Navigating Complex Labyrinths: Optimal Paths from Chemical Waves

Science  10 Feb 1995:
Vol. 267, Issue 5199, pp. 868-871
DOI: 10.1126/science.267.5199.868


The properties of excitable media are exploited to find minimum-length paths in complex labyrinths. Optimal pathways are experimentally determined by the collection of time-lapse position information on chemical waves propagating through mazes prepared with the Belousov-Zhabotinsky reaction. The corresponding velocity fields provide maps of optimal paths from every point in an image grid to a particular target point. Collisions of waves that were temporarily separated by obstacles mark boundary lines between Significantly different paths with the same absolute distance. The pathfinding algorithm is tested in very complex mazes with a simple reaction-diffusion model.