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BioMolecular Self-Assembly: TED Global, Edinburgh 2012

Skylar Tibbits and Arthur Olson, in collaboration with Autodesk Research, exhibited the BioMolecular Self-Assembly project at TED Global 2012, Edinburgh, Scotland.

Full Project Site:

Could buildings one day build themselves? It sounds unbelievable, but it’s the very real world of Skylar Tibbits of MIT and Arthur Olson of the Scripps Research Institute, who study how the basic ingredients for molecular assembly could translate to self-assembly technologies at all scales, even large buildings.

Participants at TEDGlobal each received a unique glass flask containing anywhere from 4 to 12 red, black or white parts. When the glass flask is shaken randomly the independent parts find each other and self-assemble various molecular structures. The flasks contain a custom tag that identifies the type of molecular structure and the ingredients for successful self-assembly.

Programmable self-assembly has been studied extensively at the molecular level for some time now. However, the first large-scale applications will likely take shape in extreme environments of near-zero gravity or neutral buoyancy, where the application of energy can lead to increases in interaction. Imagine using wave energy underwater to trigger the self-assembly of multistory structures, or parts dropped from high altitudes to unfold fully erected structures, or even modular, transformable and reconfigurable space structures!

Skylar Tibbits, TED Senior Fellow, Lecturer MIT Architecture Department, Founder/Principal of SJET LLC

Arthur Olson, The Molecular Graphics Lab, The Scripps Research Institute, Co-Founder of ScienceWithinReach Inc.

Matt Tierney, Autodesk Inc.
Carlos Olguin, Autodesk Inc.

A special thanks to everyone at TED Conferences for their tremendous support and the ever-inspiring venue!

The Molecular Self-Assembly models were developed and distributed by ScienceWithinReach. Production and casting by Design Formations.

A sincere thank you to Adam Bly and SEED Media Group for their support of The Self-Assembly Line at TED Long Beach 2012. Without the initial project and research the BioMolecular Self-Assembly project would not have been possible.

Sponsored by Autodesk Inc.