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Molecular modeling kits are stationary and require that a chemist (or student) spend a lot of time constructing a molecule. Besides, they're kind of boring.
Virtual Reality models with tactile feedback have been built, but are cumbersome and expensive. Modeling reactions takes a lot of computational
Each "atom" in RoboMol is equipped with a (rechargeable) battery, electromagnets, and a small processor. It senses whatever other "atoms" its touching and turns the appropriate electromagnets on or off for attachment, representing various types of links. (Each unit is programmed to simulate the atom based on our current knowledge of quantum mechanics and chemical bonding).
The "chemical" behavior emerges from the interactions of these "atoms" allowing chemists, biologists, and students to get an intuitive feel for all sorts of reactions. Optionally, the atoms can have LCD or OLED display surfaces that indicate the type of bond formed, electron density, etc.
Suspended in a percolating fluid that makes the "atoms" neutrally buoyant, this kit could also be used to simulate reactions in a macroscopic scale. For example, a student can "see" ice crystals form when six water "molecules" are tossed together. Other, more complicated reactions (e.g., antibody-antigen interactions, protein folding, etc.) can be simulated in real-time, without the need for complex computational simulaiton.
"RoboMol Pro", the professional version, will integrate with popular Cheminformatics packages. In this version, every "molecule" of contiguously linked atoms reports its linkage information to a base station attached to a computer. The computer automatically identifies the "molecule" if it is known, list similar known molecules, and show its 3-D structure, export it to RasMol for visualization and sharing with colleagues, etc.
3D Visualization Software for Molecules [cowtamer, Nov 12 2006]
TINKER - Software Tools for Molecular Design [cowtamer, Nov 12 2006]
Overview of Molecular Modelling
[cowtamer, Nov 12 2006]
A Physical (but boring) Modeling Kit
[cowtamer, Nov 12 2006]
||can we rig them with TNT so they explode if you split an atom? for realism, of course! [+]!
||You could connect up the percolating fluid to some wet speakers and see how the robomols react to various tunes - Beethoven , Bjork and ACDC in a 3D space .
||Nice idea, [+]. A few qualms: (1) the
force-versus-distance profile for
magnetism won't be the same as
interatomic forces, which may cause some
problems in simulations (2) You've also
got to worry about other types of
interactions (van der Waaaals and
suchlike). (3) Modelling something like
antibody/antigen interactions (1000's of
atoms) is going to cost.