Smart dust and smart specks


Smart dust has been conceived as a system of millimeter scale autonomous devices that form the basis for massively distributed wireless sensor networks[1]and [2]. Smart dust motes have been demonstrated that cram sensors, interfaces, power sources, digital control communications and processing circuitry into a few cubic millimeters volume. Various self-assembly methods have been proposed [3]. Commercial systems are already available [4] .


The Ultra-Fast Systems component of the Nanoelectronics Research Centre at the University of Glasgow is a founding member of a large international consortium which is developing a related concept: smart specks. An extensive web site is at SPECKNET which describes the consortium's work on fabrication and wireless networking of smart specks. It contains an extensive bibliography[5] .


There have been many studies of how to deliver a mote swarm and how to communicate with such systems.


Our work addresses the crucial problem of how dust motes can be given the ability to move around in their application environment. We are particularly interested in the potential use of smart dust swarms for remote planetary sensing. Solutions involving robot insect motes have been advocated where distances and times are small; but this introduces additional mechanical and electronic complexity plus severe constraints on power sources. Instead, we have focussed on the possibility of extracting power from the natural fluctuating forces that act on the motes. Our key new idea is the possibility of using adaptive shape-changing of smart dust motes in order to alter the drag coefficient dynamically in response to favourable fluctuations in the wind velocity. With diameters and densities comparable to sand particles the behaviour of passive dust will be identical to the movement of ordinary airborne sand.




Smart dust and smart specks

Proposed application to space exploration

Analogy with motion of blown sand

Shape changing smart dust

Algorithms for collective motion of smart dust




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