European robotics goal: work at molecular scale

From Kevin Bullis at Technology Review we learn of a project from Europe to build large numbers of robots carrying out work at the molecular scale:

“The work could eventually lead to teams of such robots automating work on the molecular scale, first for research projects and prototype assembly, and eventually for industrial applications, such as testing drugs and building consumer electronics…

“The researchers also demonstrated that their robot could…use an onboard atomic force microscope probe to feel its way along a patterned surface, locating itself with an accuracy of two nanometers, which is less than the width of a DNA molecule. The probe could also be used to measure a cell’s electronic or mechanical properties, and could write with nanoscale precision using a technique called dip-pen lithography.” (Emphasis added)

The project was funded by FET: “FET is the IST Programme nursery of novel and emerging scientific ideas. Its mission is to promote research that is of a long-term nature or involves particularly high risks, compensated by the potential of a significant societal or industrial impact.”

Note that the robots themselves are not at the molecular scale, or even the nano scale, yet. —Christine

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