In what could be one of the key breakthroughs in robotics, researchers at Cornell University have designed self-assembled robots with synthetic DNA.
Playing with DNA based robots is not new. Scientists are already building nanobots that can kill potentially malignant tumors. They may also be able to grow new organs from stem cells, Which can help to cure chronic diseases.
“We are introducing a brand-new, lifelike material concept powered by its very own artificial metabolism. We are not making something that’s alive, but we are creating materials that are much more lifelike than have ever been seen before,” said Dan Luo, professor of biological and environmental engineering in the College of Agriculture and Life Science.
However, brand-new research is different, as these bots can behave like real DNA. It has its metabolism, uses energy, develops, grows, and dies.
How can this biometric function similar to human DNA? For the study, the team used a system called DNA-based assembly and the synthesis of Hierarchical.
With DASH (DNA-based assembly and the synthesis of Hierarchical.), Scientists created a self-organized robot using 55 nucleotide units, which are the building blocks of human DNA. They replicated these blocks multiple times to produce a chain.
The team also introduced artificial metabolism into the synthetic DNA, which then allows biometric not only to use energy for fuel but also to regenerate.
As the material gathers more and more resources, DNA was able to synthesize new strands at the front end, while the tail end degraded to maintain an optimal balance. Using this mechanism, it was also able to rotate against the flow – very similar to how mud molds move.
“Designs are still primitive, but they showed a new path to create dynamic machines from biomolecules. We are in the first stage of creating lifelong robots by artificial metabolism, “said Shogo Hamada, lecture and research associate at the Luo Lab, and lead and co-related author of the paper. “Even with a simple design, we were able to create sophisticated behavior like racing. Artificial metabolism may open new front in robotics,”
If that life-like was not enough, researchers are currently working on ways to improve longevity and self-replication. The goal is not to produce artificial life, but to use the systems as a biosensor or as a dynamic template to make proteins without living cells.
The study was published in Science Robotics.