The Autonomic NanoTechnology Swarm (ANTS) is a generic mission architecture consisting of miniaturized, autonomous, self-similar, reconfigurable, addressable components forming structures. Developed by NASA, the components/structures have wide spatial distribution and multi-level organization. This ‘swarm’ behavior is inspired by the success of social insect colonies where within their specialties, individuals outperform generalists and with sufficiently efficient social interaction and coordination, groups of specialists outperform groups of generalists.
The Autonomous NanoTechnology Swarm (ANTS) Architecture is well suited to remote space or ground operations. It is being implemented on a near term basis, using Addressable Reconfigurable Technology (ART). In the future, Super Miniaturized ART (SMART) will form highly reconfigurable networks of struts, acting as 3D mesh or 2D fabric to perform a range of functions on demand. The ANTS approach harnesses the effective skeletal/ muscular system of the frame itself to enable amoeboid movement, effectively ‘flowing’ between morphological forms. ANTS structures would thus be capable of forming an en tire mobile modular infrastructure adapted to its environment.
The ANTS architecture is inspired by the success of social insect colonies, a success based on the division of labor within the colony in two key ways: First, within their specialties, individual specialists generally outperform generalists. Second, with sufficiently efficient social interaction and coordination, the group of specialists generally outperforms the group of generalists. Thus systems designed as ANTS arebuilt from potentially very large numbers of highly autonomous, yet socially interactive, elements. The architecture is self-similar in that elements and sub-elements of the system may also be recursively structured as ANTS on scales ranging from microscopic to interplanetary distances.
The Japanese government will team up with several Japanese companies to develop key-technologies for producing large-size OLED panels. The aim is to cut the development cost for the Japanese companies, to be better able to compete against Samsung and LG. The project will run till 2014, and the Japanese government will pitch in around 32M$.
Last year, a private company proposed “fertilizing” parts of the ocean with iron, in hopes of encouraging carbon-absorbing blooms of plankton. Meanwhile, researchers elsewhere are talking about injecting chemicals into the atmosphere, launching sun-reflecting mirrors into stationary orbit above the earth or taking other steps to reset the thermostat of a warming planet.
This technology might be useful, even life-saving. But it would inevitably produce environmental effects impossible to predict and impossible to undo. So a growing number of experts say it is time for broad discussion of how and by whom it should be used, or if it should be tried at all.
Similar questions are being raised about nanotechnology, robotics and other powerful emerging technologies. There are even those who suggest humanity should collectively decide to turn away from some new technologies as inherently dangerous.
Food created with nanotechnology is healthful for humans and environmentally friendly. Pro or con? Two opposing views discussed in the ‘debate room’ at Business Week.
Here’s what they’re saying:
“Research has shown that materials shrunk down to less than 100 nanometers don’t behave the same way as their large-scale counterparts. A 2006 study by a University of Rochester toxicologist showed that when rats inhaled certain fullerenes—a type of nanoparticle—they spread to the rats’ brains, Some scientists suspect a link between these particles and brain damage, Parkinson’s disease, and other conditions. A 2004 Southern Methodist University study found that largemouth bass suffered brain damage after exposure to carbon-60, a type of fullerene.”
The full debate is worth reading.
The 1966 science-fiction movie Fantastic Voyage famously imagined using a tiny ship to combat disease inside the body. With the advent of nanotechnology, researchers are inching closer to creating something almost as fantastic. A microscopic device that could swim through the bloodstream and directly target the site of disease, such as a tumor, could offer radical new treatments. To get to a tumor, however, such a device would have to be small and agile enough to navigate through a labyrinth of tiny blood vessels, some far thinner than a human hair.
Researchers at the École Polytechnique de Montréal Nanorobotics Lab, in Canada, led by professor of computer engineering Sylvain Martel, have coupled live, swimming bacteria to microscopic beads to develop a self-propelling device, dubbed a nanobot. While other scientists have previously attached bacteria to microscopic particles to take advantage of their natural propelling motion, Martel’s team is the first to show that such hybrids can be steered through the body using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).