The Future Of Programmable Material.
Exploration into this exciting realm of programmable material began in the late 20th century, and its progress has been phenomenal. Programmable material is matter which has the ability to change its physical properties (shape, density, moduli, conductivity, optical properties, etc.) in a programmable fashion, based upon user input or autonomous sensing. It is linked to the concept of a material which inherently has the ability to perform information processing. The programming could be external to the material and might be achieved by the application of light, voltage, electric or magnetic fields, etc; for example, a liquid crystal display is a form of programmable matter. Or the individual units of the ensemble can compute, and the result of their computation is a change in the ensemble’s physical properties; an example of this more ambitious form of programmable matter is claytronics. There are many proposed implementations of programmable matter. Scale is one key differentiator between different forms of programmable matter. At one end of the spectrum reconfigurable modular robotics pursues a form of programmable matter where the individual units are in the centimetre size range. At the nanoscale end of the spectrum there are a tremendous number of different bases for programmable matter, ranging from shape changing molecules to quantum dots. Quantum dots are in the micrometer to sub-millimetre range, examples include MEMS-based units, cells created using synthetic biology, and the utility fog concept.
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