Skip navigation
Click Here
Alerts  Newsletters  RSS  Help  
MSN HomeHotmailSign In
Tech / Science
Space News
Tech News/Reviews
Spam, Scams, Etc.
Consumer Security
Wireless World
Digital Life
U.S. News
World News
Tech / Science
Blogs Etc.
Local News
News Video
Most Popular
Today Show
Nightly News
Meet the Press
Dateline NBC
Travel Booking with ExpediaReal EstateAutosPersonals with Perfectmatch.comJobsShoppingMSNBC Classifieds
Click Here!
MSNBC Home » Technology & Science » Science

New biological robots build themselves

Miniature bots can even correct their own mistakes

sequence of self assembly by the miniature robots.
These images show, from left to right in each row, the sequence of self assembly by the miniature robots.
Joseph Jacobson/MIT via LiveScience
By Ker Than
Updated: 3:10 p.m. ET Sept. 28, 2005

Inspired by biological systems, scientists have developed miniature robots that can self-assemble using parts that float randomly in their environments. The robots also know when something is amiss and can correct their own mistakes.

Scientists have long been fascinated by how living cells are able to replicate DNA using building blocks floating randomly inside the cell’s nucleus. The interior of the nucleus is filled with a gel-like liquid known as nucleoplasm. The DNA building blocks, known as nucleotides, float around in this liquid like ingredients in a molecular soup. Also present in the nucleoplasm are proteins known as polymerases, which pluck nucleotides from the soup as needed when copying DNA.

The beauty of this approach is that the parts do not have to be presented in a specific order the way they are in a car assembly line. All the cell has to do is make sure there is a continuous supply of nucleotides and the polymerases do the rest. Furthermore, the more nucleotides present, the more likely they will come into contact with the polymerases and the faster the DNA strand can be assembled.

Story continues below ↓

To artificially recreate this process, a research team from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), headed by Joseph Jacobson, created robots capable of latching onto one another in specific sequences.

The robots come in two colors, yellow (Y) and green (G), and float around on a cushion of air like pucks on an air hockey table. Each robot is programmed to latch onto a green robot on one side and a yellow robot on the other to form 5-robot strings such as YGGYY or GYYGG.

The robots also have a built-in mechanism to correct any errors they might make. Each robot is able to check the color of its neighboring block and will unlatch itself if the sequence is not correct.

The study is detailed in the Sept. 29 issue of the journal Nature.

© 2005 All rights reserved.
   Rate this story    Low  Rate it 0.5Rate it 1Rate it 1.5Rate it 2Rate it 2.5Rate it 3Rate it 3.5Rate it 4Rate it 4.5Rate it 5 High
   Current rating: 4 by 116 users     • View Top Rated stories

  Print this  Email this