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Microscale Chemically Reactive Electronic Agents
John S McCaskill, Gunter von Kiedrowski, Jurgen Ohm, Pierre Mayr, Lee Cronin, Itamar Willner, Andreas Herrmann, Steen Rasmussen, Frantisek Stepanek, Norman H Packard and Peter R Wills

The goal of the project is to give electronics and chemistry an equal autonomous role in programming complex chemical constructions, processes and analyses at the nano and microscale. These are the same scales where information processing in living systems occurs – where “to construct is to compute”. To do this MICREAgents will develop novel electronically active microreactor components, called lablets, that self-assemble at a scale less than 100 μm, approaching the size of living cells. The project will integrate the necessary components to ensure autonomous action of millions of these “very smart chemicals”, including electronic logic, supercapacitors for power, pairwise coupling for communication, programmable chemical sensors and electronic actuation of chemical processing. Key examples of MICREAgent actuation are to reversibly switch their association, load or dose chemicals, modify surfaces, initiate reactions and control locomotion in complex chemical environments. MICREAgents lablets can join forces to communicate both chemicals and electronic information in order to solve complex tasks, acting as smart collective agents of chemical change. Like cells, they will be essentially genetically encoded, but with chemical and electronic memories, translating electronic signals into constructive chemical processing and recording the results of this processing. They will also reversibly employ DNA molecules as chemical information, for example to control surface-surface binding of lablets, or to program chemical sensors, not to synthesize proteins as in cells. The project builds on pioneering FET-funded work towards electronic chemical cells, taking a giant stride to cell-like microscopic autonomous chemical electronics with self-assembling electronic membranes controlling the entry and exit of chemicals..

Keywords: Self-assembly, bioelectronics, autonomous agents, electronic microreactors, chemical robotics, evolution, DNA computing, MEMS

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