In our photo essay on nature-inspired design (“Design Genius,” Fall 2011), we described how the slime mold Physarum polycephalum can “map out” efficient road networks. It turns out they could one day be central to efficient computing as well. More and more, researchers are looking to alternative materials that make electronics cheaper, faster, and more efficient. Now, circuits can actually be made out of Physarum slime mold, according to researchers from the University of the West of England. They report that Physarum acts as a “memristor” or memory resistor, a device whose resistance changes depending on the polarity, magnitude, and duration of the voltage applied to it. Memristors can also “remember” resistance when the current is turned off, resulting in low-power computing. In addition, the researchers note, Physarum’s superior route-finding skills could be harnessed to “design” efficient circuits and even lay down wiring by transporting metal nanoparticles as it grows.
Gale, E., A. Adamatzky and B. de Lacy Costello. 2013. arXiv arXiv:1306.3414 .