Scientific Background

The basic idea of the NASCENCE project is to use computer controlled manipulation of physical systems composed of nanoscale self-assembled components to steer them towards doing useful computation and information processing. The project aims at the physical realization and theoretical characterization of such programmable and (re)configurable network architectures. Using computer controlled manipulation and evolution, e.g. by genetic algorithms, such network architectures are trained via external stimuli to perform a computational task or information processing function. Figure 1 shows a schematic set up of the proposed technology. Basically, we shall utilize a block of matter that allows us to change its properties/behaviour by external stimuli. These external forces induce property changes, which we can control by algorithms that run on a digital computer, so that there is a direct link between the external forces that we have control over and the induced changes in the block of matter. By measuring the behaviour of the altered block of matter, we can submit input data to the sample and receive output data. In this way we have performed a type of computation. Of course we cannot directly program the particle dynamics and we do not have control of the particles, at least not directly. The particles will interact with their nearest neighbours and we can exploit these phenomena along with the state changes in regions of the block of matter, in order to perform computations.

FIG 1: Schematic illustration of the proposed computational system with bulk matter

Within the NASCENCE project, we envisage newly developed information processing devices that are exploitable by computer controlled evolution as a kind of configurable analogue processor. In its broadest sense, it is a physical device whose physical state or configuration is determined by discrete sets of signals, e.g. voltages, currents or magnetic fields. The idea is that a digital computer can supply, collect and optimize the configuration data that may be transformed into another physical data format, e.g. strings of zeros and ones. A form of Darwinian evolution, e.g. applying genetic algorithms, can be used to reward good candidate configurations, recombine them into new candidate configurations, and converge to configurations that carry out the desired computation.

Below is more information, but for short descriptions of the nine work packages of NASCENCE follow the links at:   Project Work Packages

Expected main outputs
The main outputs of the NASCENCE project focus on:

  • Developing evolving nanosystems based on new materials, moving from existing proofs-of-concept on a centimetre scale and simulated systems on a micrometre scale to systems on a scale of 10-100 nanometres
  • Developing a generic interface consisting of hardware and software for testing, exploring and evolving such systems, to be used within and beyond the time frame of the project, extending a prototype that has been used in cm scale set-ups
  • Developing a novel theoretical foundation for such systems based on discrete mathematical concepts, in particular on graph theoretical concepts, extending the theory in these areas as well
  • Developing novel simulation software and tools based on the newly developed theoretical foundations, moving from time consuming methods based on differential equations to faster methods that will be suitable for very large scale simulations

The output from the NASCENCE project will take the form of new software, hardware, new materials, experimental and theoretical results and knowledge, and in educating people.

Benefits from the project will be in the form of new computational strategies and algorithms, new
nanostructured materials, and probing and exploiting new concepts in tuning charge transport and storage in new thin film architectures. Increased understanding of the interplay between structural and electronic processes in these devices will create new paradigms in computation and materials design and open up a range of possibilities for fabrication of a new generation of electronic devices. The project is of particular relevance to the field of nanotechnology and nanoscience.