A short article on the Small Times website ("Scientists want to send nanobots to search and destroy brown tide", by Richard Acello, 22 January 2002) provides a few additional details on the project announced on 10 January 2002 by the Laboratory for Molecular Robotics (LMR) at the University of Southern California School of Engineering to use a $1.5 million research grant from the U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF) to create swarms of microscopic robots. The application envisioned for such a system is to monitor potentially dangerous microorganisms in the ocean.
The project calls for initial designs to be tested in laboratory tanks, but, as the Small Times article notes, eventually the USC team wants to create robots that are as small as the microorganisms that they seek to monitor. Ari Requicha, a USC professor of computer science and the project's principal investigator, said heíll be ready to move his early stage robots into the ocean ìin a couple of years or so.î The article also notes that the long-term goal of the technology, said Requicha, is its use in the human body. ìIf you can make a system that can detect microorganisms in a marine environment, it could be deployed in blood. If you were successful, you could have artificial cells, you could program an artificial immune system for those with impaired immune systems. The possibilities are amazing.î