Imagine squeezing a crumpled plastic sheet – what is its response? For complex materials – crumpled sheets, granular media, glassy materials – tiny forces already cause a nonlinear response, associated with hopping in the energy landscape, for which we lack a coherent description. The central tenet of this proposal is that this hopping allows complex materials to process information. I propose to understand and unlock the full potential of such complex materials. Central questions are:
- How can we describe their nonlinear response?
- What are the computational capabilities of complex matter?
- Can we create materials for targeted computations?
To answer these questions, I will subject macro-scale complex matter to sequentially and spatially patterned driving forces (information input), and observe the sequential response (information output). The responses to multiple forcings form an intricate web of linked pathways, which can be represented in a graph that I interpret as encoding a sequential computation. This is the central link between driving, pathways and information, which allows me to probe the algorithmic capabilities of complex materials.
Recent breakthroughs in my group have brought experimental access, modelling and design of pathways within reach. In this proposal, I will investigate these pathways and will develop strategies to create algorithmic matter, using a combination of disordered – crumpling – sheets and carefully designed mechanical metamaterials; I will develop theoretical models for both.
Just like a focus on the architecture of complex matter has revolutionized our view of their linear response and gave birth to mechanical metamaterials, a focus on their pathways will revolutionize our understanding of their nonlinear response and opens the door to new forms of information processing matter.
Call for proposal
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