Shape-shifting gadgets may soon become a reality

December 22nd, 2008 - 5:21 pm ICT by ANI  

Canberra, Dec 22 (ANI): If scientists have their way, revolutionary morphing devices known as programmable matter, which can change size, shape and function, can soon become a reality.

According to a report in, programmable matter, or claytronics, involves creating devices made of millions of microscopic robots that are to 3D objects what pixels are to a screen.

Its a really challenging research vision, but we are making steady progress and were now more convinced that we are actually going to do it, said Jason Campbell, one of the key members of the research team developing the technology at the Intel Research Centre.

My estimates of how long it is going to take have gone from 50 years down to just a couple more years. That has changed over the four years Ive been working on the project, he added.

The aim of the project is to make spherical catoms about 100 microns, or one-tenth of a millimetre, in diameter.

In that tiny space, based on current computing technology, there is still a lot of room to include a computing device.

This is acres of space for nanoelectronic circuits, said Justin Rattner, Intels chief technology officer.

This means not only room for a computing brain, but also data-storage capacity and an array of electrostatic sensors that can interact with neighboring catoms.

It may even use photovoltaics (a solar technology) as a power source and include the ability to generate light, Rattner said.

You could have a cup full of it, or a tray, and it can be programmed to take on any arbitrary shape. If this isnt fantastic, I dont know what is! he added.

According to Campbell, We are aiming for spheres eventually, but to make our task easier to start with we took a cross section of a sphere, so we have cylinders. This is really a 2D approach right now.

We are trying to build a tube that will carry a control circuitry that allows it to move itself around. These tubes right now are about 1mm diameter and about 10mm long. So already we are getting quite small, he added.

In the near term, high value applications might include 3D visualization in things like medicine, from fundamentally 3D data sources like eye scanners, CT scanners, ultrasound, he further added. (ANI)

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