Scientists Develop Material That Can 'Think'

Penn State University and U.S. Air Force researchers have created engineered materials that can ‘think’. The discovery by the team, led by Penn State’s Ryan Harne, has revealed the opportunity for nearly any material around us to act like its own integrated circuit. Their soft, conductive mechanical material contains reconfigurable circuits that can realise combinational logic, when the material receives external stimuli, it translates the input into electrical information that is then processed to create output signals. The material could use mechanical force to compute complex arithmetic, as Harne and his team demonstrated. According to Harne, the material uses a similar ‘thinking’ process as humans and has potential applications, in autonomous search and rescue systems, in infrastructure repairs and even in bio-hybrid materials that can identify, isolate and neutralise airborne pathogens. The researchers are now evolving the material to process visual information like it does physical signals, so it can navigate by ‘seeing’ signs and following them.