Tactical Tailor

Programmable Matter

DARPA’s “programmable matter” program aims to develop material that can be ordered to “self-assemble or alter their shape, perform a function and then disassemble themselves.” According to Henry Kenyon at Signal magazine, researchers are making some progress.

Programmable Matter

One day, that could lead to “morphing aircraft and ground vehicles, uniforms that can alter themselves to be comfortable in any climate, and ’soft’ robots that flow like mercury through small openings to enter caves and bunker complexes.” A soldier could even reach into a can of unformed goop, and order up a custom-made tool or a “universal spare part.”

One team from Harvard is working on a kind of “generalized Rubik’s Cube” that can fold into all kinds of shapes. Another is trying to order large strands of synthetic DNA to bind together in a “molecular Velcro.” An MIT group is building “self-folding origami” machines that “use specialized sheets of material with built-in actuators and data. These machines use cutting-edge mathematical theorems to fold themselves into virtually any three-dimensional object.”

The program, currently in its fifth month, is supposed to wrap up in the Spring.

Check out the entire article at Signal Magazine.

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