Advances in Unconventional Computing pp 397-428
Computational Matter: Evolving Computational Functions in Nanoscale Materials
Natural evolution has been manipulating the properties of proteins for billions of years. This ‘design process’ is completely different to conventional human design which assembles well-understood smaller parts in a highly principled way. In evolution-in-materio (EIM), researchers use evolutionary algorithms to define configurations and magnitudes of physical variables (e.g. voltages) which are applied to material systems so that they carry out useful computation. One of the advantages of this is that artificial evolution can exploit physical effects that are either too complex to understand or hitherto unknown. An EU funded project in Unconventional Computation called NASCENCE: Nanoscale Engineering of Novel Computation using Evolution, has the aim to model, understand and exploit the behaviour of evolved configurations of nanosystems (e.g. networks of nanoparticles, carbon nanotubes, liquid crystals) to solve computational problems. The project showed that it is possible to use materials to help find solutions to a number of well-known computational problems (e.g. TSP, Bin-packing, Logic gates, etc.).