Technology

Slime molds are designing airplane, subway structures that are alive

Airbus Concept Cabin
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Globules of living slime molds are implemented to redesign Airbus’s newest partitions for airplanes with an organic intelligence more efficient than its human counterparts.

They’re gooey, they’re slimy, and they are completely revolutionizing how we think about designing networks and structures.

European aircraft manufacturer Airbus announced that it is using slime molds to map out the most structurally sound partitions on their airplanes.

Slime molds are single-celled organisms that grow and spread out to form networks that map out the most effective ways to get from point A to point B while ensuring a structurally-sound grid. Using these slime maps, 3D printing technology is then employed to carry out the bare-bones structural work.

However, in a demo video on Airbus’s website the company revealed that they are looking to a concept cabin that replaces metals and plastic for organic plant material that is lighter, greener, and renewable.

“The cabin’s bionic structure and responsive membrane combines panoramic views with an integrated neural network pulsing through it, which can identify and respond to the specific needs of each passenger. And the fittings and furnishings will take care of their own cleaning and repairs thanks to innovations inspired by nature, like dirt repellent coatings and self healing covers,” says Airbus’s website.

What better model to incorporate than that which has evolved over millions of years on this planet and has the capabilities to learn and subsequently repair or “heal” itself over time?

Slime molds redesign the Tokyo railway system

When faced with a congestion dilemma surrounding the Tokyo railway system in 2010, Japanese scientists turned to nature to sort it out.

Slime molds had already been proven to possess intelligence by successfully navigating mazes to reach food sources in the laboratory. Taking this concept one step further in Japan, scientists then used slime molds to trace out the existing train system with incredible results!

The slime molds actually made new networks that pinpointed the most mathematically efficient connecting nodes that were more efficient than the designs that had been set in place by engineers. While the most efficient links remained in place and strengthened, the remaining less-efficient branches died off, leaving only the optimal routes.

With an energy crisis and natural resources being dwindled through non-renewable and destructive technology, Mother Nature has once again shown us that she is a transient and intelligent being that continues to be a subtle teacher, guiding us into a new era of biotechnology.

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Tim Hinchliffe
Tim Hinchliffe is the editor of The Sociable. His passions include writing about how technology impacts society and the parallels between Artificial Intelligence and Mythology. Previously, he was a reporter for the Ghanaian Chronicle in West Africa and an editor at Colombia Reports in South America. tim@sociable.co