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  • A Fuzzy Epigenetic Model for Representing Degradation in Engineered Systems

    Abstract: Degradation processes are implicated in a large number of system failures, and are crucial to understanding issues related to reliability and safety. Systems typically degrade in response to stressors, such as physical or chemical environmental conditions, which can vary widely for identical units that are deployed in different places or for different uses. This situational variance makes it difficult to develop accurate physics-based or data-driven models to assess and predict the system health status of individual components. To address this issue, we propose a fuzzy set model for representing degradation in engineered systems that is based on a bioinspired concept from the field of epigenetics. Epigenetics is concerned with the regulation of gene expression resulting from environmental or other factors, such as toxicants or diet. One of the most studied epigenetic processes is methylation, which involves the attachment of methyl groups to genomic regulatory regions. Methylation of specific genes has been implicated in numerous chronic diseases, so provides an excellent analog to system degradation. We present a fuzzy set model for characterizing system degradation as a methylation process based on a set-theoretic representation for epigenetic modeling of engineered systems. This model allows us to capture the individual dynamic relationships among a system, environmental factors, and state of health .