Nanorobotics: Wikis


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Nanorobotics is the technology of creating machines or robots at or close to the microscopic scale of a nanometer (10−9 meters). More specifically, nanorobotics refers to the still largely hypothetical nanotechnology engineering discipline of designing and building nanorobots, devices ranging in size from 0.1-10 micrometers and constructed of nanoscale or molecular components. As no artificial non-biological nanorobots have yet been created, they remain a hypothetical concept. The names nanobots, nanoids, nanites or nanomites have also been used to describe these hypothetical devices.

Another definition sometimes used is a robot which allows precision interactions with nanoscale objects, or can manipulate with nanoscale resolution. Following this definition even a large apparatus such as an atomic force microscope can be considered a nanorobotic instrument when configured to perform nanomanipulation. Also macroscale robots or microrobots which can move with nanoscale precision can also be considered nanorobots.

Nanomachines are largely in the research-and-development phase[1], but some primitive molecular machines have been tested. An example is a sensor having a switch approximately 1.5 nanometers across, capable of counting specific molecules in a chemical sample. The first useful applications of nanomachines, if such are ever built, might be in medical technology, where they might be used to identify cancer cells and destroy them. Another potential application is the detection of toxic chemicals, and the measurement of their concentrations, in the environment. Recently, Rice University has demonstrated a single-molecule car which is developed by a chemical process and includes buckyballs for wheels. It is actuated by controlling the environmental temperature and by positioning a scanning tunneling microscope tip.


Nanorobotics theory

Since nanorobots would be microscopic in size, it would probably be necessary for very large numbers of them to work together to perform microscopic and macroscopic tasks. These nanorobot swarms, both those which are incapable of replication (as in utility fog) and those which are capable of unconstrained replication in the natural environment (as in grey goo and its less common variants), are found in many science fiction stories, such as the Borg nanoprobes in Star Trek. The word "nanobot" (also "nanite", "nanogene", or "nanoant") is often used to indicate this fictional context and is an informal or even pejorative term to refer to the engineering concept of nanorobots. The word nanorobot is the correct technical term in the nonfictional context of serious engineering studies.[citation needed]

Some proponents of nanorobotics, in reaction to the grey goo scare scenarios that they earlier helped to propagate, hold the view that nanorobots capable of replication outside of a restricted factory environment do not form a necessary part of a purported productive nanotechnology, and that the process of self-replication, if it were ever to be developed, could be made inherently safe. They further assert that free-foraging replicators are in fact absent from their current plans for developing and using molecular manufacturing. [2][3]




The joint use of nanoelectronics, photolithography, and new biomaterials, can be considered as a possible way to enable the required manufacturing technology towards nanorobots for common medical applications, such as for surgical instrumentation, diagnosis and drug delivery.[4][5][6] Indeed, this feasible approach towards manufacturing on nanotechnology is a practice currently in use from the electronics industry.[7] So, practical nanorobots should be integrated as nanoelectronics devices, which will allow tele-operation and advanced capabilities for medical instrumentation.[8][9]


Nubot is an abbreviation for "nucleic acid robots." Nubots are synthetic robotics devices at the nanoscale. Representative nubots include the several DNA walkers reported by Ned Seeman's group at NYU, Niles Pierce's group at Caltech, John Reif's group at Duke University, Chengde Mao's group at Purdue, and Andrew Turberfield's group at the University of Oxford.

Positional nanoassembly

Nanofactory Collaboration[10], founded by Robert Freitas and Ralph Merkle in 2000, is a focused ongoing effort involving 23 researchers from 10 organizations and 4 countries that is developing a practical research agenda[11] specifically aimed at developing positionally-controlled diamond mechanosynthesis and a diamondoid nanofactory that would be capable of building diamondoid medical nanorobots.

Bacteria based

This approach proposes the use biological microorganisms, like Escherichia coli bacteria.[12] Hence, the model uses a flagellum for propulsion purposes. The use of electromagnetic fields are normally applied to control the motion of this kind of biological integrated device, although has limited applications.

Open Technology

A document with a proposal on nanobiotech development using open technology approaches has been addressed to the United Nations General Assembly.[13] According to the document sent to UN, in the same way Open Source has in recent years accelerated the development of computer systems, a similar approach should benefit the society at large and accelerate nanorobotics development. The use of nanobiotechnology should be established as a human heritage for the coming generations, and developed as an open technology based on ethical practices for peaceful purposes. Open technology is stated as a fundamental key for such aim.

Potential applications


Potential applications for nanorobotics in medicine include early diagnosis and targeted drug delivery for cancer[14][15][16], biomedical instrumentation[17], surgery[18][19], pharmacokinetics[20], monitoring of diabetes[21][22][23], and health care[24].

In such plans, future medical nanotechnology is expected to employ nanorobots injected into the patient to perform treatment on a cellular level. Such nanorobots intended for use in medicine should be non-replicating, as replication would needlessly increase device complexity, reduce reliability, and interfere with the medical mission. Instead, medical nanorobots are posited to be manufactured in hypothetical, carefully controlled nanofactories in which nanoscale machines would be solidly integrated into a supposed desktop-scale machine that would build macroscopic products.[citation needed]

The most detailed theoretical discussion of nanorobotics, including specific design issues such as sensing, power communication, navigation, manipulation, locomotion, and onboard computation, has been presented in the medical context of nanomedicine by Robert Freitas. Some of these discussions remain at the level of unbuildable generality and do not approach the level of detailed engineering.


Nanotechnology promises futuristic applications such as microscopic robots that assemble other machines or travel inside the body to deliver drugs or do microsurgery.These machines will face some unique physics. At small scales, fluids appear as viscous as molasses, and Brownian motion makes everything incessantly shake. Taking inspiration from the biological motors of living cells, chemists are learning how to utilize protein dynamics to power microsize and nanosize machines with catalytic reactions.

Nanobots in fiction

Nanobots have been a recurring theme in many science-fiction novels, sci-fi shows, comic books and movies.

  • In the sci-fi show Red Dwarf where they are used to manufacture a new arm for Dave Lister from his excess body tissue.
  • In the popular video game series Metal Gear Solid, many characters (and soldiers in general) have "nanomachines" in their bloodstream, and are used to block pain, allow members of fire teams/patrols to share sensory information, heal bodily damage, and manipulate viruses central to MGS4's plot line.
  • They are used as a healing mechanism in the Sony PlayStation series Ratchet and Clank.
  • In the game System Shock 2, "nanites" are used as currency as well as a type of weapon ammo.
  • In the 2008 series of Knight Rider, the Knight Industries Three Thousand has a skin capable of regenerating and rebuilding itself with the help of nanobots, like a Nanomorph.
  • In Marvel Ultimate Alliance 2, Reed Richards creates nanites that are meant to control the minds of supervillains. However, the nanites evolve into a group mind called the Fold which serves as the primary antagonist for the game.
  • In Star Trek there are a few stories about nanites in the episode Evolution (Star Trek: The Next Generation) and nanoprobes (Borg) in the episodes Mortal Coil (Star Trek: Voyager), Drone (Star Trek: Voyager) and Inside Man (Star Trek: Voyager).
  • The first person shooter Crysis includes a suit that consists of nanorobots, which replenish armor, health, enhance strength, speed and even enable active camouflage.
  • In the cyberpunk game, Deus Ex, the protagonistic Denton family were the only humans who were able to tolerate the "nanites" inside their body. This form of augmentation allowed for the use of multiple powers, as well as create resentment between them and the older generation of agents who would sacrifice entire limbs for the more crude cybernetic enhancements.
  • Nanotechnology also plays a prevalent role in the movie G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra. They were also in the 2000s Devil's Due GI Joe Reinstated storyline.
  • In the 2008 film The Day the Earth Stood Still, the alien robot dubbed "GORT" disintegrates into a swarm of self-replicating nanobots shaped like bugs that cover Earth and destroy all lifeforms and artificial structures by seemingly devouring them within seconds.
  • In the film I, Robot, nanites are used to wipe out artificial intelligence in the event of a malfunction and are seen to be used on an NS5 and on VIKI at the end of the film. The nanites themselves are never seen; however a liquid containing moving silver objects is seen.
  • In the Cowboy Bebop movie, a criminal blows up a tanker trunk with a nanorobot virus inside that kills thousands of people instantly.
  • In the film "Agent Cody Banks", a scientist creates nanobots programmed to cleanup oil spills.


  1. ^ Wang, J. (2009). "Can Man-Made Nanomachines Compete with Nature Biomotors?". ACS Nano 3 (1): 4–9. doi:10.1021/nn800829k. PMID 19206241. 
  2. ^ Zyvex: "Self replication and nanotechnology" "artificial self replicating systems will only function in carefully controlled artificial environments ... While self replicating systems are the key to low cost, there is no need (and little desire) to have such systems function in the outside world. Instead, in an artificial and controlled environment they can manufacture simpler and more rugged systems that can then be transferred to their final destination. ... The resulting medical device will be simpler, smaller, more efficient and more precisely designed for the task at hand than a device designed to perform the same function and self replicate. ... A single device able to do [both] would be harder to design and less efficient."
  3. ^ "Foresight Guidelines for Responsible Nanotechnology Development" "Autonomous self-replicating assemblers are not necessary to achieve significant manufacturing capabilities." "The simplest, most efficient, and safest approach to productive nanosystems is to make specialized nanoscale tools and put them together in factories big enough to make what is needed. ... The machines in this would work like the conveyor belts and assembly robots in a factory, doing similar jobs. If you pulled one of these machines out of the system, it would pose no risk, and be as inert as a light bulb pulled from its socket."
  4. ^ Fisher, B. (2008). "Biological Research in the Evolution of Cancer Surgery: A Personal Perspective". Cancer Research 68 (24): 10007–10020. doi:10.1158/0008-5472.CAN-08-0186. PMID 19074862. 
  5. ^ Cavalcanti, A., Shirinzadeh, B., Zhang, M. & Kretly, L.C. (2008). "Nanorobot Hardware Architecture for Medical Defense". Sensors 8 (5): 2932–2958. doi:10.3390/s8052932. 
  6. ^ Hill, C., Amodeo, A., Joseph, J.V. & Patel, H.R.H. (2008). "Nano- and microrobotics: how far is the reality?". Expert Review of Anticancer Therapy 8 (12): 1891–1897. doi:10.1586/14737140.8.12.1891. PMID 19046109. 
  7. ^ Cale, T.S., Lu, J.-Q. & Gutmann, R.J. (2008). "Three-dimensional integration in microelectronics: Motivation, processing, and thermomechanical modeling". Chemical Engineering Communications 195 (8): 847–888. doi:10.1080/00986440801930302. 
  8. ^ Couvreur, P. & Vauthier, C. (2006). "Nanotechnology: Intelligent Design to Treat Complex Disease". Pharmaceutical Research 23 (7): 1417–1450. doi:10.1007/s11095-006-0284-8. PMID 16779701. 
  9. ^ Elder, J.B., Hoh, D.J., Oh, B.C., Heller, A.C., Liu, C.Y. & Apuzzo, M.L. (2008). "The future of cerebral surgery: a kaleidoscope of opportunities". Neurosurgery 62 (6): 1555–1579. doi:10.1227/01.neu.0000333820.33143.0d. PMID 18695575. 
  10. ^ Nanofactory
  11. ^ Positional Diamondoid Molecular Manufacturing
  12. ^ Martel, S., Mohammadi, M., Felfoul, O., Lu, Z. & Pouponneau P. (2009). "Flagellated Magnetotactic Bacteria as Controlled MRI-trackable Propulsion and Steering Systems for Medical Nanorobots Operating in the Human Microvasculature". International Journal of Robotics Research 28 (4): 571–582. doi:10.1177/0278364908100924. 
  13. ^ Cavalcanti, A. (2009). "Nanorobot Invention and Linux: The Open Technology Factor - An Open Letter to UNO General Secretary". CANNXS Project 1 (1): 1–4. 
  14. ^ Nanotechnology in Cancer
  15. ^ Cancer-fighting technology
  16. ^ LaVan DA, McGuire T, Langer R. (2003). "Small-scale systems for in vivo drug delivery". Nature Biotechnology 21 (10): 1184. doi:10.1038/nbt876. PMID 14520404. 
  17. ^ Medical Design Technology
  18. ^ Neurosurgery
  19. ^ Tiny robot useful for surgery
  20. ^ Drug Targeting
  21. ^ Nanorobots in Treatment of Diabetes
  22. ^ Nanorobotics for Diabetes
  23. ^ Wellness Engineering, Nanorobots, Diabetes
  24. ^ Vaughn JR. (2006). "Over the Horizon: Potential Impact of Emerging Trends in Information and Communication Technology on Disability Policy and Practice". National Council on Disability, Washington DC.: 1–55. 

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