview
Nanorobotics is the emerging technology field of creating machines or robot
Robot
A robot is a mechanical or virtual intelligent agent that can perform tasks automatically or with guidance, typically by remote control. In practice a robot is usually an electro-mechanical machine that is guided by computer and electronic programming. Robots can be autonomous, semi-autonomous or...

s whose components are at or close to the scale of a nanometer (10−9 meters). More specifically, nanorobotics refers to the nanotechnology
Nanotechnology
Nanotechnology is the study of manipulating matter on an atomic and molecular scale. Generally, nanotechnology deals with developing materials, devices, or other structures possessing at least one dimension sized from 1 to 100 nanometres...

 engineering discipline of designing and building nanorobots, with devices ranging in size from 0.1-10 micrometers and constructed of nanoscale or molecular components.
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Encyclopedia
Nanorobotics is the emerging technology field of creating machines or robot
Robot
A robot is a mechanical or virtual intelligent agent that can perform tasks automatically or with guidance, typically by remote control. In practice a robot is usually an electro-mechanical machine that is guided by computer and electronic programming. Robots can be autonomous, semi-autonomous or...

s whose components are at or close to the scale of a nanometer (10−9 meters). More specifically, nanorobotics refers to the nanotechnology
Nanotechnology
Nanotechnology is the study of manipulating matter on an atomic and molecular scale. Generally, nanotechnology deals with developing materials, devices, or other structures possessing at least one dimension sized from 1 to 100 nanometres...

 engineering discipline of designing and building nanorobots, with devices ranging in size from 0.1-10 micrometers and constructed of nanoscale or molecular components. The names nanobots, nanoids, nanites, nanomachines or nanomites have also been used to describe these devices currently under research and development.

Nanomachines are largely in the research-and-development phase, but some primitive molecular machine
Molecular machine
A molecular machine, or nanomachine, is any discrete number of molecular components that produce quasi-mechanical movements in response to specific stimuli . The expression is often more generally applied to molecules that simply mimic functions that occur at the macroscopic level...

s have been tested. An example is a sensor having a switch approximately 1.5 nanometers across, capable of counting specific molecules in a chemical sample. The first useful applications of nanomachines might be in medical technology, which could be used to identify and destroy cancer cells. Another potential application is the detection of toxic chemicals, and the measurement of their concentrations, in the environment. Recently, Rice University
Rice University
William Marsh Rice University, commonly referred to as Rice University or Rice, is a private research university located on a heavily wooded campus in Houston, Texas, United States...

 has demonstrated a single-molecule car
Nanocar
The nanocar is a molecule designed in 2005 at Rice University by a group headed by Professor James Tour. Despite the name, the original nanocar does not contain a molecular motor, hence, it is not really a car...

 developed by a chemical process and including buckyballs for wheels. It is actuated by controlling the environmental temperature and by positioning a scanning tunneling microscope
Scanning tunneling microscope
A scanning tunneling microscope is an instrument for imaging surfaces at the atomic level. Its development in 1981 earned its inventors, Gerd Binnig and Heinrich Rohrer , the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1986. For an STM, good resolution is considered to be 0.1 nm lateral resolution and...

 tip.

Another definition is a robot that allows precision interactions with nanoscale objects, or can manipulate with nanoscale resolution. Such devices are more related to Microscopy
Microscopy
Microscopy is the technical field of using microscopes to view samples and objects that cannot be seen with the unaided eye...

 or Scanning probe microscopy
Scanning probe microscopy
Scanning Probe Microscopy is a branch of microscopy that forms images of surfaces using a physical probe that scans the specimen. An image of the surface is obtained by mechanically moving the probe in a raster scan of the specimen, line by line, and recording the probe-surface interaction as a...

, instead of the description of nanorobots as molecular machine
Molecular machine
A molecular machine, or nanomachine, is any discrete number of molecular components that produce quasi-mechanical movements in response to specific stimuli . The expression is often more generally applied to molecules that simply mimic functions that occur at the macroscopic level...

. Following the microscopy definition even a large apparatus such as an atomic force microscope
Atomic force microscope
Atomic force microscopy or scanning force microscopy is a very high-resolution type of scanning probe microscopy, with demonstrated resolution on the order of fractions of a nanometer, more than 1000 times better than the optical diffraction limit...

 can be considered a nanorobotic instrument when configured to perform nanomanipulation. For this perspective, macroscale robots or microrobots that can move with nanoscale precision can also be considered nanorobots.

Nanorobotics theory


Since nanorobots would be microscopic in size, it would probably be necessary for very large numbers of them to work together to perform microscopic and macroscopic tasks. These nanorobot swarms, both those incapable of replication
Self-replicating machine
A self-replicating machine is an artificial construct that is theoretically capable of autonomously manufacturing a copy of itself using raw materials taken from its environment, thus exhibiting self-replication in a way analogous to that found in nature. The concept of self-replicating machines...

 (as in utility fog
Utility fog
Utility fog is a hypothetical collection of tiny robots that can replicate a physical structure. As such, it is a form of self-reconfiguring modular robotics.-Conception:...

) and those capable of unconstrained replication in the natural environment (as in grey goo
Grey goo
Grey goo is a hypothetical end-of-the-world scenario involving molecular nanotechnology in which out-of-control self-replicating robots consume all matter on Earth while building more of themselves, a scenario known as ecophagy .Self-replicating machines of the macroscopic variety were originally...

 and its less common variants), are found in many science fiction stories, such as the Borg
Borg (Star Trek)
The Borg are a fictional pseudo-race of cybernetic organisms depicted in the Star Trek universe associated with Star Trek.Whereas cybernetics are used by other races in the science fiction world to repair bodily damage and birth defects, the Borg use enforced cybernetic enhancement as a means of...

 nanoprobes in Star Trek
Star Trek
Star Trek is an American science fiction entertainment franchise created by Gene Roddenberry. The core of Star Trek is its six television series: The Original Series, The Animated Series, The Next Generation, Deep Space Nine, Voyager, and Enterprise...

and The Outer Limits
The Outer Limits (1995 TV series)
The Outer Limits is an American television series that originally aired on Showtime,the Sci Fi Channel and in syndication between 1995 and 2002...

 episode The New Breed.

Some proponents of nanorobotics, in reaction to the grey goo
Grey goo
Grey goo is a hypothetical end-of-the-world scenario involving molecular nanotechnology in which out-of-control self-replicating robots consume all matter on Earth while building more of themselves, a scenario known as ecophagy .Self-replicating machines of the macroscopic variety were originally...

 scare scenarios that they earlier helped to propagate, hold the view that nanorobots capable of replication outside of a restricted factory environment do not form a necessary part of a purported productive nanotechnology, and that the process of self-replication, if it were ever to be developed, could be made inherently safe. They further assert that their current plans for developing and using molecular manufacturing do not in fact include free-foraging replicators.

The most detailed theoretical discussion of nanorobotics, including specific design issues such as sensing, power communication, navigation, manipulation, locomotion, and onboard computation, has been presented in the medical context of nanomedicine
Nanomedicine
Nanomedicine is the medical application of nanotechnology. Nanomedicine ranges from the medical applications of nanomaterials, to nanoelectronic biosensors, and even possible future applications of molecular nanotechnology. Current problems for nanomedicine involve understanding the issues related...

 by Robert Freitas
Robert Freitas
Robert A. Freitas Jr. is a Senior Research Fellow, one of four researchers at the nonprofit foundation Institute for Molecular Manufacturing in Palo Alto, California. He holds a 1974 Bachelor's degree majoring in both physics and psychology from Harvey Mudd College, and a 1978 Juris Doctor degree...

. Some of these discussions remain at the level of unbuildable generality and do not approach the level of detailed engineering.

Biochip



The joint use of nanoelectronics
Nanoelectronics
Nanoelectronics refer to the use of nanotechnology on electronic components, especially transistors. Although the term nanotechnology is generally defined as utilizing technology less than 100 nm in size, nanoelectronics often refer to transistor devices that are so small that inter-atomic...

, photolithography
Photolithography
Photolithography is a process used in microfabrication to selectively remove parts of a thin film or the bulk of a substrate. It uses light to transfer a geometric pattern from a photomask to a light-sensitive chemical "photoresist", or simply "resist," on the substrate...

, and new biomaterials provides a possible approach to manufacturing nanorobots for common medical applications, such as for surgical instrumentation, diagnosis and drug delivery. This method for manufacturing on nanotechnology scale is currently in use in the electronics industry. So, practical nanorobots should be integrated as nanoelectronics devices, which will allow tele-operation and advanced capabilities for medical instrumentation.

Nubots


Nubot is an abbreviation for "nucleic acid robots". Nubots are synthetic robotics devices at the nanoscale. Representative nubots include the several DNA walkers reported by Nadrian Seeman's group at NYU, Niles Pierce's group at Caltech, John Reif's group at Duke University, Chengde Mao's group at Purdue, and Andrew Turberfield
Andrew Turberfield
Andrew J Turberfield is a British Professor of Physics based at the University of Oxford. Turberfield's research is largely based on DNA nanostructures and photonic crystals, and his work on both nanomachines and photonic crystals has been highly cited. Turberfield is a fellow of Magdalen College,...

's group at the University of Oxford.

Positional nanoassembly


Nanofactory Collaboration, founded by Robert Freitas
Robert Freitas
Robert A. Freitas Jr. is a Senior Research Fellow, one of four researchers at the nonprofit foundation Institute for Molecular Manufacturing in Palo Alto, California. He holds a 1974 Bachelor's degree majoring in both physics and psychology from Harvey Mudd College, and a 1978 Juris Doctor degree...

 and Ralph Merkle
Ralph Merkle
Ralph C. Merkle is a researcher in public key cryptography, and more recently a researcher and speaker on molecular nanotechnology and cryonics...

 in 2000 and involving 23 researchers from 10 organizations and 4 countries, focuses on developing a practical research agenda specifically aimed at developing positionally-controlled diamond mechanosynthesis
Mechanosynthesis
Mechanosynthesis is any chemical synthesis in which reaction outcomes are determined by the use of mechanical constraints to direct reactive molecules to specific molecular sites.-Introduction:...

 and a diamondoid
Diamondoid
A diamondoid, in the context of building materials for nanotechnology components, most generally refers to structures that resemble diamond in a broad sense: namely, strong, stiff structures containing dense, 3-D networks of covalent bonds, formed chiefly from first and second row atoms with a...

 nanofactory that would have the capability of building diamondoid medical nanorobots.

Bacteria based


This approach proposes the use of biological microorganisms, like the bacterium Escherichia coli
Escherichia coli
Escherichia coli is a Gram-negative, rod-shaped bacterium that is commonly found in the lower intestine of warm-blooded organisms . Most E. coli strains are harmless, but some serotypes can cause serious food poisoning in humans, and are occasionally responsible for product recalls...

.
Thus the model uses a flagellum for propulsion purposes. The use of electromagnetic fields are normally applied to control the motion of this kind of biological integrated device.

Open technology


A document with a proposal on nanobiotech development using open technology approaches has been addressed to the United Nations General Assembly
United Nations General Assembly
For two articles dealing with membership in the General Assembly, see:* General Assembly members* General Assembly observersThe United Nations General Assembly is one of the five principal organs of the United Nations and the only one in which all member nations have equal representation...

. According to the document sent to the UN, in the same way that Open Source
Open source
The term open source describes practices in production and development that promote access to the end product's source materials. Some consider open source a philosophy, others consider it a pragmatic methodology...

 has in recent years accelerated the development of computer systems, a similar approach should benefit the society at large and accelerate nanorobotics development. The use of nanobiotechnology
Nanobiotechnology
Bionanotechnology, nanobiotechnology, and nanobiology are terms that refer to the intersection of nanotechnology and biology. Given that the subject is one that has only emerged very recently, bionanotechnology and nanobiotechnology serve as blanket terms for various related technologies.This...

 should be established as a human heritage for the coming generations, and developed as an open technology based on ethical practices for peace
Peace
Peace is a state of harmony characterized by the lack of violent conflict. Commonly understood as the absence of hostility, peace also suggests the existence of healthy or newly healed interpersonal or international relationships, prosperity in matters of social or economic welfare, the...

ful purposes. Open technology is stated as a fundamental key for such an aim.

Nanorobot Race


In the same ways that technology development
Research and development
The phrase research and development , according to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, refers to "creative work undertaken on a systematic basis in order to increase the stock of knowledge, including knowledge of man, culture and society, and the use of this stock of...

 had the space race
Space Race
The Space Race was a mid-to-late 20th century competition between the Soviet Union and the United States for supremacy in space exploration. Between 1957 and 1975, Cold War rivalry between the two nations focused on attaining firsts in space exploration, which were seen as necessary for national...

 and nuclear arms race
Nuclear arms race
The nuclear arms race was a competition for supremacy in nuclear warfare between the United States, the Soviet Union, and their respective allies during the Cold War...

, a race for nanorobots is occurring. There is plenty of ground allowing nanorobots to be included among the emerging technologies
Emerging technologies
In the history of technology, emerging technologies are contemporary advances and innovation in various fields of technology. Various converging technologies have emerged in the technological convergence of different systems evolving towards similar goals...

. Some of the reasons are that large corporations, such as General Electric
General Electric
General Electric Company , or GE, is an American multinational conglomerate corporation incorporated in Schenectady, New York and headquartered in Fairfield, Connecticut, United States...

, Hewlett-Packard
Hewlett-Packard
Hewlett-Packard Company or HP is an American multinational information technology corporation headquartered in Palo Alto, California, USA that provides products, technologies, softwares, solutions and services to consumers, small- and medium-sized businesses and large enterprises, including...

 and Northrop Grumman
Northrop Grumman
Northrop Grumman Corporation is an American global aerospace and defense technology company formed by the 1994 purchase of Grumman by Northrop. The company was the fourth-largest defense contractor in the world as of 2010, and the largest builder of naval vessels. Northrop Grumman employs over...

 have been recently working in the development and research of nanorobots; surgeons are getting involved and starting to propose ways to apply nanorobots for common medical procedures; universities and research institutes were granted funds by government agencies exceeding $2 billion towards research developing nanodevices for medicine; bankers are also strategically investing with the intent to acquire beforehand rights and royalties on future nanorobots commercialization. Some aspects of nanorobot litigation and related issues linked to monopoly have already arisen. A large number of patents has been granted recently on nanorobots, done mostly for patent agents, companies specialized solely on building patent portfolio, and lawyers. After a long series of patents and eventually litigations, see for example the Invention of Radio
Invention Of Radio
Within the history of radio, several people were involved in the invention of radio and there were many key inventions in what became the modern systems of wireless. Radio development began as "wireless telegraphy"...

 or about the War of Currents
War of Currents
In the "War of Currents" era in the late 1880s, George Westinghouse and Thomas Edison became adversaries due to Edison's promotion of direct current for electric power distribution over alternating current advocated by several European companies and Westinghouse Electric based out of Pittsburgh,...

, emerging fields of technology tend to become a monopoly
Monopoly
A monopoly exists when a specific person or enterprise is the only supplier of a particular commodity...

, which normally is dominated by large corporations.

Nanomedicine


Potential applications for nanorobotics in medicine
Medicine
Medicine is the science and art of healing. It encompasses a variety of health care practices evolved to maintain and restore health by the prevention and treatment of illness....

 include early diagnosis and targeted drug-delivery for cancer
Cancer
Cancer , known medically as a malignant neoplasm, is a large group of different diseases, all involving unregulated cell growth. In cancer, cells divide and grow uncontrollably, forming malignant tumors, and invade nearby parts of the body. The cancer may also spread to more distant parts of the...

, biomedical instrumentation
surgery
Surgery
Surgery is an ancient medical specialty that uses operative manual and instrumental techniques on a patient to investigate and/or treat a pathological condition such as disease or injury, or to help improve bodily function or appearance.An act of performing surgery may be called a surgical...

, pharmacokinetics
Pharmacokinetics
Pharmacokinetics, sometimes abbreviated as PK, is a branch of pharmacology dedicated to the determination of the fate of substances administered externally to a living organism...


monitoring of diabetes,Nanorobots in Treatment of Diabetes
and health care.

In such plans, future medical nanotechnology is expected to employ nanorobots injected into the patient to perform work at a cellular level. Such nanorobots intended for use in medicine should be non-replicating, as replication would needlessly increase device complexity, reduce reliability, and interfere with the medical mission.

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