The NanoManipulator

The NanoManipulator is a virtual-reality interface to a scanning-probe microscope that allows a human user to see, touch, and manipulate individual macromolecules.  It has been used to manipulate individual viruses, strands of DNA, and carbon nanotubes. 

The NanoManipulator uses an Atomic-Force Microscope (AFM) to gather data describing the 3D shape of the sample within the microscope, and then uses computer graphics and haptics (touch) displays to allow the user to see and feel the sample surface.  Motions of the user's hand are used to control the tiny probe scanning the sample, so that the user can manually push microscopic objects, and feel the resultant forces.  In effect, the user's eyes and hands are projected into the nanoworld, and the user can manipulate nanometer-scale objects in real-time.

The NanoManipulator was invented by Warren Robinett and Stan Williams in 1991, and was implemented by Russell M. Taylor II as his PhD thesis project. 

The NanoManipulator Project has grown over the years to become a multi-disciplinary research project at UNC-Chapel Hill involving 16 faculty members and 28 graduate students in the departments of Computer Science, Physics, Chemistry, Gene Therapy, Information and Library Science, Psychology, and Education. 

Still Images          Carbon nanotubes                                     Ion-etched graphite

Selected Publications

Robinett, W. , R.M. Taylor II, V.L. Chi, F.P. Brooks, Jr., W.V. Wright, R.S. Williams, E.J. Snyder. ""The Nanomanipulator: An Atomic-Scale Teleoperator", SIGGRAPH 92 Course Notes for course "Implementation of Immersive Virtual Worlds, 1992.   First paper on the NanoManipulator.

Taylor II, R.M., W. Robinett, V.L. Chi, F.P. Brooks, Jr., W.V. Wright, R.S. Williams, E.J. Snyder. "The Nanomanipulator: A Virtual-Reality Interface for a Scanning Tunneling Microscope", Computer Graphics: Proceedings of SIGGRAPH 93, Chicago, 1993.   Second paper on the NanoManipulator.

More publications on the NanoManipulator.