Semibiotic Persistence

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C. Prothmann et al. (2014), JBIS, 67, pp.314-321

Refcode: 2014.67.314
Keywords: Bio-hybrid architectures, information processing, resistance, resilience

From observation, we find four different strategies to successfully enable structures to persist over extended periods of time. If functionally relevant features are very large compared to the changes that can be effectuated by entropy, the functional structure itself has a high enough probability to erode only slowly over time. If the functionally relevant features are protected from environmental influence by sacrificial layers that absorb the impinging of the environment, deterioration can be avoided or slowed. Loss of functionality can be delayed, even for complex systems, by keeping alternate options for all required components available. Biological systems also apply information processing to actively counter the impact of entropy by mechanisms such as self-repair. The latter strategy increases the overall persistence of living systems and enables them to maintain a highly complex functional organisation during their lifetime and over generations. In contrast to the other strategies, information processing has only low material overhead. While at present engineered technology is far from achieving the self-repair of evolved systems, the semibiotic combination of biological components with conventionally engineered systems may open a path to long-term persistence of functional devices in harsh environments. We review nature's strategies for persistence, and consider early steps taken in the laboratory to import such capabilities into engineered architectures.

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