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Experimental reaction-diffusion chemical processors for robot path planning

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


Norman Ratcliffe
Professor in Materials & Sensors Science

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.


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
Deposit Date May 7, 2013
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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