An artificial material that can smell, adapt to its environment

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COLUMBIA, MO – Move on, Hollywood – sci-fi is preparing to jump off the big screen and step into the real world. While recent sci-fi movies have demonstrated the power of artificially intelligent computer programs, such as the fictional character JARVIS in the Avenger movie series, to make independent decisions to perform a set of actions, these imagined movie scenarios could now be closer to becoming a reality.

In a recent study Posted in Nature Communication, a journal of Nature, researchers at the University of Missouri and the University of Chicago have developed an artificial material called a metamaterial that can react to its environment, make a decision independently, and perform an action not directed by a human. For example, a drone making a delivery can assess its surroundings, including wind direction, speed, or wildlife, and automatically change course to complete the delivery safely.

Guoliang Huang, Huber and Helen Croft Chair in Engineering and study co-author, said the mechanical design of their new man-made material incorporates three main functions also displayed by materials found in nature: sensing; information processing; and actuation, or movement.

Some examples of these natural materials include the rapid reaction of the leafy jaws of a Venus fly trap to capture an insect and pine cones adjusting their shapes in response to changes in humidity in the air, Huang said.

“Basically, we control how this material responds to changes in external stimuli found in its environment,” Huang said. “For example, we can apply this material to stealth technology in the aerospace industry by attaching the material to aerospace structures. It can help control and reduce noise coming from the aircraft, such as engine vibration, which can increase its multi-functional capabilities. “

The material uses a computer chip to control or manipulate the processing of information necessary to perform requested actions, and then uses electrical energy to convert that energy into mechanical energy. The next step for researchers is to implement their idea in a real environment.

– This press release was originally published on the University of Missouri-Columbia website


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