Slime mold inspired routing protocols for wireless sensor networks


Many biological systems are composed of unreliable components which self-organize effectively into systems that achieve a balance between efficiency and robustness. One such example is the true slime mold Physarum polycephalum which is an amoeba-like organism that seeks and connects food sources and efficiently distributes nutrients throughout its cell body. The distribution of nutrients is accomplished by a self-assembled resource distribution network of small tubes with varying diameter which can evolve with changing environmental conditions without any global control. In this paper, we exploit two different mechanisms of the slime mold’s tubular network formation process via laboratory experiments and mathematical behavior modeling to design two corresponding localized routing protocols for wireless sensor networks (WSNs) that take both efficiency and robustness into account. In the first mechanism of path growth, slime mold explores its immediate surroundings to discover and connect new food sources during its growth cycle. We adapt this mechanism for a path growth routing protocol by treating data sources and sinks as singular potentials to establish routes from the sinks to all the data sources. The second mechanism of path evolution is the temporal evolution of existing tubes through nonlinear feedback in order to distribute nutrients efficiently throughout the organism. Specifically, the diameters of tubes carrying large fluxes of nutrients grow to expand their capacities, and tubes that are not used decline and disappear entirely. We adapt the tube dynamics of the slime mold for a path evolution routing protocol. In our protocol, we identify one key adaptation parameter to adjust the tradeoff between efficiency and robustness of network routes. Through extensive realistic network simulations and ideal closed form or numerical computations, we validate the effectiveness of both protocols, as well as the efficiency and robustness of the resulting network connectivity.

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Correspondence to Chien-Chung Shen.

Additional information

Preliminary versions of this paper appeared in the following two conferences: (1) 2nd IEEE International Conference on Self-Adaptive and Self-Organizing Systems (SASO), Venice, Italy, October 20–24, 2008, and (2) 7th International Conference on Swarm intelligence (ANTS), Brussels, Belgium, September 8–10, 2010.

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Li, K., Torres, C.E., Thomas, K. et al. Slime mold inspired routing protocols for wireless sensor networks. Swarm Intell 5, 183–223 (2011).

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  • Slime mold
  • Routing protocol
  • Wireless sensor network
  • Simulation stability analysis