Transportation network with fluctuating input/output designed by the bio-inspired Physarum algorithm

Shin Watanabe, Atsuko Takamatsu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Citations (Scopus)


In this paper, we propose designing transportation network topology and traffic distribution under fluctuating conditions using a bio-inspired algorithm. The algorithm is inspired by the adaptive behavior observed in an amoeba-like organism, plasmodial slime mold, more formally known as plasmodium of Physarum plycephalum. This organism forms a transportation network to distribute its protoplasm, the fluidic contents of its cell, throughout its large cell body. In this process, the diameter of the transportation tubes adapts to the flux of the protoplasm. The Physarum algorithm, which mimics this adaptive behavior, has been widely applied to complex problems, such as maze solving and designing the topology of railroad grids, under static conditions. However, in most situations, environmental conditions fluctuate; for example, in power grids, the consumption of electric power shows daily, weekly, and annual periodicity depending on the lifestyles or the business needs of the individual consumers. This paper studies the design of network topology and traffic distribution with oscillatory input and output traffic flows. The network topology proposed by the Physarum algorithm is controlled by a parameter of the adaptation process of the tubes. We observe various rich topologies such as complete mesh, partial mesh, Y-shaped, and V-shaped networks depending on this adaptation parameter and evaluate them on the basis of three performance functions: loss, cost, and vulnerability. Our results indicate that consideration of the oscillatory conditions and the phase-lags in the multiple outputs of the network is important: The building and/or maintenance cost of the network can be reduced by introducing the oscillating condition, and when the phase-lag among the outputs is large, the transportation loss can also be reduced. We use stability analysis to reveal how the system exhibits various topologies depending on the parameter.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere89231
JournalPloS one
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2014 Feb 26

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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