Transformers point way to programmable matter

Press/Media: Expert Comment


‘‘What complex systems teach you is that incredibly diverse systems – economic, cellular, the distribution of wealth, the fall of civilisations – have great similarities,’’ he says. ‘‘I started looking at that about 10 years ago and it profoundly changed the way I thought about all kinds of things.

‘‘Programmable matter at its most basic level is designing a material that has components within it with instructions for self-assembly. Basically you’re trying to mimic what nature does, and nature does a superb job of creating all sorts of objects that self-assemble.

‘‘I can sit at my laptop and make DNA form precisely the shape I have designed on the computer. That’s at an extremely small scale but the principles you learn from how DNA can self-assemble can also help you to learn how to make other materials that spontaneously build into useful objects.’’ 

Period13 Aug 2014

Media contributions


Media contributions

  • TitleThe Age Technology
    Degree of recognitionNational
    Media name/outletThe Age newspaper
    Media typePrint
    Duration/Length/Size2 pages
    DescriptionAs with many of science fiction’s most popular creations, there’s a grain of truth and a fleeting glimpse of potential reality behind the gigantic morphing robots in the Transformers movies that have lured massive audiences worldwide.

    The intimidating robots are made from a make-believe substance called transformium, which can shape-shift. Transpose that into something called programmable matter and you’re suddenly dealing with reality.
    Producer/AuthorIain Gllespie
    PersonsDavid Winkler


  • self-assembly
  • DNA origami
  • programmable matter
  • design of materials
  • nanoparticles