Nanoscale embodied cellular robotics 

The results obtained in PACE by the AILab and the USD are not only enabling embodied robotic applications, but have a major impact on various branches of technology. Some of them are presently under investigation by PACE-members and will be exploited infollow-up projects, others will probably be taken up by other R&D;initiatives. Here we discuss the this ICT-impact and develop below a particular scenario of nanorobot production.


  • Direct Scientific and Technological ImpactDuring PACE we generated a type of matter that is determined by processes on several length scales, combines chemical effects with collective and mechanical phenomena only to be found in mesoscopic soft matter systems and gives the basis for dynamical, programmable and autonomous process control to an extent which can be seen in nature but has not been exploited in industrial applications and procedures.
  • Assembly of Heterogeneous Soft Matter Systems at the Micrometer ScaleA basic technology developed by the USD and the AILab in Zurich is the decoration of vesicles and oil droplets with selective linkers. Refining the choice of linkers and extending the concept to oil droplets, will allow us to gaining general experimental insight in the assembly of mesoscopic soft matter objects by the use of selective molecular linkers. Besides the direct objectives of PACE, these results will foster the development of (assisted) self-assembly techniques much above the length scale of (supra-)molecular assembly. Such methods are of relevance for any attempt to exploit the specific properties of bio-mimetic membrane systems in an industrial context.
  • Smart MatterPresently, chemically activated vesicles are under investigation with a focus on chemical engineering and synthetic biology and are usually concerned with (populations of) individual vesicles. The results obtained by the AILab and the USD enable to go a step further: The further study of co-operation of different units in structured vesicle assemblies will be a main impact of PACE and open a route towards "active" and, once equipped with appropriate chemical control, "smart" matter.
  • ProgrammabilitySuch smart matter requires some form of programmability, which is presently implemented as programmability of structure. The USD and the AILab plan to investigate programmability also with respect to dynamical processes, means a coupling of structural, morphological and chemical mechanism. These results will find applications in a multitude of other fields, especially in the design and implementation of bio-inspired matter.
  • External CompartmentalizationCompartmentalization proved to be a highly successful organization principle in natural chemical processing. The systems investigated by the AILab and the USD also seek to combine different, probably incompatible chemical processes by compartment formation. But in contrast to biological systems, they don't work with internal compartmentalization but with structured assemblies of (more or less) weakly interacting containers. Further research will shine light on the difference between external and internal compartmentalization with relevant consequences for future chemical and material engineering.
  • Assisted Self-AssemblyMulti-vesicular structures cannot be self-assembled in a simple sense; their size requires more than Brownian motion as driving force. PACE provided tools for assisted self-assembly of mesoscopic objects and thereby contributes to the development of production technologies for materials characterized by structures and textures being prominent on and connecting several length scales. Such materials are ubiquitous in nature; most tissues can only be understood by considering the interactions between phenomena on different scales. However, in contrast to tissues, which are the result of (to a large degree autonomous and genetically controlled) developmental processes, we employ physical means of growth control, which are much easier to introduce into scalable industrial processes.

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