Saturday, July 25, 2009

The Nanites are here

By: Alon Cohen

The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) has organized the second “soccer under glass” event at the RoboCup games at the international competition in Graz, Austria, from June 29 to July 5, 2009.

NIST, the federal agency that advances U.S. innovation and competitiveness, partnered with industry, universities and other organizations to move the world closer to the future where robots smaller than the eye can see are put to work in a variety of ways.

In the Nanosoccer event, computer-driven “Nanites” the size of dust mites challenge one another on fields the size of a grain of rice. Everything is happening under a microscope, while the nanobots are operated by remote control and move in response to changing magnetic fields or electrical signals transmitted across the arena.

The mass of the “Nanites” is just a few nanograms. They are manufactured from materials such as aluminum, nickel, gold, silicon and chromium.

The future application range from cleaning water reservoirs in third world countries to medical application fixing defects in our bodies on the cellular level.

You may have seen the potential use and potential risks associated with using such technologies in the science fiction world:

“In 2366 Wesley Crusher experimented with Nanites aboard the USS Enterprise-D to see if he could enhance their capabilities, by letting them work together. When these Nanites escaped they entered the Enterprise computer core were they multiplied and interfered with almost all ship operations. When Doctor Paul Stubbs tried to kill them, the Nanites retaliated by taking over control of the Enterprise life support systems and even tried to kill him. At that point the escaped Nanites were considered "alive." The destruction of the Enterprise was prevented by Data who was able to talk to the Nanites and as their spokesman was able to come to an agreement with Captain Jean-Luc Picard. The enhanced Nanites were eventually transferred to the Kavis Alpha IV where they founded their own civilization. []”

We are not there yet, but the good thing is that etiquette and protocols of handling such nano technology particles and devices, are also evolving along side the technology itself to ensure the safety and constructive interactions with the technology as it matures.

The Nanosoccer contests drives innovation in this new field and is designed to inspire young scientists and engineers to get involved.