Bridges Supercomputer Simulates Tiny Robots with Better Directability, Maneuverability

August 9, 2021

Aug. 9, 2021 — Biohybrid robots – made by adding living tissues such as muscle cells to an artificial skeleton – have a lot of potential for doing complex jobs at tiny scales. But engineering these robots has been hit or miss, with researchers testing more or less arbitrary designs. A team from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign used simulations on the XSEDE-allocated Bridges platform at the Pittsburgh Supercomputing Center (PSC) to create a rational design approach that they and others can use to more quickly and efficiently develop effective biohybrid robots.

Why It’s Important

In the 1966 movie Fantastic Voyage, a team of scientists undergoes sci-fi shrinking so they can enter the brain of a stricken scientist and save his life. Shrinking people will likely remain a fantasy. But scientists are now seriously planning to create miniature robots that can do much the same thing. In particular, incorporating living tissues into robots – such as muscle cells that can move them or nerve cells that can direct them – has the potential of making them smaller and smarter than they could be using electronics and artificial motors.

Progress on such biohybrid robots has been slower than researchers would like. One limitation has been human experts’ ability to design the best physical layout for such a robot. We might imagine a tiny, human shape. But such a shape wouldn’t be the best for the mission – particularly at tiny scales. Jiaojiao Wang and Xiaotian Zhang, graduate students studying with advisors Rashid Bashir and Mattia Gazzola at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, respectively, wondered whether they could improve the design of “walkers” – robots that walk to move themselves – by combining computer simulations with lab testing. Their simulations would test many different combinations of body architecture, muscle-fiber arrangements and ways to electrically trigger the muscle fibers to move, saving lab time and expense. But they would require massive computation. The XSEDE-allocated Bridges advanced research computing platform at PSC made this work possible.

The tiny biohybrid robotic walker that was most effective in the Bridges simulations was shaped like a tiny horse, with paired legs (orange) connected by muscle rings (translucent material). From Wang J, Zhang X et al. (2021) Computationally Assisted Design and Selection of Maneuverable Biological Walking Machines. Advanced Intelligent Systems 3(5):2000237.

The Illinois team based their designs on a “skeleton” formed from 3D-printed PEGDA hydrogel. This flexible polymer structure would provide the body and legs of tiny walkers only 6 millimeters (about a fifth of an inch) in size. They also molded muscle cells in a ring shape that would wrap around each leg in the walker like a rubber band, contracting to make the legs move. They signaled the robots to move through a water solution by putting electrodes in the water, changing the electric field to make the muscle rings respond to the field. The skeleton’s legs were asymmetrical, shorter on one side so that the muscle ring contractions would make them move more in one direction than the other.

The team started with three basic designs. In the three-legged “three-ring” design, each leg connected with a central attachment point via a muscle ring. In a four-legged “four-ring” design shaped like a cross, each leg also connects to a central attachment via a muscle ring. Finally, in a four-legged “two-ring” walker, legs paired like in a tiny horse, a muscle ring connected each pair of opposing legs.

How XSEDE Helped

Using Bridges’ computing power, Zhang tested the three designs against each other as well as different arrangements of the muscle bands, and different patterns and strengths of electrical fields for their ability to move the robots. By conducting thousands of these simulations, he narrowed the choices to the most effective design, which Wang then synthesized and tested in the real world.

In the simulations, the three-ring version proved to be the fastest mover, but it had more trouble walking in a straight line than the others. The two-ring model was nearly as fast. It was also the best at walking a straight line, displaying the greatest reliability and the sharpest intentional turns. By fabricating the two-ring model, Wang was able to test various electrical signals to optimize control over the little robots and create more effective movement. More importantly, they had established a design approach that they and other researchers could use to efficiently engineer more complex biological machines with better controllability and adaptivity. The team would like to refine their designs further, possibly adding neural tissue to give the robots the ability to change behavior and react to their environment.

The team reported their results in a paper in the journal Advanced Intelligent Systems in May 2021, which you can read here.

This study was jointly funded by NSF EFRI C3 SoRo No. 1830881, NSF CAREER No. 1846752 (M.G.), and Strategic Research Initiatives program of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. This work used the Extreme Science and Engineering Discovery Environment (XSEDE), which is supported by National Science Foundation grant number ACI-1548562. Specifically, it used the Bridges system, which was supported by NSF award number ACI-1445606, at the Pittsburgh Supercomputing Center (PSC).

Click here to learn more.


Source: Ken Chiacchia, Pittsburgh Supercomputing Center

Subscribe to HPCwire's Weekly Update!

Be the most informed person in the room! Stay ahead of the tech trends with industy updates delivered to you every week!

The Case for an Edge-Driven Future for Supercomputing

September 24, 2021

“Exascale only becomes valuable when it’s creating and using data that we care about,” said Pete Beckman, co-director of the Northwestern-Argonne Institute of Science and Engineering (NAISE), at the most recent HPC Read more…

Three Universities Team for NSF-Funded ‘ACES’ Reconfigurable Supercomputer Prototype

September 23, 2021

As Moore’s law slows, HPC developers are increasingly looking for speed gains in specialized code and specialized hardware – but this specialization, in turn, can make testing and deploying code trickier than ever. Now, researchers from Texas A&M University, the University of Illinois at Urbana... Read more…

Qubit Stream: Monte Carlo Advance, Infosys Joins the Fray, D-Wave Meeting Plans, and More

September 23, 2021

It seems the stream of quantum computing reports never ceases. This week – IonQ and Goldman Sachs tackle Monte Carlo on quantum hardware, Cambridge Quantum pushes chemistry calculations forward, D-Wave prepares for its Read more…

Asetek Announces It Is Exiting HPC to Protect Future Profitability

September 22, 2021

Liquid cooling specialist Asetek, well-known in HPC circles for its direct-to-chip cooling technology that is inside some of the fastest supercomputers in the world, announced today that it is exiting the HPC space amid multiple supply chain issues related to the pandemic. Although pandemic supply chain... Read more…

TACC Supercomputer Delves Into Protein Interactions

September 22, 2021

Adenosine triphosphate (ATP) is a compound used to funnel energy from mitochondria to other parts of the cell, enabling energy-driven functions like muscle contractions. For ATP to flow, though, the interaction between the hexokinase-II (HKII) enzyme and the proteins found in a specific channel on the mitochondria’s outer membrane. Now, simulations conducted on supercomputers at the Texas Advanced Computing Center (TACC) have simulated... Read more…

AWS Solution Channel

Introducing AWS ParallelCluster 3

Running HPC workloads, like computational fluid dynamics (CFD), molecular dynamics, or weather forecasting typically involves a lot of moving parts. You need a hundreds or thousands of compute cores, a job scheduler for keeping them fed, a shared file system that’s tuned for throughput or IOPS (or both), loads of libraries, a fast network, and a head node to make sense of all this. Read more…

The Latest MLPerf Inference Results: Nvidia GPUs Hold Sway but Here Come CPUs and Intel

September 22, 2021

The latest round of MLPerf inference benchmark (v 1.1) results was released today and Nvidia again dominated, sweeping the top spots in the closed (apples-to-apples) datacenter and edge categories. Perhaps more interesti Read more…

The Case for an Edge-Driven Future for Supercomputing

September 24, 2021

“Exascale only becomes valuable when it’s creating and using data that we care about,” said Pete Beckman, co-director of the Northwestern-Argonne Institut Read more…

Three Universities Team for NSF-Funded ‘ACES’ Reconfigurable Supercomputer Prototype

September 23, 2021

As Moore’s law slows, HPC developers are increasingly looking for speed gains in specialized code and specialized hardware – but this specialization, in turn, can make testing and deploying code trickier than ever. Now, researchers from Texas A&M University, the University of Illinois at Urbana... Read more…

Qubit Stream: Monte Carlo Advance, Infosys Joins the Fray, D-Wave Meeting Plans, and More

September 23, 2021

It seems the stream of quantum computing reports never ceases. This week – IonQ and Goldman Sachs tackle Monte Carlo on quantum hardware, Cambridge Quantum pu Read more…

Asetek Announces It Is Exiting HPC to Protect Future Profitability

September 22, 2021

Liquid cooling specialist Asetek, well-known in HPC circles for its direct-to-chip cooling technology that is inside some of the fastest supercomputers in the world, announced today that it is exiting the HPC space amid multiple supply chain issues related to the pandemic. Although pandemic supply chain... Read more…

TACC Supercomputer Delves Into Protein Interactions

September 22, 2021

Adenosine triphosphate (ATP) is a compound used to funnel energy from mitochondria to other parts of the cell, enabling energy-driven functions like muscle contractions. For ATP to flow, though, the interaction between the hexokinase-II (HKII) enzyme and the proteins found in a specific channel on the mitochondria’s outer membrane. Now, simulations conducted on supercomputers at the Texas Advanced Computing Center (TACC) have simulated... Read more…

The Latest MLPerf Inference Results: Nvidia GPUs Hold Sway but Here Come CPUs and Intel

September 22, 2021

The latest round of MLPerf inference benchmark (v 1.1) results was released today and Nvidia again dominated, sweeping the top spots in the closed (apples-to-ap Read more…

Why HPC Storage Matters More Now Than Ever: Analyst Q&A

September 17, 2021

With soaring data volumes and insatiable computing driving nearly every facet of economic, social and scientific progress, data storage is seizing the spotlight. Hyperion Research analyst and noted storage expert Mark Nossokoff looks at key storage trends in the context of the evolving HPC (and AI) landscape... Read more…

GigaIO Gets $14.7M in Series B Funding to Expand Its Composable Fabric Technology to Customers

September 16, 2021

Just before the COVID-19 pandemic began in March 2020, GigaIO introduced its Universal Composable Fabric technology, which allows enterprises to bring together Read more…

Ahead of ‘Dojo,’ Tesla Reveals Its Massive Precursor Supercomputer

June 22, 2021

In spring 2019, Tesla made cryptic reference to a project called Dojo, a “super-powerful training computer” for video data processing. Then, in summer 2020, Tesla CEO Elon Musk tweeted: “Tesla is developing a [neural network] training computer called Dojo to process truly vast amounts of video data. It’s a beast! … A truly useful exaflop at de facto FP32.” Read more…

Enter Dojo: Tesla Reveals Design for Modular Supercomputer & D1 Chip

August 20, 2021

Two months ago, Tesla revealed a massive GPU cluster that it said was “roughly the number five supercomputer in the world,” and which was just a precursor to Tesla’s real supercomputing moonshot: the long-rumored, little-detailed Dojo system. “We’ve been scaling our neural network training compute dramatically over the last few years,” said Milan Kovac, Tesla’s director of autopilot engineering. Read more…

Esperanto, Silicon in Hand, Champions the Efficiency of Its 1,092-Core RISC-V Chip

August 27, 2021

Esperanto Technologies made waves last December when it announced ET-SoC-1, a new RISC-V-based chip aimed at machine learning that packed nearly 1,100 cores onto a package small enough to fit six times over on a single PCIe card. Now, Esperanto is back, silicon in-hand and taking aim... Read more…

CentOS Replacement Rocky Linux Is Now in GA and Under Independent Control

June 21, 2021

The Rocky Enterprise Software Foundation (RESF) is announcing the general availability of Rocky Linux, release 8.4, designed as a drop-in replacement for the soon-to-be discontinued CentOS. The GA release is launching six-and-a-half months after Red Hat deprecated its support for the widely popular, free CentOS server operating system. The Rocky Linux development effort... Read more…

Intel Completes LLVM Adoption; Will End Updates to Classic C/C++ Compilers in Future

August 10, 2021

Intel reported in a blog this week that its adoption of the open source LLVM architecture for Intel’s C/C++ compiler is complete. The transition is part of In Read more…

Hot Chips: Here Come the DPUs and IPUs from Arm, Nvidia and Intel

August 25, 2021

The emergence of data processing units (DPU) and infrastructure processing units (IPU) as potentially important pieces in cloud and datacenter architectures was Read more…

AMD-Xilinx Deal Gains UK, EU Approvals — China’s Decision Still Pending

July 1, 2021

AMD’s planned acquisition of FPGA maker Xilinx is now in the hands of Chinese regulators after needed antitrust approvals for the $35 billion deal were receiv Read more…

Google Launches TPU v4 AI Chips

May 20, 2021

Google CEO Sundar Pichai spoke for only one minute and 42 seconds about the company’s latest TPU v4 Tensor Processing Units during his keynote at the Google I Read more…

Leading Solution Providers

Contributors

HPE Wins $2B GreenLake HPC-as-a-Service Deal with NSA

September 1, 2021

In the heated, oft-contentious, government IT space, HPE has won a massive $2 billion contract to provide HPC and AI services to the United States’ National Security Agency (NSA). Following on the heels of the now-canceled $10 billion JEDI contract (reissued as JWCC) and a $10 billion... Read more…

10nm, 7nm, 5nm…. Should the Chip Nanometer Metric Be Replaced?

June 1, 2020

The biggest cool factor in server chips is the nanometer. AMD beating Intel to a CPU built on a 7nm process node* – with 5nm and 3nm on the way – has been i Read more…

Julia Update: Adoption Keeps Climbing; Is It a Python Challenger?

January 13, 2021

The rapid adoption of Julia, the open source, high level programing language with roots at MIT, shows no sign of slowing according to data from Julialang.org. I Read more…

Quantum Roundup: IBM, Rigetti, Phasecraft, Oxford QC, China, and More

July 13, 2021

IBM yesterday announced a proof for a quantum ML algorithm. A week ago, it unveiled a new topology for its quantum processors. Last Friday, the Technical Univer Read more…

Intel Launches 10nm ‘Ice Lake’ Datacenter CPU with Up to 40 Cores

April 6, 2021

The wait is over. Today Intel officially launched its 10nm datacenter CPU, the third-generation Intel Xeon Scalable processor, codenamed Ice Lake. With up to 40 Read more…

Frontier to Meet 20MW Exascale Power Target Set by DARPA in 2008

July 14, 2021

After more than a decade of planning, the United States’ first exascale computer, Frontier, is set to arrive at Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) later this year. Crossing this “1,000x” horizon required overcoming four major challenges: power demand, reliability, extreme parallelism and data movement. Read more…

Intel Unveils New Node Names; Sapphire Rapids Is Now an ‘Intel 7’ CPU

July 27, 2021

What's a preeminent chip company to do when its process node technology lags the competition by (roughly) one generation, but outmoded naming conventions make it seem like it's two nodes behind? For Intel, the response was to change how it refers to its nodes with the aim of better reflecting its positioning within the leadership semiconductor manufacturing space. Intel revealed its new node nomenclature, and... Read more…

Top500: Fugaku Still on Top; Perlmutter Debuts at #5

June 28, 2021

The 57th Top500, revealed today from the ISC 2021 digital event, showcases many of the same systems as the previous edition, with Fugaku holding its significant lead and only one new entrant in the top 10 cohort: the Perlmutter system at the DOE Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory enters the list at number five with 65.69 Linpack petaflops. Perlmutter is the largest... Read more…

  • arrow
  • Click Here for More Headlines
  • arrow
HPCwire