Microscale Chemically Reactive Electronic Agents
Start date: Sep 1, 2012,
End date: Feb 29, 2016
The goal of the project is to give electronics and chemistry an equal autonomous say in programming complex chemical constructions, processes and analyses at the nano and microscales: the same scale where information processing in living systems occurs – where "to construct is to compute". To do this MICREAgents (MIcroscopic Chemically Reactive Electronic Agents) will develop novel electronically active microreactor components, called lablets, that self-assemble at a scale less than 100 µm, approaching that of living cells. The project will integrate the necessary components to ensure autonomous action of millions of these "very smart chemicals", including electronic logic, supercapacitors for power, pairwise coupling for communication, programmable chemical sensors and electronic actuation of chemical processing. Key examples of MICREAgent actuation are to reversibly switch their association, load or dose chemicals, modify surfaces, initiate reactions and control locomotion in complex chemical environments. MICREAgents lablets can join forces to communicate both chemicals and electronic information in order to solve complex tasks, acting as smart collective agents of chemical change. Like cells, they will be essentially genetically encoded, but with chemical and electronic memories, translating electronic signals into constructive chemical processing and recording the results of this processing. They will also reversibly employ DNA molecules as chemical information, for example to control surface-surface binding of lablets, or to program chemical sensors, not to synthesize proteins as in cells. The project builds on pioneering FET-funded work towards electronic chemical cells, taking a giant stride to cell-like microscopic autonomous chemical electronics with self-assembling electronic membranes controlling the entry and exit of chemicals.These autonomous mobile smart reactors will provide a novel form of computation that microscopically links reaction processing and chemical construction with computation, providing a radical integration of autonomous chemical experimentation. The self-assembling smart micro reactors can be programmed for molecular amplification and other chemical processing pathways, that start from complex mixtures, concentrate and purify chemicals, perform reactions in programmed cascades, sense completion, and transport and release products to defined locations. The project defines a continuous achievable path towards this ambitious goal, making use of a novel pairwise local communication strategy to overcome the limitations of current smart dust and autonomous sensor network communication. It will provide a technical platform spawning research in new computing paradigms that integrate multilevel construction with electronic ICT. The 10 groups, from 8 countries including Israel and New Zealand, are all pioneers in the multidisciplinary areas required to achieve the project goals, with a common grounding in IT.
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