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Two Electromechanical Models of Self-Assembly

Jason D. Lohn*, Gary L. Haith, and Silvano P. Colombano

NASA Ames Research Center

This is an abstract for a presentation given at the
Sixth Foresight Conference on Molecular Nanotechnology.
There will be a link from here to the full article when it is available on the web.


Mechanical models of self-replicating systems were proposed by Penrose, Jacobson, and others in the 1950s. Some of these models were successfully implemented. Here we present the design for a simple mechanical self-replicating system that can be constructed out of wood, batteries and electromagnets. Our system was designed with analogies to nanoscale fabrication: electromagnetism modeling hydrogen bonding, complementary physical shapes modeling polymer structure, and electrical current flow modeling polymer activation. Precisely defining the requirements of an artificial self-replicating system is difficult (and elusive in the literature) for many reasons. We present a set of properties that an artificial self-replicating system should possess and discuss the issues that arise in formulating a definition of artificial self-replication.

*Corresponding Address:
Jason D. Lohn
NASA Ames Research Center
MS 269-1, Moffett Field, CA 94035-1000
Phone: (650) 604-5138; Fax: (650) 604-3594
Email:; Web:

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