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Applied Bionics and Biomechanics
Volume 7, Issue 1, Pages 31-39

Physarum Boats: If Plasmodium Sailed It Would Never Leave a Port

Andrew Adamatzky

University of the West of England, Bristol BS16 1QY, UK

Received 4 March 2009

Copyright © 2010 Hindawi Publishing Corporation. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


Plasmodium of Physarum polycephalum is a single huge (visible by naked eye) cell with a myriad of nuclei. The plasmodium is a promising substrate for non-classical, nature-inspired computing devices. It is capable of approximation of the shortest path in a maze, computation of planar proximity graphs and plane tessellations, primitive memory and decision making. The unique properties of the plasmodium make it an ideal candidate for a role of amorphous biological robots with massive parallel information processing and distributed inputs and outputs. We show that when adhered to a lightweight object resting on a water surface the plasmodium can propel the object by oscillating its protoplasmic pseudopodia. In experimental laboratory conditions and computational experiments we study phenomenology of the plasmodium-floater system, and possible mechanisms of controlling motion of objects propelled by on-board plasmodium.