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MSSI Researchers Use Behaviour Patterns Of Wildlife in Nature to Examine ‘Swarming’ Nano-Particles


Damien Thompson MSSI researchers are using the behaviour patterns of wildlife in nature to understand how nanoparticles may be moving or ‘swarming’ on the surface of a material in order to develop the tiniest possible circuits for electronic device technologies.   Teaming up with computer giant IBM UL’s Dr Damien Thompson’s has been examining tracks made by armies of tiny objects on surfaces to learn how and why the particles swarm into complex patterns. Dr Thompson believes these rules will help scientists to write at the atomic scale, assembling networks of nanoparticles that will provide the tiniest possible circuits for electronic device technologies.

In new work reported in Nature Scientific Reports (Full Paper) Dr Thompson has teamed up with experimental partners at IBM-Zurich to observe the very earliest stages of pattern formation. The two groups combined theory and experiments to measure the atomic scale driving force that compels tiny, single-nanometer sized fullerene molecules, or “Bucky balls”, to assemble over time into self-repairing, tightly-packed clusters on gold surfaces.

By learning the rules by which these molecules play, Thompson’s group  hope to contribute to the emerging field of organic computing, seeking to design and implement new, nature-inspired computer algorithms that can be used to program new materials and could eventually lead to the realisation of evolvable hardware.

Professor Mike Hinchey of the LERO Irish Software Research Center at UL comments that “swarm-based and autonomic computing approaches have proven of great value in building self-healing, self-adaptive, and ultimately self-governing software systems where combining many instances of reasonably simple components can result in complex systems that can perform significant tasks.” He further enthuses that “this work shows great promise in self-assembly and self-healing that are likely to greatly advance research in this field and contribute significantly to more efficient and more exciting systems.”