Towards Physarum Robots

  • Jeff Jones
  • Soichiro Tsuda
  • Andrew Adamatzky
Part of the Studies in Computational Intelligence book series (SCI, volume 355)


The true slime mould Physarum polycephalum is a suitable candidate organism for small scale robotics because it spontaneously generates transport, movement and navigation, exhibiting complex behaviour from very simple component interactions. Physarum may be considered as a smart computing material as its motor and control systems are distributed within a simple tissue type and can survive trauma such as excision, fission and fusion of plasmodia. We demonstrate experimentally how the plasmodium of Physarum may be configured to generate complex and controllable oscillatory transport behaviour which may prove useful in small robotic devices. We measure the lifting force of the plasmodium and demonstrate how protoplasmic transport can be influenced by externally applied illumination stimuli. We provide an exemplar vehicle mechanism by coupling the oscillations of the plasmodium to drive the wheels of a Braitenberg vehicle and use light stimuli to effect a steering mechanism. To explore the generation of complex behaviour from such simple component parts we present a particle based model of Physarum which spontaneously generates complex oscillatory patterns from simple local interactions, is distributed in terms of the origin and control of motor behaviour, is morphologically adaptive, is amenable to external influence, and is robust to environmental insult and thus can itself be considered as a virtual smart material. We demonstrate different forms of controllable motion, including linear, reciprocal, rotational, helical, and amoeboid movement.We enable external control of the robotic movement by simulated chemo-attraction (‘pulling’) and simulated light hazards (‘pushing’). The amorphous and distributed properties of the collective are demonstrated by cleaving it into two independent entities and fusing two separate entities to form a single device, thus enabling it to traverse difficult or separate paths. We conclude by examining ways in which future robotic devices may be developed using physical instances of smart materials.


Oscillatory Behaviour Slime Mold Oscillation Pattern Water Height Particle Population 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jeff Jones
    • 1
  • Soichiro Tsuda
    • 1
  • Andrew Adamatzky
    • 1
  1. 1.Unconventional Computing GroupUniversity of the West of EnglandBristolUK

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