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EECS Publication

Molecular Coordination of Hierarchical Self-Assembly

Bruce J. MacLennan

A serious challenge to nanotechnology is the problem of assembling complex physical systems that are structured from the nanoscale up through the macroscale, but embryological morphogenesis provides a good model of how it can be accomplished. Morphogenesis (whether natural or artificial) is an example of embodied computation, which exploits physical processes for computational ends, or performs computations for their physical effects. Examples of embodied computation in natural morphogenesis are found at many levels, from allosteric proteins, which perform simple embodied computations, up through cells, which act to create tissues with specific patterns, compositions, and forms. The fundamental developmental processes, or approximations to them, are feasible in artificial morphogenetic systems, but there are also differences between natural and artificial systems, which future research must address. We present a notation for describing morphogenetic programs and illustrate its use with three examples: simple diffusion, path routing, and the clock-and-wavefront model of segmentation. Much research remains to be done, but we show how to implement the fundamental processes of morphogenesis and thereby coordinate very large numbers of agents to self-assemble into multiscale complex hierarchical systems.

Published  2010-11-15 05:00:00  as  ut-cs-10-662 (ID:64)


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