Tiny robotic cubes self-assemble to duplicate an object that is placed in a heap of the cubes. Possible applications include rapid prototyping and replacing parts or objects. (Source: M. Scott Brauer/MIT)
Greg, I had a similar initial idea about the analogy with cellular structures. Reading the wiki page and other background info in depth made it clear that there are current limits to the number of neighbor cubes that can attach. At least some of that limitation seems to be due to hardware, such as space limitations causing magnets on 4 not 6 sides, and, as we state in the article, the current upper limit is 80 neighbors per cube. Once they move to the smaller 1mm size on a wafer, that number is expected to rise to 100s or 1000s.
Interesting idea which reminds me of the natural evolution of primitive single cell organisms into more complex mult-cellular organisms (which evolve into even higher and higher complex organisms as time goes on). Each robotic pebble reminds me of a cell, so I'm wonder if more complex robotic mechanisms can be made from larger and larger groups of multi-pebbled clusters.
I interviewed Kyle Gilpin at ICRA 2010 about his work with the robot pebble, which is the "grain" in the "smart sand" This interview is part of the Flexible Elements podcast series, focusing on Self-reconfiguring modular robotics, at IT Conversations
Engineers at Fuel Cell Energy have found a way to take advantage of a side reaction, unique to their carbonate fuel cell that has nothing to do with energy production, as a potential, cost-effective solution to capturing carbon from fossil fuel power plants.
This is part one of an article discussing the University of Washington’s nationally ranked FSAE electric car (eCar) and combustible car (cCar). Stay tuned for part two, tomorrow, which will discuss the four unique PCBs used in both the eCar and cCars.
Researchers working with additive manufacturing have said multimaterial techniques will allow industry “to fabricate materials with combinations of density, strength, and thermal expansion that do not exist [yet].”
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