Abstract: Massively parallel self-assembling systems present a promising alternative to conventional manufacturing. Recently, various successful instances of self-assembly have been demonstrated, including applications for commercial products such as RFID tags. However, the full impact of this approach will only be realized once these systems can be programmed or reconfigured on demand (i.e., attachment between components is activated by software).
In this talk, we review several projects that lead towards such self-assembling systems. A key concept to achieve this goal is the “programmable surface”, an engineered interface whose characteristics (surface forces, hydrophobicity, friction, etc.) can be controlled with high spatial and temporal resolution. We present sample projects that address various aspects ranging from real-time control of surface properties, to binding site designs that optimize attractive forces between components, to computational and algorithmic issues in the modeling of self-assembling systems.