Research from Zahra Derakhshandeh at Arizona State University and colleagues answers a question that has stumped mathematicians pondering the properties of programmable materials. The issue is whether it is possible to use a smart coating to determine the temperature at any point on an arbitrary object, even though sensors have no knowledge of its overall geometry.
The research could potentially enable the integrity of structures such as roads and bridges to be remotely monitored. The goal is to use smart coating, a programmable material that entirely coats an object in a thin layer and contains tiny particular sensors that gather information about the surface, such as its temperature.
The research team has developed a series of algorithms that provide the mathematical framework for a universal coating algorithm for programmable matter. For this to work, the sensors must be able to move within the surface and to make, and break, communication bonds, with their nearest neighbors, and the object must have a geometry that allows for a uniform coating.
The particles would have limited memory, communicate over short distances, and be entirely anonymous.
From Technology Review
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