A new principle discovered by researchers at the Georgia Institute of Technology, in the United States, accounts for an existing order in active matter that allows small robots to interact in the same way that flocks of birds do when they integrate in flight. The robots perform symmetrical and amazing choreographed that arise spontaneously.
American physicists and engineers argue in their study that active matter systems can be arranged spontaneously, without the need for external instructions or programmed interactions.
According to a release, have demonstrated this principle in multiple systems, including a group of tiny robots that change shape periodically, behaving like smart and active particles.
As early as the 19th century, statistical mechanics sought to predict how groups of simple particles change their state between order and disorder. A clear example is the moment in which a collection of atoms that are colliding chaotically at random “freezes” and forms an absolutely uniform crystalline lattice.
The collective behaviors that can be seen as particles become more complex and manage to move independently are even more complex to predict. These systems, which can be observed in flocks of birds or colonies of bacteria, for example, are defined under the concept of “active matter”.
The unforeseen order in active matter
In research published in the journal Science, the specialists explain that certain types of active matter spontaneously find low vibration states, in which they manage to order their natural chaotic dynamics.
In a low vibration state, the system will rearrange itself randomly until it finds patterns that respond to the state reached. That explains why, from one moment to the next, certain systems re-integrate and leave chaos.
To test their theory, the scientists used three small robots, which they locked in a ring while they flapped incessantly. They observed in amazement that the robots did not engage in exploring the entire container with complex movements, but organized themselves independently and spontaneously in a few dances.
For example, in one of the dances the three robots hit each other in sequence, describing a perfectly symmetrical choreography. The dances are maintained for a while, but then suddenly they are replaced by others that respond to a new pattern.
Applications in different fields
In addition to proving their theory, the researchers believe that the principle discovered around active matter may have important practical applications. For example, the patterns that robot swarms perform in a low vibration state can be optimized and modified to meet specific needs.
In this way, a group of little robots it could be “trained” to perform certain movements or actions taking advantage of the symmetry of its collective interaction. At the same time, the design of intelligent and adaptive group behaviors could also be applied in the field of metamaterials or biological engineering.
The scientists indicated that the challenge for living cells and novel materials would be to understand how a “swarm” of atoms or proteins is capable of providing new properties or making advances in systems.
In short, discovering in depth the hidden principles in active matter would mean a practical way to take advantage of the order, symmetry and synergy of collective systems in multiple areas and applications.
Low rattling: A predictive principle for self-organization in active collectives. ChvykoBerriesueta, et al. Science (2021).DOI:https://doi.org/10.1126/science.abc6182
When small robots interact in a closed space, they tend to form astonishingly symmetrical dances, the choreography of which arises spontaneously. It is an unexpected and implicit order in active matter. Credit: ThomasBerriesueta.
Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.