Workshop on Nanosensors: Self-Organization and Swarm Robotics
Third International Conference on Nano-Networks (Nano-Net 2008)
Radisson Hotel Boston (Boston, Massachusetts)
September 14, 2008

Workshop on Nanosensors: Self-Organization and Swarm Robotics

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Nanosensors are slated to revolutionize several fields including medicine, harsh environment sensing and chip fabrication. This is an important field that assimilates technologies and concepts from multiple domains such as physics, chemistry, and engineering. Nanosensors however are small, weak, and fragile and lack the power to work independently due to limited power and communication range. However, by self-assembling into larger nano-structures or complex systems, they have the ability to exhibit sophisticated behavior. Nature abounds with several instances where seemingly simple organisms self-organize to exhibit sophisticated emergent behavior, also called swarm intelligence. For instance, an ant is quite a simple animal whose behavioral repertoire is limited from 10 to 40 elementary behaviors. However, in groups, they can exhibit sophisticated collective behavior where there are clear divisions of labor. Some ants collect food while others take care of the eggs, repair the nest, or protect the anthill against threats, while the queen lays the eggs. None of the animals grasp the big picture, but the entire colony collectively contributes to its success. The secret lies in self-organization and swarm intelligence where each organism follows simple rules based on local information from their neighbors. Study of this area can provide insights that can help us manage complex systems such as those used for turbine design, truck routing, and robot coordination. It is necessary to understand such self-organization in the context of nanosensors to take advantage of the wide spectrum of applications where nanosensors can be deployed. One of the prime applications of nanosensors is robotics where miniature robots that can perform a variety of industrial and medical, and environmental applications. Currently, such robots are limited due to size constraints; however, it will soon be possible to develop nano-robots that have a size in the millimeter and sub-millimeter range. The difficulty in achieving this miniaturization is primarily due to the integration capabilities of power sources, communication, motion, and actuation. Over time, however, these miniature robots will have several advantages: increased flexibility, functionality, robustness, and decreased cost. These advancements will lead to realization of the concept of distributed self-organized colonies (swarms) of robots that can perform complex tasks that humans have difficulty in performing. Examples of such tasks include, monitoring in harsh conditions such as exhaust of turbines, and environmental conditions in toxic environments. This year's workshop brings together the expertise of researchers from the fields of nano-robotics and swarm intelligence for the purposes of sharing and generating ideas that can bring together advances in these fields to improve nanosensor network research. The workshop will have specific deliverables.


An individual will be designated to take notes at the workshop and results from the workshop will be collected and integrated into a document for publication. The workshop will address several pointed issues, including:

  • The reason swarm simulation software (e.g., Swarm and RePast) has failed to provide significant insight into emergent behavior of such systems
  • The merits and demerits of existing hardware platforms for automated swarm inspection
  • Standards that are needed to move small-scale swarm inspection into mainstream use
  • The role of communication in swarm behavior


Sanjay Goel
School of Business
University at Albany, State University of New York
Phone: 518 442 4925
           Stephen F. Bush
GE Global Research Center
Phone:(518) 387 6827