A technology to create synthetic reality with which human interaction is possible. Combines nanoscale robotics and computer science to create individual nanometer-scale computers called claytronic atoms, or catoms. Catoms can interact with each other to form tangible 3-D objects that a user can interact with. This idea is more broadly referred to as programmable matter. Think of “HOLODECK” of ‘Star-Trek’ or the holographic projector in Avatar. They are all interactive.
Electronics: To create catoms and other required hardware. Physics: For structural support and movement. Robotics & AI: Motion planning, Collective actuation. Computer Science: To create proper Algorithm and Language to operate the whole matrix of catoms.
CATOM - Claytronic Atom, the fundamental unit of claytronics. Basically a nano-robot, using a computer for operating the Catom, sensors for communication and magnetic relays for its movement. The catoms are controlled by the computer which is inside it and A prototype Catom, with a ruler to scale. The orange circular coils with help of other hardware it are magnetic actuators. The CPU moves according to program, is situated at the top. The sensors causing the effective macroscopic are situated inside. movement.
In order to be viable, catoms need to fit the following criteria – Catoms need to be able to move in three dimensions relative to each other and be able to adhere to each other to form a 3D figure. Catoms need to be able to communicate with each other. Catoms must have a CPU to process the data flowing in through its sensors using the algorithms and take decisions. It must have an onboard power supply to power its CPU, magnetic coils and sensors.
At the current stage of design and research, claytronics hardwareoperates from macroscale designs with devices that are much larger thanthe tiny modular robots that set the goals of this engineering research.Such devices are designed to test concepts for sub-millimeter scalemodules and to elucidate crucial effects of the physical and electricalforces that affect nanoscale robots. The micro-controller board of a Catom.
We need millimeter-scale catoms that are electrostatically actuated and self contained. As a simplified approach it is trying to build cylindrical catoms instead of spheres. The millimeter scale catom consists of a tube and a High voltage CMOS die attached inside the tube The catom moves on a power grid that contains rails which carry high voltage AC signals. The powered chip generates voltage on the actuation electrodes sequentially, creating electric fields that push the tube forward.
It is a 22-cc cube that provides a base of actuation for the electrostatic latch. The worm-drive assembly extends the face of one cube to create contact with the face of an adjacent cube. The electrodes on each face create one-half of a capacitor. When the two "genderless," star-shaped faces of adjacent Cubes integrate their combs, they complete a capacitor and form an electrostatic couple from the contact of electrodes, which binds the faces as a completed latch. The capacitive couple, which forms the electrostatic latch, provides within an ensemble of Cubes not only adhesion and structural stability but also the transmission of power and communication
Planar Catoms are the closest step to creating catoms that, without any moving parts, will create motion, a fundamental objective in Claytronics research. The self-actuating, cylinder-shaped planar catom tests concepts of motion, power distribution, data transfer and communication that will be eventually incorporated into ensembles of nano-scale robots. It provides a testbed for the architecture of micro-electro-mechanical systems for self-actuation in modular robotic devices. Employing magnetic force to generate motion, its operations as a research instrument build a bridge to a scale of engineering that will make it possible to manufacture self-actuating nano-system devices.
A working prototype is shown in the picture here, presents for view its stack of control and magnet-sensor rings. Its solid state electronic controls ride at the top of the stack. An individual control ring is dedicated to each of the two rings of magnet sensors, which ride at the base of the module. At the base of the planar catom, the two heavier electro-magnet rings, which comprise the motor for the device, also add stability. To create motion, the magnet rings exchange the attraction and repulsion of electromagnetic force with magnet rings on adjacent catoms. From this conversion of electrical to kinetic energy, the module achieves a turning motion to model the spherical rotation of millimeter-scale catoms.
Pictured in a top view two magnet rings from a prototype planar catom display the arrangement of their 12 magnets around individual driver boards. The motion of this two Catom can be made possible by sequentially attraction and repulsion of the consecutive magnets. A catom sustains a clockwise or counter- clockwise motion by a continuous transfer of electro-magnetic force to achieve the opposite motion in the other catom.
A Giant Helium Catom (GHC) measures eight cubic meters when its light Mylar skin fills with helium to acquire a lifting force of approximately 5.6 kilograms. The Giant Helium Catom provides researchers a macroscale instrument to investigate physical forces that affect microscale devices. The GHC was designed to approximate the relationship between a near-zero-mass (or weightless) particle and the force of electro-magnetic fields spread across the surface of such particles. It also tells the effects of gravity. Such studies are needed to understand the influence of surface tensions on the engineering of interfaces for nanoscale device
MAGNETIC RESONANCE COUPLING: As a potential means for providing power to catoms without using electrical connections, it is experimentally demonstrated wireless power transfer via magnetic resonant coupling is in a system with a large source coil and either one or two small receivers. This is almost the same process by which energy is transferred from primary to secondary winding in Transformer without connecting them by wires. ELECTROSTATIC LATCH: It is new system of binding and releasing the connection between modular robots, a connection that creates motion and transfers power and data while employing a small factor of a powerful force.
We need distributed computing in Claytronics as there will be no wire and no unique address of the catoms in a Claytronics matrix. It means it has to be operated in state of constant flux. And for that two languages are developed- MELD & LDP. The point of the programming is to translate commands into the motion of each machine in its relationship to every other machine.
MELD: Meld is a programming language designed for robustly programming massive ensembles. The programmer needs to write a program for an ensemble rather than the modules that make it up. Because Meld is a declarative programming language the programs written in Meld are concise. Furthermore, these implementations are inherently fault-tolerant. They can recover from modules that experience FAIL-STOP errors as the Meld runtime automatically recovers from these errors without any need for the programmer to think about it.
Locally Distributed Predicates (LDP): LDP approaches the distributed programming problem using pattern- matching techniques. LDP allows for the expression of distributed event sequences as well as the expression of particular shapes .These facilities, combined with an array of mathematical and logical operators, allow programmers to express a wide variety of distributed conditions. As with Meld, LDP produces dramatically shorter code than traditional high-level languages (C++, Java, etc.). A reactive language, LDP grows from earlier research into the analysis of distributed local conditions, which has been used to trigger debugging protocols.
It means determining module location from noisy observations. In order to determine their locations, the modules need to rely on noisy observations of their immediate neighbors. These observations are obtained from sensors onboard the modules, Unlike many other systems, a modular robot may not have access to long distance measurements. Therefore, the robot needs to employ sophisticated probabilistic techniques to estimate the location of each its module from noisy data. One key idea is to hierarchically decompose the ensemble into smaller parts. The parts are localized first, and the partial solutions are then merged to obtain an estimate for the entire ensemble. That means divide and conquer. The second key idea employed in our work is to limit the amount of communication sent between the modules. Much like in a flock of birds, each module needs to communicate information about itself to others in the ensemble, but should avoid communicating with everybody.
Dynamic debugging is already possible because of the languages used- MELD and LDP are capable of this. For dynamic simulation a new simulator “DYNAMIC PHYSICAL RENDERING” or DPR simulator is developed by researchers. DPR simulator operates in LINUX environment and this is open source. It not only simulate in a dynamic way but also provides means to activate all catoms under real life conditions- Gravity, Friction, Surface tension etc. making it a very effective tool.
In the current design, the catoms are only able to move in two dimensions relative to each other. Future catoms will be required to move in three dimensions relative to each other. Another major design challenge will be developing a genderless unary connector for the catoms in order to keep reconfiguration time at a minimum. To create such nano-robot or catoms of millimeter scale by fabrication process. In case of software view we need enormous computing power- which is largely unfamiliar to present day technology. To create such an easy algorithm that can work in real time without any error.
In case of fabrication the researchers are continuously trying to make catoms smaller. Presently 44mm Catom is made. The trend of fabrication technology according to Moore’s Law makes us believe 3D Catom will be made soon. Just think of the increment of computing power in the few years and it predicts to develop the needed algorithm with high computing power. Adhesion between catoms can be made by electrostatic latch as said before.
Moores law is a rule of thumb in the history of computing hardware whereby the number of transistors that can be placed inexpensively on an integrated circuit doubles approximately every two years Claytronic technology has become possible because of the ever increasing speeds of computer processing predicted in Moores Law. The law is now used in the semiconductor industry to guide long-term planning and to set targets for research and development.