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Sunday, April 06, 2008

Nanobots finally Get A Central Brain To Control Them

Recently, scientists have built the first ultra-tiny, ultra-powerful "brains" for nanobots.

The brain, just two billionths of a meter across - work as tiny computer transistors. But instead of carrying out just one operation at a time, like a normal transistor, the new controller can simultaneously perform 16 operations at once. In other words, the devices use parallel processing, like a real human brain - rather than serial processing - like a normal computer. The researchers call this ability "one-to-many" communication.

The tiny machines (see Picture Top Right) are composed of 17 duroquinone molecules that act as logic gates. The researchers arranged 16 of these molecules in a wheel, and placed the last molecule in the middle, which acts as the control center. The entire wheel was constructed on a gold substrate.

Each duroquinone molecule has four side chains that can be individually rotated to represent four separate logic states. Conventional transistors, on the other, have just two logic states: on and off.

The scientists also created the "world´s tiniest elevator," a 2-nanometer-tall device that can move up and down by 1 nanometer. They also plan to hook up the brain to a variety of nano-sized motors, propellers, switches, and sensors for different applications.

In the future, the researchers hope that they can control the central duroquinone molecule using proteins or other molecules, rather than the scanning electron microscope tip. For one thing, this ability might enable the brains to serve as tiny transistors packed onto a microchip for future powerful computers.

More futuristically, the brains could accompany nanobots for medical missions, such as bloodless surgery. As the scientists explain, specialized molecular machines could travel through veins to a tumor or damaged tissue, and perform surgery according to the instructions given by the new brains.