NIST and Nanosoccer

magine a robotic David Beckham six times smaller than an amoeba playing with a "soccer ball" no wider than a human hair with all of the action happening on a field the size of single grain of rice.

It may sound like the stuff of science fiction but at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), nanosoccer is serious business.

NIST, the federal agency that advances U.S. innovation and competitiveness, is partnering with industry, universities and other organizations to move us toward a future where robots smaller than the eye can see are put to work in a variety of ways.

NIST's conducts its nanosoccer competitions and demonstrations in conjunction with RoboCup, an international organization dedicated to using the game of soccer as a testing ground for the robotics technologies of the future. NIST's goal in coordinating competitions between the world's smallest robots-known as nanobots (nanoscale robots)-is to show the feasibility and accessibility of technologies for fabricating MicroElectroMechanical Systems (MEMS), tiny mechanical devices built onto semiconductor chips and measured in micrometers (millionth of a meter).

The soccer nanobots are operated by remote control under an optical microscope. They move in response to changing magnetic fields or electrical signals transmitted across the microchip arena. Although the bots are a few tens of micrometers to a few hundred micrometers long, they are considered "nanoscale" because their masses range from a few nanograms to a few hundred nanograms. They are manufactured from materials such as aluminum, nickel, gold, silicon and chromium.

In this Web site, you will learn more about nanosoccer, how its works and how its lessons are helping realize the dream of working microrobots that can dramatically improve our quality of life.

2009 RoboCup Nanogram Competition (Graz, Austria)

Nanosoccer Event Summaries

Photos/Graphics

Microchip with Nanosoccer Fields of Play

A glass microchip next to a quarter showing that the two are approximately the same size

The glass microchip on the left measures 3 centimeters across—slightly more than the diameter of a quarter on the right—and is divided into sixteen 2.5 millimeter by 2.5 millimeter nanosoccer playing fields.

Nanosoccer Field of Play (Diagram)

Nanosoccer Field of Play

Nanosoccer Ball

This is a silicon dioxide disk (top view) about the diameter of a human hair (100 µm) that can be pushed across the Nanogram Soccer field of play by the nanosoccer robots.

This is a silicon dioxide disk (top view) about the diameter of a human hair (100 µm) that can be pushed across the Nanogram Soccer field of play by the nanosoccer robots. The "T" is a mark for spotting the ball on the field. The three circles are the location of the raised dimples on the underside of the disk that allow movement across the field.

Photomicrograph of Open Nanosoccer Field

Photomicrograph of Nanosoccer Open Field

Photomicrograph of Nanosoccer Field with Defenders

Photomicrograph of Nanosoccer Field with Defenders

How Small is a Nanobot?

A microrobot used at the RoboCup 2009 nanosoccer competition by the team from Switzerland's ETH Zurich is compared in size to the head of a fruit fly.

A microrobot used at the RoboCup 2009 nanosoccer competition by the team from Switzerland's ETH Zurich is compared in size to the head of a fruit fly. The robot, which is operated under a microscope, is 300 micrometers in length or slightly larger than a dust mite.

Credit: ETH Zurich

Videos

Imagine a robotic David Beckham six times smaller than an amoeba playing with a "soccer ball" no wider than a human hair ... with all of the action happening on a field the size of single grain of rice. It may sound like the stuff of science fiction but at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), nanosoccer is serious business.

Dartmouth College nanobot moving and turning across the surface of a microchip.

Swiss nanobot following computer-designed path to perform zig zag maneuvers

Swiss nanobot scoring goals with nanoball (microdisk)

Carnegie Mellon University nanobot "swimming" in water to reduce friction.

Carnegie Mellon University nanobot moving across the surface of a dime.

 

Created May 04, 2011, Updated January 05, 2017