New metamaterial merges magnetic reminiscence and bodily adjustments

Image of a polymer-based device with flexible parts.

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For functions like robotics, there’s often a transparent division of labor between the processors that management the robotic’s physique and the actuators that truly management the bodily adjustments of that physique. However a brand new paper being launched immediately blurs the traces between the 2, utilizing a magnetic swap in a means that each shops a bit representing the {hardware}’s state and alters the bodily conformation of the {hardware}. In essence, it merges reminiscence and bodily adjustments.

This specific implementation does not appear to be particularly helpful—it is a lot too huge to be a sensible type of reminiscence, and the bodily adjustments are pretty restricted. However the idea is intriguing, and it is attainable that somebody more proficient at artistic considering can discover methods of modifying the idea to create a helpful machine.

A magnetic metamaterial?

A metamaterial is mostly outlined as a cloth that’s structured in order that it has properties that are not present in bulk mixes of its uncooked supplies. A broad studying of that definition, nevertheless, would imply {that a} automobile is a metamaterial, which makes the definition close to meaningless. The researchers behind the brand new machine, based mostly at Switzerland’s École Polytechnique Fedeŕale de Lausanne, declare their creation is a metamaterial, but it surely’s pretty massive (roughly a dice three centimeters on a aspect) and has numerous distinct components. I would are likely to name {that a} machine fairly than a cloth and can use that terminology right here.

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