Claytronics: Shapeshifting Matter
Imagine if the physical and computational world merged, and you were able to turn your phone into a laptop, or a wall into a door. With support from Intel, researchers at Carnegie Mellon are working on a project called Claytronics, which aims to create “programmable matter” that could morph into nearly any object. The basic building blocks of this matter are called Claytronic atoms, or “catoms”—tiny computers within particle-sized spheres, which can reassemble into anything on command. Each of these catoms would be less than a millimetre in diameter, and at such small scales, gravity would not be the dominant force—catoms would be powered by electrostatic forces or magnetic resonance coupling. Helium-filled cubes are being used for low gravity tests. A billion catoms could make up a single cubic metre, and in order to effectively communicate with limited power, the catoms could possibly be imbued with a property called “fungibility.” If a commodity is fungible, it can be split without compromising the whole—for example, bread is fungible because when you split it in two, it’s still just as good; but if you split a computer in two, you don’t get two functional computers. Catoms could utilise this property and be separated into working sections, while the overall computer power remains the same. Imagine the possibilities of being able to “program” the world around us—everyone could be an inventor—and that kind of future isn’t far off. The processors are getting ever-smaller, and researchers estimate that the technologies will be available by 2020.
Check out the possibilities on YouTube