This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant No. 1110947.

Disclaimer: Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.

MoNaCo: Molecular
Nano-Communication Networks

Project Description

Nanomachines, Nanonetworks and Their Applications

In 1959, the Nobel laureate physicist Richard Feynman, in his famous speech entitled “There is Plenty of Room at the Bottom”, described for the first time how the manipulation of individual atoms and molecules would give rise to more functional and powerful man-made devices. More than half a century later, nanotechnology is providing a new set of tools to the engineering community to control entities at the atomic and molecular scales. Foremost amongst these new capabilities are nanomachines, integrated functional devices consisting of nanoscale components. Nanomachines used in applications today typically operate independently and accomplish tasks ranging from computing and data storing to sensing and actuation.

Enabling nanomachines to communicate with each other and hence form nanonetworks will considerably expand the types of applications they can be used in. Because of this, there is the need to define the way in which a single nanomachine communicates with other nanomachines based on their physical and practical limitations. In addition, the interconnection of nanomachines with the micro-world will require the development of nano-micro interfaces. Moreover, the communication among thousands or even millions of distributed nanomachines demands for novel cost-effective hardware and software solutions. Classical communication paradigms need to undergo a profound rethinking and redesign in order to meet the requirements (e.g., size, power consumption, etc.) of these new nanonetworks' applications. Existing networking architectures and communication protocols/software have to be completely rethought in light of these new communication paradigms.

While there is a large number of applications that nanonetworks could apply to, we briefly present three categories of applications below that are capture the significance of nanonetworks:

  • Biomedical applications The nanoscale is the natural domain of molecules, proteins, DNA, organelles and the major components of cells. As a result, a large number of applications of nanonetworks is in the biomedical field. Nanomachines can be deployed over (e.g., tattoo-like) or inside the human body (e.g., a pill or intramuscular injection) to monitor glucose, sodium, and cholesterol, to detect the presence of different infectious agents, or to identify specific types of cancer. Nanonetworks will also enable new smart drug delivery systems which combine the sensing capabilities of nanomachines with the abilities of nano-actuators to release specific drugs inside the body with great accuracy and in a timely manner.
  • Industrial applications The tools provided by nanotechnologies can be used to monitor and control the formation of biofilms in several industrial applications. A biofilm is an aggregate of nano and micro-organisms in which cells adhere to each other and usually onto a surface. Biofilms can have both beneficial and detrimental effects, depending on the application. For example, they can be used to clean residual waters coming from different manufacturing processes or organic waste. However, they can also be the tool for infectious diseases to spread through pipes and other liquid conducting mechanisms. In our vision, nanonetworks can be used to first detect the formation of biofilms and then to release specific chemical compounds to locally enhance or terminate their formation
  • Security/Safety applications Nanotechnology is enabling the development of biological and chemical nanosensors which have an unprecedented sensing accuracy. Nanonetworks composed by several of these nanosensors will serve as a countermeasure for surveillance against Nuclear, Biological and Chemical attacks at the nanoscale. For example, nanosensors can be used to detect chemical particles faster and in lower concentrations than conventional microsensors. Upon the detection of a toxic chemical compound, several nanomachines will transmit the information related to this event in a multi-hop way to a sink or command center. In addition, it will also be possible for the nanomachines to receive commands from the macroscale in order to, for example, change their behavior.

Several communication paradigms can be considered for use in nanonetworks, but our focus is on using molecular communication. [Back to top]

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