Routing of Physarum polycephalum signals using simple chemicals

Ben de Lacy Costello, Andrew Adamatzky

In previous work the chemotaxis towards simple organic chemicals was assessed. We utilise the knowledge gained from these chemotactic assays to route Physarum polycephalum at a series of junctions. By applying chemical inputs at a simple T-junction we were able to reproducibly control the path taken by the plasmodium of P. Polycephalum. Where the chemoattractant farnesene was used at one input a routed signal could be reproducibly generated i.e. P. Polycephalum moves towards the source of chemoattractant. Where the chemoattractant was applied at both inputs the signal was reproducibly split. If a chemorepellent was used then the signal was reproducibly suppressed. If no chemical input was used in the simple circuit then a random signal was generated, whereby P. Polycephalum would move towards one output at the junction, but the direction was randomly selected. We extended this study to a more complex series of T-junctions to explore further the potential of routing P. Polycephalum. Although many of the circuits were completed effectively, any errors from the implementation of the simple T-junction were magnified. There were also issues with cascading effects through multiple junctions. For example signal splitting could be reproducibly initiated at the first junction but not at subsequent junctions. This work highlights the potential for exploiting chemotaxis to achieve complex and reliable routing of P. Polycephalum signals. This may be useful in implementing computing algorithms, design of autonomous robots and directed material synthesis. In additional experiments we showed that the application of chemoattractant compounds at specific locations on a homogeneous substrate could be used to reliably control the spatial configuration of P. Polycephalum. This may have applications in implementing geometric calculations and in robot navigation tasks such as mapping chemical plumes.

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