Studies on self assembling structures continue, as Skylar Tibbits and Dr. Arthur Olson of MIT in collaboration with Autodesk Research present project Biomolecular Self Assembly at this year’s TEDGlobal 2012: Radical Openness.

While programmable self-assembly has been studied at the molecular level for some time now, this project promotes the idea of using energy to interactively reassemble molecular structures. Instead of using smart robotic systems to construct these structures (like Gramazio & Kohler did in their flight assembled tower), kinetic energy found in extreme near-zero gravity environments or places of high altitudes, space, or underwater, could cause polarized particles to self assemble. “Imagine using wave energy underwater to trigger the self-assembly of multistory structures, or parts dropped from high altitudes to unfold fully erected structures, or even modular, transformable and reconfigurable space structures!”

Three components–geometry, energy, and attraction–are needed for self assembly. Particles assemble as in a biological model of enzymes to specific geometries, creating the most stable geometrical structure after a process of weeding out bad bonds and re-assemblies.

This project proposes future applications in biotechnology and building construction. Participants of TEDGlobal received a flask containing a self-assembling virus kit that represents their formation in the human body. These pieces are held together through their specific shapes and magnetic properties as they are shaken inside the flask. While some bonds break, other structures bond stronger until the final shape is kept fully intact. The group hopes this biomimetic model is applicable in assembly of fabricated large scale projects, where individual smart components might even contain data to guide versatile assemblies.

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