Programmable Matter, Smart Matter
Image from Bernd Helfert
Programmable matter includes any form of matter which can change its physical properties on command. This includes matter which can change its shape, its density, colour, chemical properties or which can perform information processing. Often known as smart matter.

Shape-changing programmable matter includes Utility Fog, Utility Sand, Hyperfog, Nanoflex and other modular robotic materials.

Several kinds of programmable matter can change their chemical and physical properties (especially optical properties) by means of quantum confinement technology and related effects. Quantum confinement technology uses fine control of exitons (electon/hole pairs) to alter the properties of a material; this confinement can occur in one dimension (quantum wells) two dimensions (quantum wires) and three dimensions (quantum dots). Quantum confinement technology is used in many optical phased array systems to emit and absorb selected wavelengths of light.

Matter which is primarily capable of information processing is generically known as computronium; this type of matter can take many forms, which have different uses in different environments.

Modosophont level technology has developed many different kinds of metamaterials for a wide variety of uses, many of which use which use a combination of macroscale and nanoscale engineering, quantum effects and information processing to produce smart matter with many useful properties.

Transapientech smart matter exists in many forms, with many remarkable characteristics such as adjustable strength, density and phase. Some forms of transapient smart matter can be replicated by modosophonts; the required technology may have been given to them by benevolent transapients at some point in the past, or it may have been retroengineered by the modos themselves. Other forms of smart matter (such as the Dittocube) defy all analysis, and are considered to be clarketech.

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Development Notes
Text by Steve Bowers

Initially published on 16 October 2011.