A complex networks approach to material flow systems in nature and technology

Karsten Peters
Institute for Transport and Economics

Networks of infrastructures are essential to most biological and technical systems realizing material flows. Remarkably, these systems share the same notions of functional modules (or elements), like a transport infrastructure (a cytoskeleton as well as roads, railways or conveyor belts) individually mobile transport units (motor proteins, trucks or transfer cars), buffers for intermediate storage, and other modules well-known in engineering.
The proper optimal design and control of complex material flow networks, namely large material handling systems is a crucial callenge in engineering. Starting from an analysis of network properties of different material flow networks in biology and technology we found specific structural properties that all investigated systems share. These topological and statistical measures may be utilized for future topology design methods. We demonstrate that the analysis provides important insights into the material flows without utilizing time consuming simulation studies. Moreover we came up with a selforganizing approach for material flow control on these networks and provide first results for the application of evolutionary network layout generation. In conclusion we see a class of medium sized sparse networks with
mathematically interesting properties and of great importance in practical engineering problems.

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