Scientists from the US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) have successfully completed a key theoretical research milestone in the first phase of the programmable matter research programme.

The DARPA programme theoretically confirmed at least one viable procedure for constructing and disassembling macroscopic three-dimensional solid objects under external command.

The overall goal of DARPA’s programmable matter programme is to develop new forms of material that can reversibly assemble into complex, functional three-dimensional objects upon external command. If successful, programmable matter could greatly simplify a warfighter’s needs by increasing flexibility and reducing weight and volume burdens.

DARPA programme manager Mitchell Zakin said that the concept of creating dynamic new materials offers revolutionary new capabilities for our men and women in uniform.

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“Imagine the possibilities: an entire toolbox originating from a single material form, or flexible clothing or equipment that can adapt to the immediate and changing needs of the warfighter, perhaps even ‘smart’ bandages embedded with diagnostic sensing capabilities,” Zakin said.

“The possibilities are endless, and so we have decided to move into the 18-month-long second phase of this programme.”

DARPA funded five university research teams that are using diverse scientific approaches to demonstrate that macroscopic, three-dimensional solid objects can theoretically be constructed and disassembled using mesoscale particles with manufacturable properties.

In the recently completed first phase of the programmable matter programme, researchers built mathematical models that theoretically confirmed at least one viable procedure for constructing and disassembling macroscopic three-dimensional solid objects under external command. Researchers also successfully demonstrated critical technological elements of their approach.

By Daniel Garrun.