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Experimental reaction-diffusion chemical processors for robot path planning

de Lacy Costello, Ben; Adamatzky, Andrew; Ratcliffe, Norman M.; Melhuish, Chris


Chris Melhuish
Professor of Robotics & Autonomous Systems


In this paper we discuss the experimental implementation of a chemical reaction-diffusion processor for robot motion planning in terms of finding the shortest collision-free path for a robot moving in an arena with obstacles. These reaction-diffusion chemical processors for robot navigation are not designed to compete with existing silicon-based controllers. These controllers are intended for the incorporation into future generations of soft-bodied robots built of electro- and chemo-active polymers. In this paper we consider the notion of processing as being implicit in the physical medium constituting the body of a 'soft' robot. This work therefore represents some early steps in the employment of excitable media controllers. An image of the arena in which the robot is to navigate is mapped onto a thin-layer chemical medium using a method that allows obstacles to be represented as local changes in the reactant concentrations. Disturbances created by the 'objects' generate diffusive and phase wave fronts. The spreading waves approximate to a repulsive field generated by the obstacles. This repulsive field is then inputted into a discrete model of an excitable reaction-diffusion medium, which computes a tree of shortest paths leading to a selected destination point. Two types of chemical processors are discussed: a disposable palladium processor, which executes arena mapping from a configuration of obstacles, given before an experiment and, a reusable Belousov-Zhabotinsky processor which allows for online path planning and adaptation for dynamically changing configurations of obstacles.


Ratcliffe, N., De Lacy Costello, B., Adamatzky, A., de Lacy Costello, B., Ratcliffe, N. M., & Melhuish, C. (2003). Experimental reaction-diffusion chemical processors for robot path planning. Journal of Intelligent and Robotic Systems, 37(3), 233-249.

Journal Article Type Article
Publication Date Jul 1, 2003
Journal Journal of Intelligent and Robotic Systems: Theory and Applications
Print ISSN 0921-0296
Publisher Springer Verlag
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 37
Issue 3
Pages 233-249
Keywords unconventional robotics, reaction–diffusion, wave-based processors, excitable media, shortest path computation
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