Programming Active Cohesive Granular Matter with Mechanically Induced Phase Changes

Abstract

At the macroscale, controlling robotic swarms typically uses substantial memory, processing power, and coordination unavailable at the microscale, e.g., for colloidal robots, which could be useful for fighting disease, fabricating intelligent textiles, and designing nanocomputers. To develop principles that can leverage physical interactions and thus be used across scales, we take a two-pronged approach: a theoretical abstraction of self-organizing particle systems and an experimental robot system of active cohesive granular matter that intentionally lacks digital electronic computation and communication, using minimal (or no) sensing and control. As predicted by theory, as interparticle attraction increases, the collective transitions from dispersed to a compact phase. When aggregated, the collective can transport non-robot “impurities,” thus performing an emergent task driven by the physics underlying the transition. These results reveal a fruitful interplay between algorithm design and active matter robophysics that can result in principles for programming collectives without the need for complex algorithms or capabilities.

Publication
Science Advances
Shengkai Li
Shengkai Li
PhD Student, Physics
Bahnisikha Dutta
Bahnisikha Dutta
PhD, Electrical Engineering
Sarah Cannon
Sarah Cannon
Assistant Professor of Mathematics
Joshua J. Daymude
Joshua J. Daymude
Assistant Professor, Computer Science

I am a Christian and assistant professor in computer science studying collective emergent behavior and programmable matter through the lens of distributed computing, stochastic processes, and bio-inspired algorithms. I also love gaming and playing music.

Ram Avinery
Ram Avinery
Postdoctoral Researcher, Physics
Enes Aydin
Enes Aydin
Research Engineer, Physics
Andréa W. Richa
Andréa W. Richa
Professor of Computer Science
Daniel I. Goldman
Daniel I. Goldman
Professor of Physics
Dana Randall
Dana Randall
Professor of Computer Science

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