Multi-agent systems demonstrate the ability to collectively perform complex tasks (e.g., construction, search, and locomotion) with greater speed, efficiency, or effectiveness than could a single agent alone. Direct and indirect coordination methods allow agents to collaborate to share information and adapt their activity to fit dynamic situations. A well-studied example is quorum sensing (QS), a mechanism allowing bacterial communities to coordinate and optimize various phenotypes in response to population density. Here we implement, for the first time, bio-inspired QS in robots fabricated from DNA origami, which communicate by transmitting and receiving diffusing signals. The mechanism we describe includes features such as programmable response thresholds and quorum quenching, and is capable of being triggered by proximity of a specific target cell. Nanoscale robots with swarm intelligence could carry out tasks that have been so far unachievable in diverse fields such as industry, manufacturing, and medicine.

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