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Slime mould could provide the basis for future computers, researchers claim

In a study published in the journal Materials Today, European researchers have revealed details of logic units built using living slime moulds and suggest these might act as the building blocks for future computing devices and sensors.

The work is based on physarum polycephalum which, in its vegetative state, spans its environment with a network of tubes that absorb nutrients. The tubes also allow the organism to respond to light and changing environmental conditions.

Andrew Adamatzky from the University of the West of England and Theresa Schubert, from Bauhaus-University Weimar in Germany, have constructed logical circuits that exploit networks of interconnected slime mould tubes to process information.

Using the dyes with magnetic nanoparticles and tiny fluorescent beads, the researchers configured the slime mould network as a 'lab on a chip'. A larger network of slime mould tubes is believed to be capable of Boolean logic operations and the team has so far demonstrated XOR and NOR operations. By chaining together such arrays, a slime mould computer may be able to carry out binary operations for computation.

"The slime mould based gates are non electronic, simple and inexpensive, and several gates can be realised simultaneously at the sites where protoplasmic tubes merge," Adamatzky and Schubert said.

Graham Pitcher

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