October 19, 2006
Robots are currently exploring many environments that are difficult if not impossible for humans to reach, such as the edge of the solar system, the planet Mars, volcanoes on Earth, and the undersea world. The goal of these robotic explorers is to obtain knowledge about our universe and to answer fundamental questions about life and human origins. Microrobotics has entered this field by exploring life at a much smaller scale and more fundamental level. Microrobotic systems for physically exploring the structures of biological cells are being developed, and robotic motion planning strategies are being used to investigate protein folding. Microrobotic mechanisms have been used to investigate organism behaviors, such as the flight dynamics of fruit flies as well as the neurophysiology that govern many other biologically interesting behaviors.
These recent research efforts and others like them illustrate how several areas of robotics research are rapidly converging to create this new discipline I refer to as BioMicroRobotics. These new directions in robotics represent only a beginning and indicate that robotics research, and biomicrorobotics in particular, has the capability of making significant contributions in the understanding of life. In moving from the micro domain to nanometric scales, completely different issues in developing nanorobotic systems and in their application arise.
The second part of the talk will present recent efforts at the Institute of Robotics and Intelligent Systems at ETH-Zurich in fabricating nanometer scale robotic components.
Bradley J. Nelson (ETH Zurich)