Abstract for the Fourth Foresight Conference on Molecular Nanotechnology.

Molecular Robotics

Aristides Requicha


This talk presents a Computer Science perspective on nanotechnology. We identified the following relevant areas of Computer Science: modeling and simulation; vision and pattern recognition; computer-aided design; and manipulation. We discuss briefly the first three and then focus on manipulation. The most promising approach to nanomanipulation in the current state of knowledge and technology uses the Scanning Probe Microscope (SPM). We review work on nanolithography, and then discuss the SPM as a robot. By analogy with macrorobotics, SPM operations may be classified into: push and pull; pick and place; and compliant motion. The latter have not been used thus far at the nanoscale, but are promising, and involve chemical affinity in lieu of mechanical compliance.

We also survey on-going work at USC's Lab for Molecular Robotics. One of our long term goals is the development of a robotic task-level language for programming SPMs. This language must be compiled into reliable motions that achieve high-level goals such as the assembly of molecular "hardware primitives". Initial steps towards this goal are described.