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Physarum Chip Project:
Growing Computers From Slime Mould
Andrew Adamatzky, Victor Erokhin, Martin Grube, Theresa Schubert and Andrew Schumann

Research in unconventional, or nature-inspired, computing aims to uncover novel principles of efficient information processing and computation in physical, chemical and biological systems, to develop novel non-standard algorithms and computing architectures, and also to implement conventional algorithms in non-silicon, or wet, substrates. This emerging field of science and engineering is predominantly occupied by theoretical research, e.g. quantum computation, membrane computing and dynamical systems computing.

Despite the profound potential offered by unconventional computing, only a handful of experimental prototypes are reported so far, for example gas discharge analog path finders; maze-solving micro-fluidic circuits; geometrically constrained universal chemical computers; specialized and universal chemical reaction–diffusion processors; universal extended analog computers; maze-solving chemo-tactic droplets; enzyme-based logical circuits; spatially extended crystallization computers for optimization and computational geometry; molecular logical gates and circuits.

A weak representation of laboratory experiments in the field of unconventional computers could be explained by technical difficulties, costs of prototyping of novel computing substrates, and also psychological barriers. Chemists and biologists do not usually aspire to experiment with unconventional computers with unconventional computers because such activity diverts them from mainstream research in their fields. Computer scientists and mathematicians would like to experiment but are scared of laboratory equipment. If there was a simple to maintain substrate, which requires minimal equipment to experiment with and whose behaviour is understandable by and appealing to researchers from all fields of science, then progress in designing novel computing devices would be much more visible. We offer slime mould Physarum polycephalum for a role of such a ‘universal’ computing substrate.

Keywords: Unconventional computing, slime mould, nature-inspired computing, Physarum polycephalum

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