Collaborative Research Centre 1459

Intelligent matter: From responsive to adaptive nanosystems

Intelligence is the ability to perceive information and to retain it as knowledge to be applied towards adaptive behaviour within a changing environment. This CRC is inspired by the question whether synthetic matter can provide artificial building blocks to enable intelligent abilities. Such intelligent matter would provide entirely new opportunities for instance for the development of artificial skin that self-regulates temperature and absorbance; soft robotics with adaptive tactility; and brain-inspired computing with reduced energy consumption. Intelligent matter likely requires an integrated system of materials and nanoscale components. Hence, the central scientific question of this CRC is: How does intelligent behaviour emerge in a system of nanoscale building blocks that operate collectively?

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In the first funding period, we will move beyond responsive matter to adaptive matter. Responsive matter contains embedded responsive building blocks that induce a change in properties upon exposure to an external stimulus, whereas adaptive matter has the additional capability to process feedback to regulate its properties. In our long-term vision, we will develop intelligent matter which can interact with its environment, self-regulates its properties and learns from the input it receives. Intelligent matter relies on the capability i) to receive input from the environment; ii) to answer with output to the environment; iii) to distribute signals and feedback in embedded networks; and iv) to provide memory as a route for signal storage and learning. Our objective for the first funding period is the realization of these key functional elements in three classes of adaptive matter (adaptive molecular systems (A); adaptive soft materials (B); adaptive solid-state nanosystems (C)) which have strongly different degrees of dynamics, organization and addressability of the constituent nanoscale components. By implementing the key functional elements in adaptive matter, we will lay the foundations for the development of matter with learning capability (in the second funding period) and ultimately prototypes of intelligent matter (in the third funding period). We emphasize that the integration of different material classes and key functional elements poses a phenomenal scientific challenge that requires new chemical and physical concepts to assemble nanoscale building blocks at multiple length and time scales.

Conceptual Design of the CRC 1459

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